catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 1 :: 2007.01.12 — 2007.01.26


Top ten meals in recent memory

Over nearly two years of meeting with what we call The Food Group, for lack of a better name, Rob and I have been further heightening our awareness of preparing and eating food as a craft.  Mealtime has such amazing potential for all kinds of nourishment and can be profound acts of attentive worship—endless variations on a simple liturgy of prayer, eating and conversation.  One practice that has become a common part of our mealtime ritual thanks to our friend Karla's attentiveness to locally grown food has been naming the ingredients and their origins so that we can be more mindful of our economic choices.

The following are several meals from recent memory that stand out, individually or in groups, as being particularly nourishing in various ways.

1.  Friday potlucks: Every Friday at 1:00 pm since World Fare opened its doors in 2003, folks have gathered for a potluck lunch.  Over 25 people have been part of this lunchtime community at various points in its evolution.  From store-bought to gourmet, nostalgic to experimental, the food that decks the table is almost as diverse as the people.  Adding another level of meaning is the fact that the table around which we gather was donated to the store by friends whose house provided a hospitable, challenging space for me and Rob throughout high school and college.  Though we gather around a different table now when we visit them, the quality of refreshment remains and the old table at the store is privileged to life as part of a new, but no less vibrant, community.

2.  Our Ethiopian feast: Our former housemate Jeff and I put over four hours into preparing an authentic dinner for a new friend who cited Ethiopian as his favorite ethnic food…and then he didn't show up.  However, in a time of difficult transition, it proved to be one of the last elaborate meals our small community would share together, a hallowed space created not because of, but in spite of our best efforts.

3.  Solstice 2007

4.  Italian al fresco: A desire to make a really great, simple Italian meal merged with a new Italian friend. We enjoyed salad, spaghetti with homemade sauce, bread dipped in olive oil and fontinella cheese and our friend's favorite wine.  We dined in the garden on a perfect summer evening, flocks of starlings embellishing the sunset and, I'd like to think, watching us in wonder. 

5.  Mealtimes with the Wenger children: Ranging in age, at the time, from about 10 to 18, the four Wenger children delighted us during a four-day stay while their parents were out of town with their storytelling, their senses of humor and their surprising ability to make maple syrup and baking powder biscuits from scratch. 

6.  Mom and Dad VG's 30th anniversary:  While the official date was July 31, 2006, it wasn't until November that we managed to get everyone in one place.  I shared with my dad that day, for the first time, the incredible impact he's had on my enjoyment of crafting food.   For dinner, we had the meal I remember my parents enjoying by themselves only on special occasions: steak, fried potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and steamed broccoli.  One of my favorite times with my family is after we're all finished eating and we ignore the dishes to linger over the table for hours, talking and teasing.  We picked names for Christmas.  My dad pulled out a bottle of port that he'd been saving for five years and gave a wonderful toast.  He said that people always tell him what great kids he and my mom have, but he feels like that's understating it—he feels like we've all exceeded his expectations.

7.  Outdoors at Karla's house

8.  Lenten soup suppers:  Shortly after Rob and I moved to Three Rivers—as we were in the midst of recognizing it as a place of home rather than just a stop along the way home—we began participating in St. John's Lutheran Church's annual Wednesday evening Lenten soup and bread dinners.  They were a great nourishment to us in a time of seeking a place to belong as well as a time of quite significant financial poverty.  I loved the irony of how Lent, traditionally a time for deprivation and fasting, became a time of fullness through a buffet of homemade soups, hearty breads and intergenerational company.  Now, in a new place where our sense of belonging is not yet as profound, we will no doubt sense a certain emptiness on the Wednesdays of Lent.

9.  Dinners with the Stewarts: Though Grand Rapids is not grabbing our hearts with the same tenacity or speed as Three Rivers, our neighborhood itself quickly began to feel like home, thanks in large part to our friends and neighbors James and Kari.  Since our move in late July, we've rested often in the comfort of like-minded company and Kari's phenomenal meals.  How fortunate are we to be invited to dinner frequently by someone who thoroughly enjoys reading cookbooks?  Kari's love for the art of cooking has deepened my own desire to intersperse the tried and true with the new and special.

10.  Practicing Resurrection 2006: Our first attempt at a formal conference provided a space for community that went beyond the expectations of any of the event's organizers.  I want to say that the communal meal on Saturday evening was the quintessential merging of food and fellowship—and it was spectacular, with chicken raised on the farm, zucchini bread and tomato salad from produce grown in the gardens around which we gathered, fresh sweet corn from a nearby neighbor.  But the delightfulness of the communal cooking area by the camp sites surprised us all, as campers willingly shared supplies and stories and leftovers with one another around locally made picnic tables.  And I can't forget either, the beauty of the Eucharist on Sunday morning, with the breeze and the birds and the trees all taking part. Though the work of hosting over 100 people was exhausting, the week felt then and still like one extended Lord's supper.

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