Knifing my way around the edge of the sqaure pan of brownies, I say, "Everyone wants the middle piece." She says, "I am not a middler," while grabbing two inches of crisp edge. I grab one whole side of edge, "A perfect relationship is found in sharing." She smiles, "We both love the edge." I say, "And eat the middle if there is room." She declares, "There is always room in the middle between us."
It is not easy to eat with a mask on. Though I have to be honest. I haven’t tried. Most of my meals have been prepared at home by…me. I continue to limit myself to carry out when I must satisfy those occasional cravings for a Double Butter Burger Basket from Culver’s or a spinach calabrese from Aurelio’s Pizza. My last meal out before quarantine was at Cortona’s in Fortville on March 15 after church with Elizabeth. Delicious Italian food. The only meal I have had out was to celebrate my youngest heading off to college. We went to a new Italian spot in Carmel called Savor because they had a very spacious outdoor dining area. Can you tell I have a taste for northern Mediterranean cuisine?
Speaking of food. I know that I am not the only foodie out there. I remember a delightful Birthday Dinner not too long ago in our fellowship hall. We like to eat. And I dream of the day where that meal with you all can happen again.
In the meantime, there are meals at home, alone, with my dog. My bi-weekly visits with my parents in Bloomington where I pick up something tasty to bring for lunch. This coming week is their anniversary and I am coming down for the evening and picking up from one of their favorite spots, Samira. And mine too! I thoroughly enjoy Afghan food. (Mom, you asked me for my order for Thursday. I want the Chicken Manto, please. Chicken manto is a steamed dumpling filled with chicken, white leeks, cilantro, topped with tomato-basil sauce and spiced yogurt. Divine.)
I am getting hungry with all this talk about fine food. It’s like when I read Ernest Hemingway. Here’s a writer that basically tells it like it is. Simple prose. Not much interiority to characters or psychological psycho-babble. But when Hemingway writes about food. Oh, my. My favorite book of his is even named after a food event, The Moveable Feast. I am all for moving feasts. Take this passage: “I asked for a distingue, the big glass mug that held a liter, and for potato salad. The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes a l’huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious. I ground black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil. After the first heavy draft of beer I drank and ate very slowly. When the pommes a l’huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas. This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce. I mopped up all the oil and all of the sauce with bread and drank the beer slowly until it began to lose its coldness and then I finished it and ordered a demi and watched it drawn. It seemed colder than the distingue and I drank half of it.” Oh, MY! It’s a wonder Hemingway could write after all that drink!
With all of this talk about food, I for one am very grateful that God lowered the divine menu from the heavens and said, Eat. Eat anything. Eat everything! Three times. Eat. Eat. Eat. (Remember, this is Peter so anything needs to be repeated three times for him to get it.) Does Peter get it?
For those of us who are currently wandering through the book of Acts in our Bible Study we know that Peter gets it. We also know that this vision, this dream, is NOT about food. Peter awakens from the trance and goes to the gentile Cornelius’ house. Peter is greeted. He begins by saying, You know that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate with or to visit a person of another race. Yes, they all know. And here’s the line where Peter shares with the world that he gets it: God has shown me not to call any person common or unclean. Peter goes on, In truth, I am grasping that God is no respecter of appearances. God is Lord of all!
I have fantastic memories of meals shared with…all. A meal with clergy friends to end a trip in Rome; a meal that began with mussels and ended with limoncello. Meals at my parent’s house as they hosted international students from all over the globe attending Indiana University; an operatic soprano from New Zealand, a Chinese couple in the business school, and a Swiss piano player that became like family. Many meals with Swedish cousins that stayed with us when I was in school. I remember Greek Easter meals at my aunt’s with the old men turning the lamb on the spit. I remember countless Cinco de Mayo’s. A meal with the Saysongkhams, a Laotian boat family that the church of my youth brought to the United States. A traditional Swedish Christmas Eve dinner with lutefisk and brunne benner and potataskorp. A seminary class on world Christian history where we ate at a different ethnic restaurant every week. And Thanksgiving, that always started with mussels and ended with the bouquet of asparagus throughout the evening hours.
A culinary delight for the taste buds and for the friendships and now family across the globe. I get it. Just like Peter got it. It is about food. And, it is so much more than just food. There is an ominous ending in today’s text. The New International Version that Steve read doesn’t do the ending to Peter’s dream justice. It reads, Immediately the sheet was taken back up to heaven. But the Greek word used for the sheet that comes down from heaven in verse eleven, othone, is NOT the word used in verse sixteen. Verse sixteen in the New Revised Standard Version reads, “The thing, skeous, was suddenly taken up to heaven.”
Something happens here. Something very, very important. An indication. A warning for our all-too-human and sinful natures. God lowers from the heavens a sheet with every animal on it. A sheet with every thing and every possibility. A sheet that declares, NO person is common. NO person is unclean. This beautiful vision of the universality of God’s love, grace, call it what you will, comes down from the heavens…and then the vision ends. The vision, the dream becomes…a thing. A thing. And what happens when people turn dreams and visions…and other people…into things?
Creator of all food, Preparer of all tables, Head Chef, Maître d', Spice of All Life, who lowers the Tablecloth of ingredients and the menu before our very eyes and declares, Eat! Do we taste each other? Take a nibble? How does one devour another and not consume another? We bite and eat each other because we are starving for each other. Perhaps another menu is in order? Amen.