Friday, February 28, 2014

RFC drinks in graces.

It was St. Thomas, I think, who pointed out a long time ago that if God wanted to get rid of the universe, He would not have to do anything; He would have to stop doing something. Wine is -- the fruit of the vine stands in act, outside of nothing -- because it is His very present pleasure to have it so. The creative act is contemporary, intimate, and immediate to each part, parcel and period of the world.
     ...The bloom of yeast lies upon the grapeskins year after year because He likes it; C6H12O6=2C2H5OH+CO2 is a dependable process because, every September, He says, That was nice; do it again.
     Let us pause and drink to that.
Robert Farrar Capon knows well that there are people who will not drink to anything, because they are teetotalers. He's writing this chapter on "Water in Excelsis," in the book The Supper of the Lamb, about a God Who delights in his creation, and he is not sympathetic to what he sees as a mistaken attitude: "Only the ungrateful or the purblind can fail to see that sugar in the grape and yeast on the skins is a divine idea, not a human one."

And as for what he calls The Woman's Christian Temperance Union's version of The Lord's Supper, only about 100 years old and lacking completely what Holy Scripture and church tradition prescribe as the proper drink, he does not shrink back from engaging its adherents in argument, particularly the ones who think that the Greek word for wine in the Gospels meant something other than wine.
The commentator cited, as I recall, grape juice for one meaning, and raisin paste for another. He inclined, ultimately, toward the latter.
     I suppose such people are blessed with reverent minds which prevent them from drawing irreverent conclusions. I myself, however, could never resist the temptation to read raisin paste for wine in the story of the Miracle of Cana. "When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made raisin paste...he said unto the bridegroom, 'Every man at the beginning doth set forth good raisin paste, and when men have well drunk [eaten? -- the text is no doubt corrupt], then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good raisin paste until now.'" Does it not whet your appetite for the critical opera omnia of such an author, where he will freely have at the length and breadth of Scripture? Can you not see his promised land flowing with peanut butter and jelly; his apocalypse, in which the great whore Babylon is given the cup of the ginger ale of the fierceness of the wrath of God?
Capon has a different argument with secularists, and it is over their classifying wine as an alcoholic beverage, when the author knows it as a class in itself, far removed from the hard liquor that is often used to ill effect, and which he tells us is "for strong souls after great dinners." Capon:
With wine at hand, the good man concerns himself, not with getting drunk, but with drinking in all the natural delectabilities of wine: taste, color, bouquet; its manifold graces; the way it complements food and enhances conversation; and its sovereign power to turn evenings into occasions, to lift eating beyond nourishment to conviviality, and to bring the race, for a few hours at least, to that happy state where men are wise and women beautiful, and even one's children begin to look promising.
I admit I am inspired by RFC's eager receptivity to God's gifts. What little appreciation I've had for wine as a beverage has been slow in developing, and I let my husband be in charge of that aspect of our dining. But wine in the chalice of Holy Communion has always seemed to me the obvious choice in obedience to Christ's teaching.

This chapter contains more and expanded theologizing about the secular and the sacred, using wine and the making of wine as a demonstration of the goodness and delight of God. I am still musing on much of this and hope to ramble on here again, sharing with you the infectious loves of Robert Farrar Capon.

Other posts in this series are:
RFC is the man we need.
RFC begins with the meat.
RFC considers blood and sacrifice.
RFC makes one of nature's marvels.
RFC for Butter Week

Thursday, February 27, 2014

a little dancing sister

...Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshipers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.
        ― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
I've been enjoying my little sister in the garden this week. It started with a long weeding session, during which I rescued the sweet peas from a weed of which I don't know the name. Does one of you know it?

It's been growing taller than the peas, and even though I made some nice trellising for them, they have been confused by these weeds and are trying to climb on them instead.

The green and trailing weed is also flowering before the sweet peas bloom, and is not in any way an unpleasant weed to deal with.
How about this weed? Maybe someone can tell me its real name. We call it The Scattery Weed, because before the seeds are obviously ripe, when the plant still looks small and innocent, it waits with secret menace for the gardener to stroll by and brush it with her shoe or hand, then !!explosion!! of seeds in a several-foot radius.

