Stir-Frying Chop Suey in China By Jill Petzinger

Fortune Cookie’s pagoda-festooned broadsheet menu, piles of red-and-white takeaway cartons and ornate, kitschy tableware wouldn’t look out of place in any Chinatown in the U.S. But the restaurant, which serves American-Chinese classics like sweet-and-sour chicken and chow mein, isn’t in Chinatown. It’s in Shanghai.
Opened in July by a pair of young American entrepreneurs, the restaurant offers a menu of richly sauced staples like orange chicken, chop suey, moo shu pork and General Tso’s beef. Diners will also find crab rangoon, that oddly delicious starter of surimi and cream cheese, deep-fried in a wonton skin.
While dishes like these are familiar to American expats, they’re an anomaly in China. They were developed by Chinese immigrants from Canton to the U.S. during the 1800s, who adapted their cuisine due to a lack of ingredients from their homeland, as well as the need to cater to the American palate.
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Fortune Cookie’s American founders, David Rossi and Fung Lam, knew they were going against the grain – and that was the point. “We wanted to build a cool, special place that hasn’t existed before,” said Mr. Rossi. “The idea is pretty crazy, but it’s in the realm of ‘crazy-could-work.’”

Mr. Rossi, 33, and Mr. Lam, 31, met during a restaurant development class at Cornell Graduate School. They had originally set out to open a dim sum restaurant in the U.S., but moved to Shanghai last year after a trip there in 2011.

The pair had intended to open a salad bar in Shanghai, but the fourth-floor space they found didn’t lend itself to walk-ins. So instead they turned to the background of Mr. Lam, and a genre of cuisine they both sorely missed.
Mr. Lam is the third generation in a family of Chinese-restaurant owners. His grandfather opened his first restaurant, Kum Kau, in Brooklyn in 1969, and the family went on to open restaurants and takeaways in New York, New Jersey, Texas and Arizona. The dishes served at Fortune Cookie hew to these restaurants’ original recipes and haven’t been adapted for local Chinese palates.
“They say the Chinese palate is more sensitive, that’s why they don’t use so much sauce on everything,” said Mr. Lam, whose father flew in to train the Chinese cooks to make what is, to them, foreign food.

According to Mr. Lam, Chinese customers are taking a shine to the food, especially young people who have encountered it while studying in the U.S. The most frequent feedback is that American-size portions are too big, compared to the much smaller portions in local restaurants.

Tongfei Zhang, an editor at That’s Shanghai magazine, said “the sauces are a bit heavy, they look more like a soup to me,” though she noted there were similarities between Fortune Cookie’s sweet-and-sour pork and a dish found in many Shanghainese restaurants.
Overall, Ms. Zhang said, she liked the dishes but wouldn’t necessarily come here with her local friends. “The flavors would be okay for local people from Shanghai, who have a sweet tooth, but it is very sweet,” she said. “Even the broccoli is sweet.”

It’s a different story for the nostalgic expats who flock here on weekends, drawn in part by the fun atmosphere and interior design by Studio 1:1.
Hart Hagerty, a Shanghai-based American fashion designer and consultant, says she comes here when she needs some indulgent comfort food.
“It feels like a taste of home,” she said.

Fortune Cookie, 83 Chang Shu Lu, 4th floor; Tel.: +86 21 6093 3623. Dinner for two around 200 yuan.

Affordable Care Act, The SHOP

This is the third segment of my intent to educate my readers on the intricacies of ACA (The Affordable Care Act).

In this blog we are going to continue speaking to the Marketplace which will be available online as of October 1st, 2013.  The subject of todays information is on what is called the SHOP.  The SHOP is the Marketplace being set up for companies with less than 50 employees.

Prior to going into details, let’s refresh your memory.  A Marketplace is an internet portal established by the Federal or State Governments which will offer the consumer the ability to establish eligibility for premium discounts, tax incentives and search for the best available health insurance program in your State.  Not every States will offer a Marketplace for their residents; if your state has  decided not to pursue this avenue, the Federal Marketplace will be available to everyone.  Every insurance carrier licensed in your state to sell health insurance will appear in the Marketplace.

There are two types of Marketplaces, for individuals and their families and for companies with less than 50 employees.  Today we will speaking about the latter.

A company with less than 50 employees is not required to offer their employees health insurance.  However, if the employer decide that they do want to offer this benefit, the employer has the right to choose the company, the program and how much of the premium the employee will out-of-pocket.

