Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Our Lord was known as a 'glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners' (Luke 7:34).  There can be no doubting that he was a friend to sinners and to tax-collectors, but those of us who follow him today would not accept that he was either a glutton or drunkard.  And yet you can't be accused of being either if you don't like food or wine.  Jesus clearly did.  His first miracle, as we have noted here, was to turn water to wine and when the guests clearly had already had a lot.  Presumably that was why they had run out in the first place!

And he was so concerned that the crowds had not eaten all day that he performed his greatest miracle feeding the five thousand.  The last thing he did was have a meal with his disciples, and it is a meal that he left as the central act of Christian worship.

Now I know all the theological and alleged theological significances of all this, but meals, real meals, were a focus of our Lord's ministry.

I find this something of an encouragement.  I rather like food myself.  I came to cooking itself rather late in life, and am a rather amateur, albeit enthusiastic, cook for my own pleasure as much as anything else.  I am a massive fan of Elizabeth David and won't cook anything without checking whether Jane Grigson has a recipe for it first.  One modern cook I especially like is Vivek Singh, whom I have actually had the privilege of meeting and watching cook!  He brings to Indian cookery this sense of passion and depth that you find in Elizabeth and Jane.

What is sometimes lacking in modern cookery writing, I think, is a sense of spontaneity and sheer love of food.  It is all very professional and well-researched, beautifully photographed, and fool-proof if you follow the instructions.  What is lacking, however, is the sheer sense of thrill and inspiration that you cannot miss in Elizabeth David's writing.  One of my favourite pieces of hers is where she talks of how a stock cube won't do!  Indeed, one of the very first dishes I ever cooked was a Tomato Consommé using a recipe of hers.  The recipe calls for chicken stock.  She gives alternatives, but then writes:

'A non-alternative, I'll repeat that, a non-alternative is a bouillon cube.  Water is a preferable one. (ED, Is there a Nutmeg in the House, pp.30-31)

Her point being that it is the final flavour that counts!

Which brings me back to Christian worship.  We have all sorts of modern liturgies and liturgical aids.  I use Visual Liturgy myself.  It is a piece of software to help clergy plan services.  It produces beautifully laid out services, which if you follow are also fool-proof.  It provides lots of alternatives and choices of hymns, prayers, and readings.  Much like modern cookbooks or cookery web-sites.  Yet one of the ironies of cookery at present is that the number of people actually cooking is declining as the number of books being produced about it are increasing.

As with food so with worship.  We need a sense of enthusiasm and excitement that focuses not on celebrity, glamour, and show, but on the flavour of the real thing.

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