I probably shouldn't use the word menace when talking about my little sister. In this case she is only doing what is in her nature, and doing a good job of bearing many children for next year's springtime.

I found more signs of spring while I was out there, like this oxalis blooming among the violets...

...plum blossoms decorating violets, and the violets springing up tall to decorate an irrigation head.

Above is a field of manzanita blossoms fallen from the bush to make way for berries, and hanging over them are snowdrops, truly looking like little sisters dancing in their pretty spring petticoats.

I finished my garden work just ahead of the steady rain we've been getting today. God is watering the earth and sending His rain "on the just and the unjust." Thank You, Lord!

Linking up to Weekends With Chesterton.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kinds of Poetry - Tolkien vs. Jackson

Jackson apparently thinks the characters Tolkien gives us are too simply good to be fully believable to modern audiences, and so he feels obligated to "complicate" them, to give them internal conflicts other than the ones they actually have, in the hopes that we will better be able to relate to them.
I'm quoting from this article in the Nov/Dec 2013 Touchstone Magazine, in which Donald T. Williams explains how literature, while delighting us with its art, is more powerful than history or philosophy to nurture our moral vision, or to corrupt us with false images.

With the help of quotes from Sir Philip Sidney, who wrote Apology for Poetry in the sixteenth century, he shows how "Tolkien was very consciously and deliberately following the literary tradition that flows down to us from Sidney through Dr. Johnson and C. S. Lewis."

Peter Jackson the filmmaker seems to be flowing in a different stream. But he is an artist, and of course will impart his own soul to his work. I wouldn't expect him to give us The Rings, because that has already been done, and he is not J.R.R. Tolkien. But it is unfortunate that he has changed things to the degree and in the directions he has. Williams points out specific ways in which the characters who inspired us in the books disappoint us in the movies, and makes these general remarks:
By this process of negative moral transformation, in other words, we reach the place where beloved characters are unrecognizable to Tolkien's fans, and those fans feel betrayed. And they are right to feel so, though mostly they do not understand why. It is because the difference between the books and the movies is not just one of necessary adaptation to a different medium. It is that the author consciously followed the Sidneyan tradition while the adaptor is either ignorant of it or doesn't understand it or has rejected it.
Read the whole article here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

RFC for Butter Week

Please don't try Roger Farrar Capon's baklava recipe. He describes it as "french-fried," and yes, it does involved a large quantity of oil ! which I declare a horrid perversion of the spirit of baklava. This is the first thing I have found in The Supper of the Lamb that has so disappointed and surprised me. I guess no one can be perfect.

But the perfect baklava recipe does exist, simplicity itself for method; and for taste, the divine melding of flavors, of which that of Butter is central. It is the one used in my parish to make umpteen sheet pans of baklava every year for festivals and celebratory meals, and I will eventually make it at home and share the recipe here.

As I write, we Orthodox Christians are in the midst of what is sometimes called Butter Week, the week before Lent properly begins, and the last in which we eat dairy products (but start fasting from meat). The perfect time to tell about Capon's attitude toward butter, which I am very sympathetic to. For example, at the end of a section on sauces he shares:
One last secret. There is almost no sauce that will not be improved by having a lump of butter whisked into it the moment before it is served. In addition to what it does for the flavor, it provides the sauce itself with a patina, a sheen which delights the eye even before the palate begins to judge. It is an embellishment not lightly to be forgone. Dishes should come to the table vested, robed. Don Giovanni is marvelous any way you can get to hear it. But given a choice between seeing it performed full dress, or on a bare stage with the cast in T shirts and sneakers, no rational man would hesitate. A great sauce deserves a great finish. Whatever you do, therefore, don't omit the final grace -- the loving pat of butter.
Those last words remind me of my grandmother, who showed this kind of love in her kitchen and to those she fed, including herself, and she lived healthily and on her own past the age of 100. I can still picture her standing by the stove and tucking fat pats of butter into the slits she had made in our baked potatoes just before taking them to the dining table.

