Apocalypse Now

At my table in Little Jerusalem, Rathmines, I sat opposite a fascinating woman. She’d invited me to join her there for a quick meal before a meeting. After we’d ordered, she announced that she had recently been absorbed with apocalyptic cooking.

She had my attention! Here was a phenomenon of which I’d not yet heard. I assumed it was the latest of a steady stream of dietary movements or recommendations for life enhancement through selective consumption. But no, she had come up with the idea all by herself.

It had occurred to her that the man on the radio could one day interrupt the flow of music or talk-back chatter with a ‘Sorry folks, but I’m afraid I have to inform you of news just in – the world is about to end – we have three weeks if we’re lucky.’

I checked that she wasn’t actually living with an obsessive fear of this eventuality. No, she just liked the idea of simplifying her life and diet. She was inspired by the way that an imminent end to the world could sharpen one’s grasp of reality (and their view of carbohydrates!).

Subsequently, she was drawing on the dietary habits of cultures where food was limited, where people lived from day-to-day. She was practicing making meals with simple pulses and grains. She had been learning to make her own flatbread in case, one day, she had only the open fire in her living room upon which to cook. She’d mastered it – cooking her daily bread!

And there, at our table, we broke bread together, dipped it in creamy hummus and enjoyed sharing plates of salads and grilled meats. And we shared stories of recent challenges we’d faced.

She shared about a moment of festivity – where living in the moment had nearly caught her unawares. A moment of temptation where, thankfully, her Maker had brought to her mind words from another moment months before – words of warning from his Word. And she stepped away from the trap. She was led not into temptation and delivered from evil – but it had been a close call.

Just one moment! Words exchanged. Harmless flirtations. The illusion of the promise of love, attraction and satisfaction – with no consequences beyond the moment. A trap baited with false promise.

We praised God for his imminence in moments like this – for his words that come to mind if we allow them – for the strength he gave her to walk away from so much – and yet so little. And we encouraged one another to rely on his grace in the seemingly endless moments that follow these decisions – unfilled with promise and excitement. Treading the long path of obedience can make fleeting pleasures of the moment so enticing.

There’s wisdom in living as if today is our last day – making and eating our daily bread. But that wisdom is true wisdom only if we keep a grasp of the life beyond the apocalypse – and the consequences of life choices before it. There is life beyond the apocalypse for those who endure faithfully, moment by moment, with a deep trust in the one who gives us both life and bread and who calls us to feast on him.

Wisdom points beyond the moment – toward a time of no time, no night, no temptation – to joy that lasts forever.

That woman’s moment of temptation could have ended in sorrow – would have, if she’d given in. And yet she chose wisdom. And those seemingly unending moments of pain that can follow these costly decisions to trust our Lord?…they too will come to an end.

Wisdom is found in living in this moment, aware that it could be our last, living it faithfully with a vision of life beyond the moment.

It’s simple wisdom – daily bread – feeding us for our promised, certain future.

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A Letter to Nigella

5th February, 2014

Dear Nigella,

Last night I completed the 100th recipe from your ‘Kitchen’ cookbook. Actually, I completed the 98th, 99th and 100th recipe – but that is beside the point.

For the last two years, I have been slowly working my way through your cookbook – not chronologically – but as the occasion required and my mood (and pantry) dictated.

I don’t pretend to know you well. But I have your book and have so appreciated your work there-in – and now feel I know the book quite well!

I don’t know of any other cookbook on my shelf (apart from one of Anna Del Conte’s whose work you recommend*) that consistently and reliably delivers excellent results. I have found no errors or missing instructions and, more importantly, your recipes have never failed – giving me continued confidence to cook each new recipe. Your occasional reassuring comments along the way have also kept me company on this culinary adventure.

In time I intend to cook all the recipes in the book, but wanted to write to you on this auspicious occasion. Last night, your ‘Sherry-glazed Chorizo’, ‘Texas Brisket’ and ‘Rice Krispie Brownies’ (an unusual menu, I admit) were enjoyed by five guests at my table – one of them the Australian Ambassador to this fine country. They were delighted to be part of the ‘milestone’ event and asked that I send their greetings and expressions of appreciation!

In my work as the Women’s Minister in a local church, a great deal of my time with women is spent around my dining table and coffee table. I believe whole-heartedly in the importance of modelling simple hospitality to women who often feel daunted by the prospect. This particular cookbook of yours has suited perfectly as a companion in this cause.

For an ‘intergenerational soiree’ – the ‘Lemon Polenta Cake’; for a table of widows and older single women – the ‘Greek Lamb Chops with Lemon and Potato’; for three young medical students – the ‘Mexican Lasagne’; for two women undergoing breast cancer treatment and unable to cook for their families – tubs of ‘Barbecue Beef Mince’, ‘Cheesy Chilli’ and a pot of ‘Spring Chicken’; for a few of the countless one-to-one meals I’ve had in order to get to know the 130 (or so) women in the church – the ‘Indian-rubbed Lamb Chops’, ‘Roast Duck Legs and Potatoes, ‘Sweet Potato Supper’ and ‘Lamb with Rosemary and Port’; for two gatheringsĀ of women in the workplace – the ‘Venetian Lasagne’ and ‘Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic’. Each of the 100 recipes I’ve cooked represent significant encounters with women and the highs and lows of their lives.

At one stage in the process, personally, I had cause to cook your ‘Date Steak’, only to be later faced with reality of taking solace in your ‘Lone Linguine’. In the midst of these and many other changes, I’ve found comfort in the unending and unfailing love of God. But, alongside that, I want to encourage you that your recipes have been a constant companion and comfort to me as they have created meaningful (and tasty!) spaces to connect with women facing their own challenges.

With much appreciation,

* I’ve cooked 50 of Anna’s 75 ‘Classic Italian Recipes’ – and will write to her anon!