Monday, December 3, 2012
Keeping the Feast
I remember purchasing Robert Farrar Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb while in seminary. Subtitled A Culinary Reflection, I thought it would provide an interesting way to look at the Eucharistic meal through the preparation of the Easter Dinner for which he provides recipes.
I never got through it. Put bluntly, I found it way too long on details about the shape of an onion and the proper way to determine if a corkscrew is any good. By the time he got to a recipe, I was long gone. In my cook’s (not chef’s) imagination, I always thought I could do better in reflecting on how food and communion provide so many metaphors for the Christian life. Well, maybe not better than theologian and storyteller Capon, but perhaps more accessible to those who did not want to wade through a couple hundred pages.
I never wrote that book. However, Milton Brasher Cunningham did. It’s titled Keeping the Feast. Instead of long explanations, he provides short meditations on various subjects and ties them to a recipe. The book is short, just ten chapters, each of which is about ten pages long, including a piece of poetry to begin and a recipe at the end. Most are thoughtful, and the recipes are certainly interesting. The Strawberry Shortcake with basil as an ingredient stands out.
Skip the chapter on baseball (unless, of course, you really like baseball). It seems oddly out of place, and the recipe that goes with it is strangely disconnected even from the chapter, much less the rest of the book. The other meditations are great and could be read out of sequence, though be sure to get to the two page afterward which closes out the book.
You will be treated to images of family suppers, community meals, funeral repasts, and the ways in which community comes forth through shared food. Most importantly, Brasher Cunningham ties our more common meals always to their reflection of the sacred meal we share in church. You may never look at dinner the same way again.