Capon considers bread and butter, or cheese, to be basic ferial (everyday) food for those meals that one is keeping simple and light, for the sake of being able to enjoy real feasting less often. I'll write more on that principle later. In contrast to bread and butter, we have what RFC calls "the epitome of baking": pastry. He gives a lot of time and great detail to teaching us how to make puff pastry and Danish pastry, which must be made with butter, of course. I personally am not interested in this kind of cooking at my stage of life, and am happy to eat my butter in a hundred places other than pastry. Capon explains further that butter not, in any except the merely technical sense of the word, grease. It melts at the temperature of the tongue, and consequently goes down as easily as cream. (You do not like to drink cream? I am sorry. Let us agree to disagree and get on with it.) Any man who cannot tell the difference between butter and margarine has callouses on the inside of his mouth...Butter is a substance in its own right, justified by its own delectability, not by its contributory services. It is a unique and solid sauce; it is apt to more dishes than anything in the world, and it is, like all the greatest sauces, worthy of being eaten plain.
Besides pastry, there are many recipes at the back of the book that feature this blessed food, including what look to be very nice cakes and cookies. I think all of us have plenty of that kind of recipe already, and if you don't, just look on my own Recipes and Vague Instructions page on this blog. I wholeheartedly agree with RFC that butter "glorifies almost everything it touches."

Other posts in this series are:
RFC is the man we need.
RFC begins with the meat.
RFC considers blood and sacrifice.
RFC makes one of nature's marvels.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Let them believe.

It is assumed that the skeptic has no bias;
whereas he has an obvious bias in favor of skepticism.

That is the one eternal education:
to be sure enough that something is true
that you dare to tell it to a child.

-- G.K. Chesterton

These quotes having to do with teaching and learning remind me of something I read years ago when we were in the middle of our 21 years of homeschooling. It was in John Senior's book The Restoration of Christian Culture, which I had borrowed and still don't own, so it may be that I am not remembering it exactly right. I'd love it if any of you know enough to correct me or just articulate more clearly what I am trying to get at.

Dr. Senior warned parents against teaching children what modern educators call "critical thinking," because it would turn them into skeptics and take away the simplicity of their childhood. They need to be taught to believe, rather than to doubt, and to have their joy and love for the world nurtured. If we teach them to be skeptics we are guilty of stunting their souls.

I thought about these things when I read an article by Ken Myers that was published last summer in Touchstone, titled "Trinity & Modernity" (unfortunately not available online). In it he introduces us to the book The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity by Colin Gunton, and Myers discusses the fragmentation of current culture and thought, and the necessity of Trinitarian faith and the Body of Christ if we are to be saved from "modernity's fatal confusion."

His introductory paragraphs are what I want to share here, about our universal Christian story.
We have been told that to be postmodern is to approach metanarratives -- the Big Stories that explain Life, the Universe, and Everything -- with incredulity. Of course, this raises the question of whether or not this definition of the postmodern temperament is itself a metanarrative...

...I do detect among most younger people a yawning indifference to efforts to explain history or theology or ethics or art in terms of grand and arching chronologies or chronicles. I suspect their minds and hearts have been colonized by thousands of what [Jean-François] Lyotard called petit récits, small amounts of highly particular and often idiosyncratic episodes, all blithely disconnected from any framework, all resistant to organization in any structure of meaning. Perpetual exposure to a numbing torrent of bewildering bursts of narrativish fragments -- increasingly in fewer than 140 characters -- leaves little time or mental space for attending to connections and causality.

I remain unrepentantly pre-modern in my love of metanarratives. If the gospel has any power, it is only because it tells a great story that explains all things. It is a very particular story and it makes universal claims, which make both card-carrying moderns and postmoderns nervous. It was foolishness to the Greeks as well.
This fragmentation and lack of understanding was a problem even in Chesterton's day, but certainly it's worse in more recent decades, with the giving over of education to a woefully pragmatic vision (Perhaps we do have a metanarrative: Do Whatever You Have To, To Get a Good Job.) and the gazillion bits of information and "communication" of the computer age.