Remember that in the previous blog I explained that there are four programs to choose from, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.  Bronze being the most basic of the four and Platinum being the most complete.  All four programs are required to meet the most basic criteria as established by ACA.

Although most small businesses will, most probably, opt out of offering any sort of health plans for their employees, it is always good to know what is available to the employer as well as the employee.

If the employer chooses to offer any one of the plans previously listed, the employer may be eligible for tax incentives, especially if they are providing coverage for employees earning less than the poverty level.

The employee may benefit from coverage obtained through a SHOP, only because the rates may be better than going through the individual Marketplace.  On the other hand, the employee may be eligible for premium discounts through the individual Marketplace which will not be available if he/she chooses to join the employer’s plan.  The only way to know if the employee will benefit from one program or the other is by researching each Marketplace according to their specific needs.  This is an instance where the Health Insurance Professional (HIP) comes in very handy.

The HIP has learned to navigate through the Marketplaces being able to readily offer advice and guidance to both the employer and the employee.

Even if you do not plan to offer your employees a Health Insurance Plan, you might want to afford them the ability to ask questions and gain knowledge so that they may have a better understanding of what they and their family can expect from ACA.

If you would like to have us come in and speak to your employees, please contact us at info@soraglobal.com and we will be happy to set up an appointment to come in after October 1st.

Obamacare could ease divorce’s financial sting

Elizabeth O’Brien @elizobrien
@marketwatch retirement healthcare reporter. Views my own, etc.

It’s been well noted that divorce among the over-50-crowd is on the rise, spreading like crow’s feet even as the overall divorce rate has dipped. Financial headaches related to health care can loom large in later-life divorces, experts say. Yet if the Affordable Care Act works as intended, the law could prove to be a game-changer, by easing the financial burden of health insurance for divorced people who get dropped from their spouses’ plans.

About 115,000 women lose their private health insurance every year in the wake of divorce, according to a study last year out of the University of Michigan, and many don’t regain coverage quickly. Many of these women either don’t have jobs outside the home or work at jobs that don’t provide insurance, and some women with employer-sponsored coverage can no longer afford the premiums. Many former spouses qualify for post-divorce COBRA health benefits under their ex-spouse’s plan, but this coverage is both prohibitively expensive and limited in duration, typically to 36 months, advisers say.

The cost of health insurance is one of the many factors that makes “gray divorce” particularly hurtful to the retirement readiness of women. A study released earlier this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research noted that people who are single (for any reason, including divorce) typically lag far behind married people in the amount they’ve saved. Older women who are too young to qualify for Medicare have been particularly financially vulnerable if they lose insurance, since pre-existing conditions often make it hard to find affordable coverage—or any coverage at all—on the individual market.

But post-divorce health-care costs will decline for some Jan. 1, and coverage will become more accessible, starting with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Under President Obama’s signature health-care law, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny people coverage or charge them more due to pre-existing conditions. “It gives the non-working spouse the freedom to move on and not worry about their health,” said Judy Resnick, a private wealth adviser with the Johnston, Resnick, Mittman Group, in Century City, Calif., part of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s private banking and investment group. “It will take one of the fears out of divorcing—I think it’s huge.”

By Elizabeth O’Brien
It’s been well noted that divorce among the over-50-crowd is on the rise, spreading like crow’s feet even as the overall divorce rate has dipped. Financial headaches related to health care can loom large in later-life divorces, experts say. Yet if the Affordable Care Act works as intended, the law could prove to be a game-changer, by easing the financial burden of health insurance for divorced people who get dropped from their spouses’ plans.

About 115,000 women lose their private health insurance every year in the wake of divorce, according to a study last year out of the University of Michigan, and many don’t regain coverage quickly. Many of these women either don’t have jobs outside the home or work at jobs that don’t provide insurance, and some women with employer-sponsored coverage can no longer afford the premiums. Many former spouses qualify for post-divorce COBRA health benefits under their ex-spouse’s plan, but this coverage is both prohibitively expensive and limited in duration, typically to 36 months, advisers say.

The cost of health insurance is one of the many factors that makes “gray divorce” particularly hurtful to the retirement readiness of women. A study released earlier this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research noted that people who are single (for any reason, including divorce) typically lag far behind married people in the amount they’ve saved. Older women who are too young to qualify for Medicare have been particularly financially vulnerable if they lose insurance, since pre-existing conditions often make it hard to find affordable coverage—or any coverage at all—on the individual market.

