Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gastronomic traditions

Food traditions in our family:
Tea at a quaint (which means both tiny and cute) tea room, where we stuff ourselves with scones, pasties (not pastries!), pots of tea (duh!) with lots of milk and sugar and three large tea sandwiches. Part of very visit home for my little brother, and now that he's introduced his wife-to-be to it, and she enjoyed it, she's made the cut.

Bean, cheese and rice burritos--otherwise known as BCRs--from a small, local taco joint. Almost a once-a-week meal around here. Cheap and very tasty. Eaten with lots of their on-site made salsa and our sour cream. One of the few foods I could eat daily.

Thai--E and I once decided we'd go to every Thai restaurant in town just so we could objectively evaluate which was best. There are 10. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. I LOVE red chicken curry. She's more of a pad thai woman, herself. Last time she was home, we ordered take-out from our favorite, and SK, V & I sat at the counter long enough to watch one of the employees have a melt-down in front of us. I hate to say it, but that left a sour taste in our mouths and we have found a new top choice Thai restaurant now.

Homemade ice-cream--The Beve's a big fan of ice-cream. Any day, anytime. Heavy cream, sugar and fresh fruit or chocolate, cinnamon or citrus. What's not to love about this? Of course, if, like SK and me, you're lactose-intolerant, then it's an enter-at-your-own-risk kind of tradition. But the metal container spinning in the loud bucket of churning ice and rock salt, rushing out to unplug it before it burns up the outlet when it stops turning--this is all part of the tradition for the Beve. Then he scoops out luscious, dripping bowls of sweetness, and even allows the dogs a portion. This is as much summer for us as flowers in our pots, and sitting on our patio, watching the sunsets.

Cinnamon rolls--do I even need to say this? I am married to the baker of the world's best cinnamon rolls. I'm not kidding. Not to mention Swedish tea rings, sour cream pecan coffee cake, Kringle and bread. He's an amazing baker. Ask anyone. No one who has tasted his baking should be a bit surprised that I have a weight problem...but seriously, butter is one of the one good things in life. At least when the Beve bakes! He bakes for people at his work, friends, people he simply wants to serve...so our house often smells like cinnamon and butter, one way or another, just like it's the fragrance of our lives. But sometimes when we get up in the morning, there's a pan of cinnamon rolls sitting on the counter simply for us.

Calzones--if you're really special, the Beve will offer to make calzones for you--and I'm telling you, they're worth waiting for! Plus, they're a tradition. We've been making them together, two per pan--as big as the Beve's outspread hand, since we had kids in diapers. I can't possibly eat a whole one anymore, though the Beve can still manage, and J's been known to knock back one easily enough (well, E can too, but I don't want to embarrass her by making it sound like she's a big eater or anything). We always think we'll make them a little smaller, then we never do. I mean, there are just so many veggies, and cheeses that have to be piled on. It's hard to practice moderation when the Beve's in the kitchen.

So why am I talking about these traditions? Well, in the car as we drove home from some friends' tonight, the Beve and I were talking about the things that get eschewed in our lives. Our eating habits are one of them. The Beve is a big guy, and he needs a lot more food than I do. But sometimes he eats a lot more food than he needs. And I sometimes forget to eat at all. When I get to working, I can go all day without thinking about food. Then I'll wonder why I'm so hungry that I want to stuff myself. We eat out of boredom or stress or to be social or to avoid being social. The reasons we eat are so many--and so few of them are related to our bodies needing food. So thinking about our food traditions and what they mean in our lives helps. Because traditions ground us to the past, make us stop, take a breath and say, we've gone this way before and it is important enough to repeat. It meant something.

But along with the food, these traditions have to do with being around the table. The sitting and laughing, the sharing of hearts. We always have a sharing question at the ready, particularly when we gather with our closest friends plus all our kids. It's part of the tradition, that we go around the table and speak purposely for part of that meal. No one is overlooked because of age, no answer is considered silly or random. We pay attention, acknowledge dreams, hopes, even heartaches. I remember once when J took a risk and spoke of his fears about his future, and that opened the door for everyone to speak deeply, profoundly, not skimming the shallows. And I think we were all changed by that meal, in more ways than mere food.

And that's what it's about, I believe, when we sit down together as believers. As Christians, we have the best food traditions in history. Think about it--all the intentional meals of the Israelites in the wilderness, eating only what was provided by God for that moment, no more and no less. They had to trust GOD for how much food would fill them, not listening to their stomachs, but trusting that whatever He had provided was enough--no matter what their stomachs might be saying.
And, of course, Jesus took bread, blessed it, and told us to remember Him when we take our bread. And so we say grace. But maybe He means how we eat, why we eat, what we eat. What our traditions are. And our drink, the same way...remembering Him. Listening to Him speak--"Do this in remembrance of me."

Not just tradition, but communion. That's what food is ultimately about. Not merely feeding our bodies, but nourishing our souls--that's what we do at the table. That's what He is talking about, promising, if you will. "This is my body, this is my blood." The bread we eat His body muscle on our bones, the wine we drink His blood coursing through our veins. His Holy Spirit given to nourish us, fill us, as the richest of meals.

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