I always had Truth to tell to my children, because I knew at heart that Christ was the "yea and amen to all the promises of God," and God was the Creator and upholder of everything. But in my experience the Protestant Evangelical world lacked cohesion, and certainly the continuity with the history faith that would make it a true metanarrative.

It was incomplete, fragments that could not explain Everything, and I am sorry that I couldn't tell my young children the Big Story that I am learning now, now that I am coming to know Christ and His Church. In The Church we have Christ the Head of the body. They go together, and can't really convey the faith any other way. Christ comes to us in His Church, "the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."

The intellectual focus of the West -- which even we in the Eastern Orthodox Church breathe in the air of the modern world -- seems to make it hard for me to avoid skepticism in myself. I can't see that anything but prayer and sacrament can keep my heart tender and trusting. Let's pray for the children, too, that they might be saved from the spirit of the age.

Linking up to Weekends with Chesterton

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

RFC makes one of nature's marvels.

In the chapter titled "Living Water" in The Supper of the Lamb, in which we learn how to make Brown Stock and White Stock, Robert Farrar Capon continues, " are now ready for the really astonishing part of the exercise." It's the lead-in to another of the recipes that are scattered throughout the first two-thirds of The Supper of the Lamb, with more of them concentrated in the recipe section at the back.

Many of the recipes seem a little outdated now, but I doubt I'd have taken to the foods featured in Supper even in 1969 when it was first published, because I was just learning to live on my own and to eat rice and vegetables. Our ferial eating in those days was sparser of meat and wine than RFC could have imagined, and Diet for a Small Planet was the go-to cookbook. It would be another ten or fifteen years before I bought my first leg of lamb.

Nowadays I am well supplied with recipes for most everything I could possibly want to cook, but Capon's next suggestion sounds so strange and appealing that I think I will have to try it eventually. If I had to choose between meat and butter, two foods at the top of my list of culinary loves, I guess I'm just sensible enough to choose meat, and when RFC tells me I can capture its "heart and soul" in my kitchen, I can't resist his encouragement to create something of which he also claims, " will find yourself whittling off little pieces to dissolve on your tongue at odd times of the day."

I'll just give you the whole recipe here, because though we no doubt can find a version online, I naturally like the style of this one. It will be my last "meaty" post on this book, because in my church we are beginning our Lenten fast from meat very soon, and it's time for me to turn the page.
(Meat Extract)

Take the strainerful of bones and scraps [from which you have made the stock] and put them back into the stockpot. Add any scraps of meat you have around: poultry, pork, veal -- even leftover hamburger -- just stay away from lamb and ham. Meat extract can, of course, be made from the used bones alone, but anything that brings more natural gelatin to the pot is welcome. Cover everything deeply with cold water, adding no salt at all, and boil for two or three hours more.

That done, strain once again, this time into a large saucepan. Discard the bones. (They have been worked to death. Even the dog will look down his nose at them now.)

Boil the contents of the pan hard, skimming the froth from the top now and then, until the liquid is drastically reduced. When it is down to about a pint, transfer it to a smaller pan and boil on, over slightly reduced heat. Continue boiling until it reaches the consistency of a thick, blackish-brown syrup (half a cup, give or take a little). Pour this into a heatproof jar, cool, and refrigerate.

You now have, perhaps for the first time in your life, real meat extract -- one of nature's marvels. It is, of course, highly concentrated gelatin, but it has been imbued with the heart and soul of meat. Its taste is beautiful. Moreover, in spite of the fact that no speck of salt went into all those quarts of water the second time around, it is salted to perfection. Its consistency is, admittedly, a little forbidding; It is not unlike a young and tender shoe heel. Refrigerated, it will keep in this state for weeks; but, obligingly enough, it melts at the temperature of the mouth. If you are any lover of food at all, you will find yourself whittling off little pieces to dissolve on your tongue at odd times of the day.

