Food


http://img.timeinc.net/southern/events/news/images/ThanksgivingFeast.jpgThis time of the year evokes a lot of emotions and feelings within us. For some of us there is a sense of nostalgia for being close to family. For others, we might feel the almost magical warmth of Christmas events and the coming of the New Year. For others, we start feeling the excitement of the beginning of college hoops, football bowl games, the merciful end of the Orange’s football season, and so on. We feel the closing of once cycle and the new beginnings of another with the annual celebration of Harvesting and of sharing the abundance that God has given us with others, as in Thanksgiving meals and the giving of gifts during Christmas. With this time of year, one season of our lives comes to a close, and another begins.

We celebrate Thanksgiving this week, and with the Thanksgiving season we also enter a few others as well. We enter, for example, the Christmas season; I would imagine that, if you’re like me and my family, you’ll be starting to decorate your house, pull out the greenery, and finally succumb to turning your radio dial to Sunny 102.5 for non-stop, 24/7 Christmas and holiday music.

Related to this is, of course, the “holiday shopping” season, which in reality starts now around Columbus Day rather than Black Friday. And it is fitting that, with this being a seasonal crossing between the old and the new, the Holiday Shopping season participates in this cycle in that there is no other time of year when we are in the full-fledged mode of “Out with the old, and in with the new!” With the Holiday Shopping season, we are absolutely bombarded with advertising assuring us that we really do need NEW and IMPROVED! “this-that-and-the-other-thing.” We’re sucked into the idea that we have to have to get rid of something that might be perfectly good and replace it with a new item. The whole season can awaken the cynic in us that not only starts questioning whether our new and improved lives and gadgets are really any better than we had it a year ago. The omnipresence of advertising and of commercial icons (Nike “swoosh,” Coke, Pepsi, etc) dulls our ability to recognize that which is truly new from the simply repackaged, and when the truly new does finally arrive, we often fail to recognize it, and be thankful and grateful for it. We would feel much better, I think, if the truly new would really advertise itself as such in such a way to shock us into recognizing it, so that we CAN respond appropriately with blessing and thanksgiving.

We’re in luck. Today’s lections from Isaiah and Luke, in particular, give us God’s advertising, and they are so counter-cultural and contrary to our most deeply-seeded common sense that we find it hard to take them seriously. The evangelist reports Jesus’ apocalyptic words in Luke 21 to us on the pretext of prophesying the destruction of the Jewish Temple; he uses vivid imagery the does not, in fact, describe anything in a satisfying, “feel-good” way. Unless we have an apocalyptic fetish, neither should we think of any of these images as anything to look forward to; certainly the earliest Christians did not.

What I want to suggest here is that, far from advertising anything “new,” no matter how bleak and destructive, Jesus here is advertising in no uncertain terms the eternal state of affairs in the world. Really, how can “wars and insurrections,” “nations rising against nations,” empires taking arms against empires, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and other “dreadful signs” from heaven be advertising anything new? Are arrests and persecutions and betrayals of Christians for religious or political reasons anything new?

Advertisements specialize in imagery and depend on our familiarity with their logos, slogans, and products in order to have any effect. In this they function like icons and have tremendous staying power. In Luke today, Jesus employs the truth of these icons to advertise for all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear the way the world is today. He refuses to sugarcoat the first century, much like the ancient prophets refused to sugarcoat the state of the world in which Israel and God’s called ones found themselves in. As prophecy from the mouth of Jesus and in the context of his pronouncements on the Kingdom of God, Luke’s description of the world carries the force of the “always already” and “to come” at the same time.

So much for one kind of God’s advertising; small wonder that these things would either be glorified out of all proportion to the rest of Christ’s and the Prophets’ discourses on the Kingdom of God, or these messages are systematically and institutionally suppressed or ignored out of not wanting to appear offensive or pessimistic about the state of the world (this, of course, is the classic liberal, “progressive” heritage). But I should like to remind us all that this is not at all the only advertisement we find; instead, I want to remind us that this season of the old coming to a close and the new day dawning, both in commercial Christmas and Thanksgiving, the season of Advent is even now on our doorstep waiting to disrupt the state of the everyday.

What advertisements do we have to represent and “sell” God’s newness during the season about to break upon upon us? How will God shock us and upset us? We have seen that Jesus’ advertising strategy sells us nothing new, but more of the old; it awakens, evokes, our desire for the New.

The passage of Isaiah is one of the most outrageous advertisements of God’s Newness, a newness that, like Jesus’ Kingdom of God, is always already and to come if we but know where to look, put faith where it belongs, and do what we are commanded to do. And here we see the other element of advertising; the idea that what is being presented is so outrageous, so out of touch with our reality, so absurd to our financial sensibilities that we cannot help ourselves but desire what the advertisement is trying to tell us we want more than anything else. And the most effective ads even cause us to contemplate doing anything, even sacrificing whatever we have or who we believe we are, in order to have what it wants us to have.

What is God’s ad here? Let this sink in, and let it inform our Holiday sensibility here, especially with Thanksgiving, and Advent, and Christmas. There will be a new earth, a new Jerusalem. Not a repackaging in better boxes of what is already there; but utter newness of the earth and the heart of the people of God’s calling. There will no longer be the sound of weeping or tears of sadness. There won’t be any homeless, nor will there be those oppressed or terrorized by life today to cry out for still more deliverance. There will be rejoicing and thanksgiving, because in God’s new world there will not be any infant mortality or elderly men and women outliving their lives or widows or young men who die in war, for there will no longer be wars fought. There will be rejoicing and thanksgiving because there will no longer be the outrage of eminent domain or foreclosures on homes, and those who build will live; those who plant will reap, and those who harvest will eat and have abundance. The big will no longer consume the small, and all will live under their own vine and fig tree.