But post-divorce health-care costs will decline for some Jan. 1, and coverage will become more accessible, starting with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Under President Obama’s signature health-care law, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny people coverage or charge them more due to pre-existing conditions. “It gives the non-working spouse the freedom to move on and not worry about their health,” said Judy Resnick, a private wealth adviser with the Johnston, Resnick, Mittman Group, in Century City, Calif., part of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s private banking and investment group. “It will take one of the fears out of divorcing—I think it’s huge.”

Associated Press
Divorced people over 50, and women in particular, could see their health-insurance costs drop if the Affordable Care Act works as intended.
(Despite the efforts of some Republicans in Congress to defund Obamacare, a report by the bipartisan Congressional Research Service has noted that “substantial ACA implementation” might continue even during a temporary government shutdown. Link courtesy of The Washington Post’s Wonkblog.)

Health-care concerns can be so pressing that some older would-be divorcers wait to finalize their divorce until they turn 65 and are eligible for Medicare, attorneys said. The fear of going without coverage due to a pre-existing condition “sends fear up and down the spines of women,” said Janice L. Green, a family law attorney in Austin, Texas. In the past, some couples would get a legal separation but remain married for the health benefits, but fewer employers these days offer the option of covering the separated spouse, said Lili Vasileff, a certified divorce financial planner and founder of Divorce and Money Matters in Greenwich, Ct. (She added that failure to disclose a change in marital status, including legal separation, to an employer could get the employee in serious hot water, held liable for fraud and required to pay back all insurance charges paid on the separated or ex-spouse’s behalf.)

A factor in alimony talks

Lower prices aren’t the only potential benefit the law offers to older divorcers. Health-care costs are often a factor in divorce negotiations, and the Affordable Care Act might make it easier to calculate costs for ex-spouses who buy individual coverage through the marketplaces, said Erika Salerno, a family law attorney with Kreis Enderle in Kalamazoo, Mich. That’s because these exchanges are designed to make comparison-shopping for policies easier, with more transparent price information—experts have said the experience will be like booking a vacation through a travel site like Travelocity. The coverage offered within each of the metal-tiered policy levels—platinum, gold, silver and bronze—is standardized so that each requires policyholders to assume the same percentage of out-of-pocket costs.

Under Obamacare, many people will be eligible for a government tax credit toward their insurance coverage, and the availability of this subsidy will likely factor into spousal support calculations, said David Tracy, manager of the Tulsa Family Law Center and a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Indeed, health insurance costs often enter the equation when one spouse owes another spousal support (some states call this alimony, others maintenance). Those with pre-existing conditions often argue for larger support payments, since their costs will be greater.

Starting next year, if a spouse who doesn’t have workplace-based insurance is eligible for subsidies, the opposing side may try to use that fact to argue for lower support payments, Salerno said. For policies bought on the state marketplaces, households qualify for sliding-scale subsidies if members make up to 400% of the federal poverty level, or $94,200 for a family of four, $62,040 for a family of two, and $45,960 for a single person. What’s more, the ex-spouse who’s paying support might become eligible for a subsidy as a result, Tracy said, since alimony is counted as taxable income by the recipient but is tax deductible for the payer.

Many states will also expand their Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, raising the eligibility threshold to allow coverage for people making up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $15,800 for a single person and $32,500 for a family of four, to use the government insurance program for the poor. It’s possible that this new level will open up the program to more divorced people who don’t get employer-sponsored coverage, and that attorneys for the opposing side might argue for lower support payments on that basis. “I can’t imagine there won’t be a crafty lawyer arguing that,” Salerno said.

More on insurance and divorce

Regardless of how the Affordable Care Act may change the landscape, there are some other health-related considerations for those contemplating or in the midst of divorce after age 50. Here are a few key factors to consider:

Insurance premiums . At the start of divorce proceedings, Green advocates obtaining a temporary court order to ensure that all insurance premiums get paid as usual. This goes for health insurance, where one spouse could drop the other; life insurance, whose value can be used to secure alimony payments; and long-term-care insurance premiums.