Use it ad lib. Its general effect is to give a sauce soul and substance without overpowering the proper flavor of the dish. Experiment. It improves almost anything. A tablespoonful melted in warm Hollandaise imparts a certain roundness and resonance to what is sometimes an excessively light and lemony sauce. A piece dropped on top of a hot fried egg (plus a dash of Tabasco, if you are up to it) is delightful. And in the form of Colbert Butter, it is the perfect accompaniment to steaks, chops, fish, or poultry -- not to mention a piece of matzoh at three in the afternoon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

fanciful semblance of decency

THERE are many who insist on all that was dark or gross or negligent in the conditions of early barbarism, so that modern civilization may for one wild moment take on a fanciful semblance of decency. But old things have to be made very black indeed, if modern things are not to look blacker.

    ~G.K. Chesterton in Generally Speaking, 1929

linking up to Weekends with Chesterton

Sunday, February 16, 2014

RFC considers blood and sacrifice.

I owe you something more, however -- something darker -- on the subject of meat: The minor leads inexorably to the monumental. Lamb has set our feet in a large room indeed. Man not only dines: he also kills and sacrifices. The room in which he relishes the animal orders lies between slaughterhouse and temple. There are death's heads at each end of the table of the world.
In The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection Robert Farrar Capon introduces what is perhaps the most poetic chapter with this paragraph. He explores our human proclivity to hunting and butchering and the Jewish temple sacrifices in a long poem that I mostly didn't have the patience for, though I liked its division into sections named for the categories of the car game:
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral;
Testing the textures of creation,
     savoring the styles of its coinherence.
After describing the neat and clean Mineral parts of our world, he moves on to the Vegetable, "the kingdom of seed, birth, life....And for the first time,/ the reek of death." But

Onions die quietly,
Cabbages shed no blood;
All plants forgive:
By the waters that comprise them
They wash man's hands
And let him walk away.
Eating vegetables is so innocent. But Capon doesn't want to ignore the reality of our place as carnivores, so he unapologetically moves on to the Animal kingdom
each man owning the honest interchange by which he steals his livelihood; each woman's hand intimate with the crack of wrung neck and severed spine....
It is not possible or even desirable to distill the writer's poem into a fully satisfying theology, but I wanted my readers to know that he does satisfy himself with the mysteries of God's plan of salvation, of which the temple sacrifices were a foreshadowing of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.
The world awaits
The unimaginable union
By which the Lion lifts Himself Lamb slain
And, Priest and Victim,
The City

Other posts in this series are:
RFC is the man we need.
RFC begins with the meat.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

always looking for someone to devour

In a Valentine's Day e-mail letter, Touchstone Magazine editor James Kushiner comments on the news from Belgium. After the general greeting for the day, here is the rest of the letter:

...we live in time when the love of many has grown cold. How else to explain what has happened in the West? Most have heard that Belgium has passed a law allowing the 'euthanization' of children. With their kind permission, of course. We wish we did not have live in such times. But we do.

Many have seen such things coming, for decades. But warnings, debates, arguments have been to no avail. Books will continue to be written on why it has come to this and how to argue against the slide down the slippery slope (is there any doubt that this slide has been going on?).

Maybe it's time to recognize that one cannot argue rationally with a demonic spirit. In the United States, some 55,000,000 children in utero have been murdered under the inspiration of this spirit--over the past 41 years, a biblical generation of death in the wilderness. There is no Promised Land waiting for this unrepentant generation. We've been killing children without their permission already. Now, Belgium wants to kill adolescents if they are persuaded it would be better for them to go to sleep and never wake up.

I write to name this as the spirit of iniquity that it is. I am reminded of a scene in one of the greatest American films, The Night of the Hunter. Two young children, John and Pearl, are running for their lives from a deranged and murderous false preacher, Harry Powell (played by Robert Mitchum). Escaping down the Ohio River, the exhausted children spend part of a night in a barn, but they are awakened by the approaching sounds of Powell on horseback. John says to his sister, "Don't he ever sleep?" 
Exactly. The devil stalking in our midst is a ravenous adversary, always looking for someone to devour. He does not sleep. And his staunch ally, Molech, has devoured little children since biblical times.

The Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all authority in heaven and on earth belongs, has said, "Woe to them who cause these little ones to stumble. It would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened to his neck and be cast into the depths of the sea." Woe to the nation that does these things. One does not have to be a prophet to see this. God will not be mocked.

In the film, a courageous witness to the Lord delivers the children from death. She is a magnificent heroine, played by Lillian Gish. She loves truly, without fear, with courageous compassion. We must continue to shine the light, like the magnificent witness Valentine.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

wintertime loves

We in the arid parts of the West have been exulting in rain the last week or so. It's so comforting and even glorious to wake in the night and hear the rain still coming down. Then to wake in the morning and see it is still falling. We had puddles in the back yard! Thank you, Lord!

Mr. Glad and I do live in northern California, but daughter Pippin lives even farther north in the state, and we drove there early this week for a short visit. Often February is a very snowy month at her place, but this year they've had more dry weather and rain than snow, and even the rain stopped while we were there, so we could get outdoors easily for work and recreation.

One day we made a family project out of pruning old apple trees that Pippin and The Professor are trying to revive from years of neglect. I floated back and forth between lopping branches and swinging the kids.

I would get Scout and Ivy going and then run over to take a picture of the adults on ladders.

Another day we took a short trip to Castle Crags State Park and walked a trail alongside the Sacramento River. Considering the dryness of this year, I was amazed at the thick moss and ferns.

Port Orford Cedars like to grow next to rivers.
A pale green, almost white lichen grew on rocks and tree stumps.

yew trees on the riverbank
Grandson in orange jacket

Everything was wet from the recent rains, and many times our feet slipped on the invisible mosses -- or was it algae? -- growing on wooden bridges or river rocks.

Ivy practiced throwing pebbles into the river, and once she got the hang of it she did not want to do anything else. The supply of rocks was endless.

We went to the confluence of Castle Creek (in the foreground below) and the Sacramento River, from which you can get great views of the jagged rocks above, called the Castle Crags. They are high enough that the recent precipitation there was in the form of snow, and some was still unmelted and visible.

My dear husband showed me this large and artsy rock, which you can also see in the photo at the very top of this post, in its original setting. I wanted to take it home. It was a little too heavy for me to carry, so The Professor hauled it back to the car. It came with us on our journey home and is now living by our house. Mr. Glad classified it as a confluitic rock.

Winter days are short enough that at the end of our busy days there was plenty of time for cozy gatherings in the kitchen or by the wood stove. I read many books to the children. Scout's current favorite, which I read about on a blog before Christmas and gave to him, is Bumblebee at Apple Tree Lane, and we read it several times. Ivy likes The Little Fur Family best right now.

We danced to the children's favorite recordings, and also listened to bird calls on the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs CD. After ten minutes of loons and other waterfowl, Ivy must have deduced that those bird songs were some kind of dance music, too, and she started twisting and prancing around.

Hot soup is what you need on a winter's night, so Pippin and I learned how to make French Onion Soup, using the recipe in The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition by Cook's Illustrated Magazine. The secret that the Cook's testers learned is that red onions give the best flavor. Our result was sooo good.

And cookies! Pippin had some dough left in the freezer from her Christmas Peppernuts, the recipe that I concocted a long time ago but haven't made for years. We like our nuts to be nut-sized, so we always cut the frozen dough into little cubes and bake them long enough that they come out crispy. Next Christmas I'll give the recipe.

But for now, since I do love cookies, they make a good ending to my story 
of a wintry family visit that was warm and sweet.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

RFC begins with the meat.

The book into which I am dipping to give you several tastes is Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon. The title refers on one level to the four meals he will show us how to make, for eight people at each sitting, out of one leg of lamb. As I said in my first post, it's not these recipes that most interested me about the book, but they form the loose structure around which the author gathers all his personality and wisdom.

