What a wonderful thing is a good cheese board, late at night with good friends! This one was on offer after dinner last night with a group of very, very old friends on the roof of a Manhattan sky scraper.
Old cheeses and old friends and some wine are about as good as life gets. We laughed late into the night, tasting the cheeses one at a time as our host explained the different sources of milk and cream, the various ways of collecting whey, the different temperatures and aging processes and the additions of things like charcoal dust or sage or salt. It is helpful to have foodie friends when one is a determined foodie. I wonder sometimes if I am a Christian because I was attracted to a savior who would use a meal as a focal point to a way of life as community and a movement. I doubt that first meal was of tasteless wafers and 1/2 thimbles of wine. I expect it was a tear-soaked event with, even, some laughter. And I expect that the food was real thanks to the wealthy women who made provision for the disciples and the savior. How we ended up with the Eucharist as it is now is, I suppose fro historians to tell. For myself, i wonder what church would be like if we just gathered for a fantastic meal and then broke into groups to tell our stories and hear those of others. And heal. And learn. And love. And touch. And live.
We ate the cheeses on soda crackers and as we moved from strong to mild, creamy to flakey, rind to rindless, stinky to mild, orange to white, we began to realize that the stories we were telling about our lives were similarly differing. Stinky stories of pain and suffering were followed by sweet life-stories as creamy as a good Saint Andre. Some stories were cerebrating our successes like a great Taleggio from Florence while even they had that dark streak of charcoal in the middle which makes the cheese and the story grounded in death and death’s life-giving characteristics.
As hard and confusing as life can be, it is also wonderful for those of us lucky enough to be born into such relatively wealthy worlds. My heart breaks for those born into grinding poverty with the sentence that engenders. And I am deeply aware that my wealth and comfort is on their back in a system so designed.
But with the hard work we do to address, head-on the care of the poor, we rest from that work with friends, and we eat some cheese and we taste life in it all and we state and see that God is good. Very good.