Lost future caregiving . In some instances when a longtime couple is divorcing, Green has worked into the divorce agreement the value of future caregiving that would have been provided by the departing spouse. “How do you measure the sense of security, knowing someone is there?” she said. While it may be harder to quantify the emotional peace of mind, there are ways to quantify the financial benefit of future caregiving that becomes lost to an ex-spouse, she said. (She’s included this in a divorce agreement even when the couple has adult children and when neither spouse is sick.) If they don’t already have it, Resnick advises her divorcing clients to buy long-term care insurance if they can pass medical underwriting.

Long-term-care coverage . If a couple already owns long-term-care insurance together, they need to research what happens to their coverage in a divorce. While couples in the past were sometimes issued a single policy for both lives, most of today’s policies are issued separately, one for each member, said Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. With separate policies, the parties must notify the insurer so they can get billed separately, and they’d likely retain any spousal discount, Slome said. It gets more complicated if the couple has a so-called “shared care” rider on their policy, which allows one spouse to tap the other’s benefit pool, he said, noting divorcing parties should consider dropping that rider.

Power of attorney . If you’ve named your soon-to-be ex as your health-care power of attorney, you’ll need to change that to another person who you’d like to make medical decisions for you if you’re no longer able to do so yourself.

Affordable Care Act, The Marketplace

In last week’s blog I gave you ACA (Affordable Care Act) in a nutshell.  This blog is designed to be part II to las week’s blog.  Our intent is to offer you a bit more insight as to how the Marketplaces, created by ACA,  are supposed to work.

First of, a Marketplace, or commonly referred to as an Exchange, is a place in the internet where everyone eligible for ACA may go and purchase their health insurance policy.

Before I go any further, let me refresh your memory as to whom is eligible for ACA.  Eligibility is very simple, you must be less than 65 years of age, a legal resident of the United States, and not be in prison.

Now there are some exemptions to the law and these are as follows: individuals who are covered under a company’s group policy, a veteran’s health plan, if you have a plan bought by you that meets the criteria of the bronze plan,  those who qualify for medicare or medicaid, children on the CHIP program, American Indians, yearly income below $10,000 for individuals, $20,000 for family, if you have to pay more than 8% of your income towards health insurance after employer contributions or tax credits, members of the Military, members of Congress, the President and if your dead.  I can assume that if you’re reading this blog, at least you’re not dead.

For the rest of us, to include the self employed, dependent family members, individuals whose employer have decided not to offer an insurance program, and everyone else not mentioned in any of the above categories, we have the Marketplace.  Side note, I did not mention the undocumented immigrants, only because they are not included in any of the health programs available to the rest of us.

So what is in the Marketplace?  Good question, glad you asked.  First let me tell you that there are two types of market places, actually four, there is the Federally run and the State run programs, and within those there is a Marketplace for individuals and their family and then there is the SHOP, which is a Marketplace for businesses with less than 50 employees.

Confused yet? Don’t be! Right now we are just going to speak about the Marketplace for the individual and their family.

I must add that not all states will have a Marketplace online, such as Florida.  So, if you are a resident of a State without a Marketplace, you can access the Federally run program.

So, back to the previous answer.  A Marketplace is an internet portal where, by putting your pertinent information, you will be able to seek, and maybe find, a premium discount.  You will be able to find out if you are eligible for a tax credit, and you will also be able to purchase your health insurance.  All Health Insurers who are licensed in your state will appear in the Marketplace.

I know your next question; so how does this work?  Well, each Marketplace, whether Federal or State, is connected to the IRS; yup! no more cheating on your taxes; once you put in the information requested you will be crossed referenced with the IRS servers and… Bingo!!! you are told if you are eligible for a premium discount, and if you are eligible for a tax credit.

Now you’re beginning to salivate; premium discounts and a tax credit to boot.  Well, not so fast, you may either get one of the two or none.  It all has to do with your yearly household income and the number of family members.  Again, the Marketplace figures all of that out for you.  If you are eligible for a premium discount you have the option of getting it right then and there or later on as tax write off.

So you have now entered all of the tedious information requested from you and you are told that you are eligible for a premium discount, you now go to the next phase, which is choosing which insurance policy best suits your family.  You will have a pick from four basic policies, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

For the sake of numbers, let’s say that your family premium discount is $300 a month and you choose a program that will cost your family $500 a month; you will have to out-of-pocket the the balance of the monthly premium of $200.  Now lets reverse the scenario; let’s say that your premium discount is $300 a month and you choose the bare minimum program, and the premium on that program is $200 a month. Well, now you do not have to out-of-pocket one red cent.