Is the Advertisement of God’s newness in Isaiah, the Advent of abundance, blessing, thanksgiving, and gratitude, too much to hope for? Isn’t it worth selling ourselves out to God’s newness, to be seduced by this advertisement, to make this an Always Already and speed up the To Come?

Advent and Thanksgiving are both upon us. May we share our abundance in the spirit of newness, and may our Thanksgiving be an advertisement to that which we, as people of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, have always already, and may our expectation of his coming stir in us and in those who know us, a new season of Hope. And Life. And faithful abundance.

Well, the annual festival and feast of Independence Day is upon us, and like any self-respecting community that observes this important civil religious feast, we are dutifully doing our part by making sure that we prepare our Charbroil altar and sacrifice the appropriate sacred beasts kindly provided by Hormel, Johnsonville, and Purdue.

As with any sacred and holy festival, however, there are those of us who cannot afford to sacrifice and partake in the “accepted way.” But, lest the masses fear that their inability to acquire the sacred bulls or to procure access to the altar, many of our nation’s major retailers are democratizing the festival to unprecedented levels of popular access.

The following retailers now provide free altars upon which any number of sacrifices may be made:

A&P
Albertsons
BJ’s
Costco
Fry’s
Kroger
Big Lots
Brookshire’s
Hannaford
Lowe’s
Marketbasket
Path-Mark
Publix
Safeway
Sam’s Club
Shaw’s
Shop and Save
Stop ‘n’ Shop
Target
Trucchi’s
Vons
Wagner Hardware
Walbaum’s
Walgreens
Wal-Mart
Wegman’s
Winn-Dixie

Many even come with a higher rack for keeping the smaller parts warm while the main course is prepared!

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“America, America! God mend thine every flaw! Confirm thy soul, with self-control, in liberty and law!”

Store WarsIn the spirit of the Frog Has A Point, I give you the latest installment of our organic heroes as they battle for the ways of the Farm. Starring Cuke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Cannoli, and Princess Lettuce Organic as they battle the evil lord of the supermarkets, Darth Tater…

Kermit the Frog Unpigged!Kermit’s serenade from the first season of Sesame Street in 1970 finds itself as the title of Jill Hudson Neal’s article in today’s Washington Post. The family and I have been getting frustrated with our recognition that on a student budget “It ain’t easy being green.” (Cue the music…)

Anyhow. April is upon us, which means 30 days of guilt-inducing environmental propaganda being tacked onto the 40+ days of Lent that mercifully end next week. The family and I have been trying to come up with budget-possible ways to do our part. But, as Neal says, “And choose the organic eggs instead of whatever’s on sale? Please, that $4 will buy me a grande soy latte.” I’m not into $4 coffee, but the same four bucks gets me 48 eggs instead of 12 where we usually get our groceries.

The thing is that my house wants to go into it wholesale. Get all the food via the Community Supported Agriculture distros. What we can’t get there, hit the co-op store. (Sadly, I’m not aware of even a Trader Joe’s out here; any Syracuse-area readers, if you know of one, let me know, OK?) Or hit the local farm stands when they’re open. Heck, if you got the yard space, get a cow and some goats. And I’m just talking food here; our kids are out of them, but we used cloth diapers, we use cloth napkins at dinner, avoid disposable eatery, and wash a ton of our clothes by hand. In our homeschooling circles, chemical cleaners are out; natural-based organic cleaners are in.

It’s all great stuff. And, for a grad student with a family, prohibitively expensive. Alas. It’s very frustrating; Jill, we share your pain and frustration. It’s so easy and tempting to take the “The-last-days-are-coming-and-it’s-all-going-to-blow-anyway-no-matter-what-we-do” philosophy of my youth and which I still hear (unfortunately) in more conservative Christian circles. But even in those circles, the environmental health drive is there, even among those who subscribe to the aforementioned “end times” perspective on it. Instead of focusing on “saving the earth” and on community ethics, the focus is on individual health and morality. I used to think that this was a very selfish and not especially biblical way to look at it. I still to do, to some extent. But now that I literally can’t afford to shop anywhere other than Aldi’s or Sav-A-Lot and we make regular use of the food pantry in order to eat anything remotely healthy, I can appreciate the individualistic sentiment a little more.

Rather than throw the environmentalism, individualism, and communitarian babies out with the bathwater, what we’ve kind of decided to do is “Think Little,” as my favorite poet puts it. In order to support and encourage the larger whole, we need to start with ourselves. A fusion of the spiritual ethics of starting with our own selves in our OWN spiritual state before talking about the spiritual state of others (Jim Dobson, are you listening??) with environmental concern and the state of our own physical health.

This is common ground. Regardless of where we fall in the whole global warming and environmentalist issues, I would like to think that our own health would prompt us to make better, more healthy and more economically sane choices of what we eat, what we drive (and how often) and how we clean in our own lives and families. And then, when the time is right, we can perhaps do more, both for ourselves, our communities, and our planet.

Sing on, Kermit.

28beer1902.jpgLest anyone think that the Aedificium has rules against eating and drinking, I raise a glass to all my readers while I’m supposed to be doing more serious, respectable work. Beer is the oldest beverage for which we actually have recipes, and, 4,000 + years later, it continues to be perfected by craftsman like Jim Koch and at local breweries and establishments like the Publick House in Boston.

Incidentally, in Syracuse, you simply MUST try, at least once, the local grains of the Middle Ages Brewing Company, like Grail Ale and especially Wailing Wench. Out of this world.