He tells us that "Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times is not simply a recipe. It is a way of life." A way that has us deliberately creating leftovers so that for most suppers we can use little bits of our meat and make it go a long way. I have a lot of experience with this kind of cooking, and I appreciate Capon's undergirding philosophy, that there are times to feast, and they are not every day.

He has a term for the everyday: ferial eating. I found in the dictionary that it's a church term for a weekday on which no feast is celebrated. Capon's first principle for this ordinary type of eating is: Never serve anybody a whole anything. Because "appetite rises to meet food supply," and we just don't need to eat large amounts every day.
Every dish in the ferial cuisine, however, provides a double or treble delight: Not only is the body nourished and the palate pleased, the mind is intrigued by the triumph of ingenuity over scarcity -- by the making of slight materials into a considerable matter.
I have to admit that in the days when our feasts were rare, it was easier for us all to stay slim and healthy. For several years now, cooking for only two people, I've probably been serving way too many whole items, and I also have so many leftovers from which to create more yummy meals that I hardly have enough cold storage for them. The type of lifestyle where the cook shops nearly every day and prepares what is fresh in the shops in that season seems to be what I should aim for.

Still, I very much appreciate that Capon introduces us early on to his idea of the creative and resourceful cook, who knows how to season and sauce her humble food so that it's often more interesting and delectable as the festal roast.

Just tonight my man and I enjoyed for the second time (as I'd ended up with a big potful) a soup that was made according to these methods, using the leftover lamb roast from Christmas as well as the leftover liquid it was cooked in, which included a good amount of wine, with rosemary and garlic. Not too much meat was left, but I added some lentils and vegetables, and Mr. Glad could not help feeling it quite unfair that he should be eating such amazing food when so many people never get stuff like this. (The stew in the photo is from a previous and different ferial meal.)

Our author chef carves his (large) leg of lamb into parts to make first a stew, and then three other ferial meals, including a casserole with spinach, a stir-fry, and a soup. His recipe for stew includes an injunction against flouring the meat before browning it: is the point at which nine tenths of the stews in the world go wrong. The trouble is that few cooks realize how long it takes to brown meat thoroughly....People who flour their meat and brown it in butter are entitled to their religion....I think it fair to note, however, that such people have never gotten around to browning meat. All they have done is darkened some butter and scorched a little flour. The meat inside remains untouched. Accordingly, their stews never know the savor of the true burnt offering; in their haste they settle for the dubious pleasure of eating charred wheat.
Unfortunately my mother taught me to flour my meat and it was only a few years ago that I learned better. RFC also gives advice about liquid:

A word about the liquid itself. Unless you are physically prevented from doing so, always use stock or wine, especially in a ferial stew. We are working here with an admitted minimum of meat. To add water to it is to strain it, to demand of it a cruel exertion, to have it arrive at the table worn out with overwork. This is no festal dish with enough meat in it to make meals for a week. This is a poor dish, whose meat is to be pitied and spared. Accordingly, any liquid that goes into it should be of a charitable and kindly sort...which knows how much more blessed it is to give than to receive. Stock then; not water. And, no matter what else, wine. A gallon of good California red in the kitchen closet will do more for your cooking than all the books in the world.
Capon has more opinions about wine, and the philosophy of meat-eating, "little invisible spooks" (Can you guess what those might be??), and the "higher session" of The Supper of the Lamb, and that is why I need a few more posts to share my gleanings. Coming soon!

The first post in this series is RFC is the man you need.

Friday, February 7, 2014

RFC is the man we need.

A few months ago I read The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon, and knew before I'd got halfway through the book that I'd want to write a series of posts on this man's extraordinary perspective. But then the Nativity Fast arrived, and it was unhelpful during that period to focus on food and its delights, so I put off the project until the new year, which for me seems to have begun in earnest only this month.