Some families, depending on their income and family structure, may be eligible for a tax credit if they choose to pay for a policy whose premiums are above the allotted premium discount.  Once again, the Marketplace will figure it all out for you.

In a nutshell, this is the way that it will play out for most middle class families who do not enjoy the umbrella of a company group plan.

Before a I let you go so I can begin working on with my next blog, there are a couple of points which you should be aware of.  First, the only criteria to purchase health insurance after January 1st, 20114, is, age, if you are a smoker, state where you reside and family component.  So, if you are not in jail, an undocumented immigrant or dead, you are now able to obtain health insurance regardless of your health condition.  Second, don’t fret, it’s not as complicated as it seems, that’s why we’re here to help.

If you have any questions, are still confused, or just don’t want to think about it, send us an email to info@soraglobal.com.  We will try to answer your questions to the best of our ability, then send you on your way to the insurance program that best fits you and your family.

Long airport waits cost economy, travel group says

BY HANNAH SAMPSON

Lines for international passengers waiting to go through customs and immigration at Miami International Airport have been so lengthy that airport workers have handed out water to tired travelers. The airport has installed televisions to keep people entertained and is working to quicken the process.

Those waits — approaching a maximum of five hours in Miami earlier this year — are not just annoying to passengers, a travel-industry group said Wednesday. The delays could also cost the U.S. billions of dollars.

In a report released Wednesday, the U.S. Travel Association argued that long lines and delays to enter the country could cost the economy more than $12 billion a year and thousands of jobs. That’s both because of money not being spent during the wait in line — $416 million — as well as $11.8 billion in potential spending lost because travelers decided against coming to the U.S. because of the entry process.

The report called for several changes, including:

• Hiring 3,500 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

• Arranging schedules to make sure CBP officers are working at the busiest times.

• Adding technology to reduce the burden on officers.

• Reducing peak wait times by half and processing every traveler in 30 minutes or less.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the nonprofit U.S. Travel Association, said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday that Customs and Border Protection officers work hard.

“They’re just under-resourced,” Dow said. “It’s like having one cashier at Costco during the holidays.”

While the U.S. has set a goal of 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, a lack of resources to adequately staff entry points could hurt that effort, the group said. Last year, 67 million international travelers visited the country; of those, 6.8 million came to Miami-Dade.

“The long process and the long wait times have travelers telling their friends that they’re going to avoid the U.S.,” Dow said.

The association examined data provided by CBP on wait times between June 2012 and May 2013 at five major international gateways: Miami, Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles, New York’s JFK, and Los Angeles. According to the report, more than 40,000 passengers at MIA waited longer than two hours to be processed during that stretch; at JFK, the number was 180,000.

Miami edged out JFK for the longest peak wait time: 4.68 hours in April 2013, just beating the 4.48 hours at JFK in December 2012.

Ken Pyatt, Miami-Dade Aviation Department deputy director of operations, said wait times have already improved by 5-25 percent since August 2012.

“I think we’ve taken some effective self-help measures that have improved the process,” he said.

Those include opening a dedicated security checkpoint for travelers with connecting flights who needed to be re-screened after going through customs and immigration; adding staffers to direct passengers to available CBP officers; and studying the most efficient ways to organize lines. CBP also helped by automating a form to streamline the arrival process, securing more overtime in the summer and scheduling shifts more efficiently, Pyatt said.

More relief is on the way. Miami International Airport has spent $3.5 million on 36 self-service kiosks that will allow U.S. citizens and Canadians traveling internationally to scan their passports rather than going to an inspector. The kiosks, which are expected to be installed by the Thanksgiving travel rush, will generate a receipt that an officer must read, but Pyatt said the actual interaction between passenger and officer will be reduced from an average of two minutes to about 15 seconds.

Miami also has the option to buy 36 more kiosks next year.

Pyatt said that after Chicago O’Hare installed similar machines, that airport saw more than 30 percent improvement in efficiency.

“Our operation is a little different, but we’re optimistic that we will be in that range,” he said.

Miami International Airport also was approved for a pilot program that would allow the airport to pay for overtime for CBP officers. The airport is still negotiating details with Customs and Border Protection. While MIA has identified up to $6 million for that program, Pyatt said he is confident the actual amount will be much lower thanks to self-service kiosks.

Pyatt said the airport is working hard — and dedicating money from the operating budget — to be proactive about addressing the long waits.

