Bread. I had a dinner party last night with friends. The house was full of warmth and laughter while we ate simple dishes, one course at a time, and one dish at a time. We began with steamed asparagus in a brown butter with almonds, then a course of avocado vinaigrette with a smoked salmon pate, then a pork terrine on a bed of sliced cucumber with a wheat bread and butter and finally a four-mushroom risotto. The meal was simple to prepare with some advanced planning – all assembled in 30 minutes and was elegant while being very inexpensive and within my budget. Asparagus was on sale as was the ground pork. The dried mushrooms come in bulk from the Chinese market and I have found that risotto can be made from sushi rice which is 20% the cost of “risotto” rice (those pesky italians!)
It is no wonder that Jesus chose bread and wine as the way forward in the movement He was seeking to establish in order to set his people free. Whether we are free or not is still to be determined given our spending, our addictions, our overwork in order to maintain ridiculous levels of living standards. Perhaps one master in Egypt has been exchanged for an Emperor in Rome, then a Bishop there and now for one both on Wall Street and in Walmart. The church is limping along. But one can but try to free a people. If you cut their chains and they still walk in circles around the post with the cut chain, well, what can a Savior do. Oi Vehy!
When my guests arrived they came with bread and wine as gifts. We drank wine, this morning I had some of their bread with my coffee. There are so many different kinds of Eucharists. Everyone is sure theirs is the only right way to do it, much the way arguments around thanksgiving recipes will play out this week in so many homes – aggressively, passively and mostly passive-aggressively.
This bread pictured I make in a clay pot and is a first century recipe from Rome. It requires no kneading but takes 18-24 hours to rise. Baked in a clay pot, the inside is all tangly, moist and steamy while the outside crust is thick, dark, caramelized and butter-worthy. A bite is to taste hope.
It is funny how many revolutions began because poor people did not have access to bread while rich people ate food which was killing them. The thing about the rich is that they are never quite paying attention.
In a few days, I will set aside my “Green Rule” – the Rule of life I use during regular time and take out the much shorter, seven page “Blue Rule.” The Blue Rule is for special seasons of mindfulness and was written while I was in Thailand. It has only seven chapters and so repeats every week rather than the usual 30 day repetition. It is focused on essentials of conduct and is useful in Advent, Lent and times of deep pain, loss or intercession.
As Advent approaches, we all must ask if we really need a Savior and if not, why we are celebrating Christmas. It is a humbling exercise. But it is basic. Like bread.