At the speed I customarily do anything, if I begin now I still won't finish before Lent has arrived, but I am going to start anyway. For me the recipes and food itself are not the main thing in Capon's book, and there are parts that tie in very well with transcendent aspects of food and even with fasting.

His thoughts and words are often so charming in themselves, I might not always have anything to add to the quotes I share. But the topics collaborate with a couple of other books that I find very provocative as well, so I'm hoping to bring more writers into the discussion. In the blog titles I will refer to Robert Farrar Capon as RFC so as to make room there for words other than his long name. 

Though the first chapter starts right off with a list of ingredients, for me the recipes included in the book serve primarily to illustrate and demonstrate the author's philosophy and love. He was an Episcopal priest who wrote other books as well, but this is the first one I have met, and I just now discovered that he died last fall, probably when I was just coming to the end of The Supper of the Lamb.

Also in the first chapter, he answers critics who might disregard him because he is not a professional cook, by pointing out that amateur is not exactly the same thing as non-professional. And he clarifies here at the outset that he is, more than anything, a Lover:
The world may or may not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers -- amateurs -- it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes, and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight: It is, far more often than it should be, boredom. And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral -- It is the fertilizing principle of unloveliness.

In such a situation, the amateur -- the lover, the man who thinks heedlessness a sin and boredom a heresy -- is just the man you need.
 And I ask you, with an intro like that, how can I not love him?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to become fresh and youthful.

The Paschal season of the Church is preceded by the season of Great Lent, which is also preceded by its own liturgical preparation. The first sign of the approach of Great Lent comes five Sundays before its beginning. On this Sunday the Gospel reading is about Zacchaeus the tax-collector. It tells how Christ brought salvation to the sinful man, and how his life was changed simply because he "sought to see who Jesus was" (Luke 19:3). The desire and effort to see Jesus begins the entire movement through Lent towards Pascha. It is the first movement of salvation.
This excerpt from our church bulletin explains why this date on the church calendar is a good one for someone to become a catechumen, as two people did on Sunday in my parish, and as I did seven years ago. It was not my first introduction to life in Christ, but it was definitely the time when I climbed up to the best vantage point to see Christ and His Church in all its fullness.

When I was a little child in Sunday School I learned some details of the story by way of a song:
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.
And when the Savior passed that way He looked up in the tree;
And He said, 'Zacchaeus, you come down, for I'm going to your house today.'
In his gospel homily Sunday our rector pointed out that the Lord also said, "Make haste." In other words, "Get down here, man! Don't be dilly-dallying about, but begin right now to mean business with God." And this week St. Nikolai explains how this man and his experience are meaningful to each of us:
"Today, salvation has come to this house" (St. Luke 19:9).

Thus it was spoken by the One Whose word is life and joy and restoration of the righteous. Just as the bleak forest clothes itself into greenery and flowers from the breath of spring, so does every man, regardless of how arid and darkened by sin, become fresh and youthful from the nearness of Christ. For the nearness of Christ is as the nearness of some life-giving and fragrant balsam which restores health, increases life, give fragrance to the soul, to the thoughts and to the words of man. In other words, distance from Christ means decay and death and His nearness means salvation and life.
Draw near to us O Lord, draw near and bring to us Your eternal salvation.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The bird announces a pie.

Christmas before last my three daughters gave me a set of six matching Le Creuset items that also pretty well matched the blue in my kitchen curtains.

I had completely forgotten to use the pie bird until I saw him in a drawer yesterday, and putting him together in my mind with last summer's peaches in the freezer, and scraps of pie dough also in the freezer, I came up with a pie plan for this morning. Here's the result in the very lacking two dimensions.

I already ate a piece this afternoon, and found that the peaches did not make it through the winter with much of their flavor intact, even in the deep freeze.

The scraps of crust, some of which were even older, fared much better even though they were in the freezer section of the refrigerator.

All in all, it was a good use of things already on hand that might otherwise have been thrown out long ago, so I don't feel too bad about the ho-hum-ness of the finished product.

Ho-hum?? The dear bird is announcing anything but that. A pie of any sort around here is an event!