“We don’t want to give the impression that we’re immune to this and it’s not our problem,” he said. “We can’t physically hire and put customs inspectors in place. But we’re doing everything possible to work with them.”

Worship con Queso

How sensual delights prepare us for the eternal feast.
Carolyn Arends [ 8/29/2013 11:38:00 AM ]

here is a Tex-Mex restaurant in Houston I have visited on three occasions. Each meal has begun with chile con queso. The cheese at this particular restaurant is the most delicious food I have ever tasted.

With every bite, I have been overcome with gratitude to God for creating taste buds, cows, and human ingenuity. And that gratitude has led to praise.

Some folks understand this. Some think I’m kidding. And others are skeptical that such a carnal thing as a Tex-Mex appetizer could provoke genuine worship.

We Christians have a long history of mixed and sometimes openly hostile attitudes toward sensual pleasure. Saint Augustine is the fourth-century poster boy for our dilemma, struggling in Book X of his Confessions to rein in each of his five senses. He attempts, for example, to “take food at mealtimes as though it were medicine” and to “fight against the pleasure in order not to be captivated by it.”

Augustine is ever-vigilant that pleasure in created things never replace our desire for the Creator. His caution is well taken. But lately I’ve been discovering an emphatically propleasure voice in the writings of another Christian guide.

C. S. Lewis is known, of course, as a literary scholar, novelist, and apologist. He is also, consistently, a curator of pleasure. Where there is beauty to be received, music to be heard, laughter to be welcomed, and (especially) food to be eaten, Lewis attends, celebrates, scrutinizes, describes, and partakes.

In Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, Lewis argues that the pleasures derived from forest moss and sunlight, bird song, morning air, and the comfort of soft slippers are “shafts of [God’s] glory as it strikes our sensibility.” Our task is not to guard against sensual enjoyment, but to allow our minds to run “back up the sunbeam to the sun”—to see every pleasure as a “channel of adoration.”

Lewis even argues that there is no such thing as a “bad” pleasure—only pleasures “snatched by unlawful acts.” But he is not blind to the “concupiscence” (lustfulness) that so haunts Augustine. When our response to pleasure is greed instead of adoration—when we seek to grasp and possess rather than receive—our healthy cry of “This also is Thou” distorts into “the fatal word: Encore.”

In his introduction to The Four Loves, Lewis distinguishes between “Need-pleasures” and “Pleasures of Appreciation.” The enjoyment we feel upon receiving a Need-pleasure—water to quench thirst, for example, or the scratching of an itch—is intense but short-lived. But with Appreciation-pleasures—nonessential things that awaken us to delight, like delicious smells and tastes and scenes of beauty—the sensation intensifies over time. Greed—the repeated cry of “Encore!” to, say, rich black coffee or extra-creamy queso—may transform a Pleasure of Appreciation into a Pleasure of Need, draining out of it all the lasting enjoyment.

The answer, Lewis contends, is not to avoid pleasure but to “have” and “read” it properly: to receive it, openhanded, as both a gift and a message. “We know we are being touched by a finger of that right hand at which there are pleasures for evermore. There need be no question of thanks or praise as a separate event, something done afterwards. To experience the tiny theophany”—the small sign of God’s presence—”is itself to adore.”

In many respects, Augustine and Lewis are arguing two sides of the same coin. But there is a major point of divergence at the heart of their opposite orientations to pleasure. Where Augustine sees our sensuality as a liability to be managed until God “consign[s] both food and belly to destruction,” Lewis views every earthly pleasure as an apprenticeship in adoration for the sort of thing that will go on forever in heaven.

Biblical writers seem irresistibly drawn to an image—part metaphor, part promise—of “the sacred meal with God.” From the table prepared for the psalmist (Ps. 23:5), to Jesus’ story of a great banquet (Luke 14:15–24), to the Revelation 19 vision of a wedding supper, the Scriptures are filled with the anticipation of feasting together—in the presence of God—forever. The prophet Isaiah (25:6–8) takes particular pleasure in this vision:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.

For Lewis, earthly meals are chances to practice the gratitude and adoration that will accompany our everlasting feast with God. Just as trials train us in patience, pleasure trains us in worship. Every sensual enjoyment (properly received) is a “tiny theophany”—a chance to “taste and see” that God is good, and a reminder that there is a whole lot more where that came from.

I rest my queso.