Twice baked potatoes are on the menu for tonight. No, my friends, this isn’t functionality for dinner. This is the extravagance afforded when the second draft of Mom’s book has been turned in, and there is time for massaging potato skins with oil, baking them at leisure, scooping out and ricing the entrails, beating them into a frenzy with fat, and then returning them to the oven to let each crown of cheddar cheese get gooey. Nathan is the foodie of the family. Today, when he drops his school bags at the door and asks what’s for dinner, I’ll tell him “twice baked potatoes” and can expect to be emphatically and unapologetically kissed, never mind that he’s eleven and in middle school now. (Yesterday, I had a gigantic hug on the basis of homemade guacamole.)
Food is love. And because I have a piece about this I wrote for Today’s Christian Woman, which will be published in a couple of weeks, I dare not spill all my stories here. Still, it’s fascinating to me that I feel the compunction to begin this blog post to tell you what’s on the menu.
Today, twice-baked potatoes.
Maybe I’m thinking of food because, having now turned in the second draft of my book, I’m back to reading and have taken up, The Supper of the Lamb by Robert F. Capon. The entire book is dedicated to one recipe – and to the spirituality of food and the gathering it inspires. This book comes highly recommended, and I know I’ll enjoy it despite that at Camille’s piano lesson yesterday, I was falling asleep through chapter five, which appears to be a long and poetic meandering. Beautiful, I’m sure, but not the kind of reading to keep you awake in a dimly-lit room at 7:30 at night. Not when your head is thick with a cold, and you got out of bed at 4:45 am.
But here is a beautiful part in an early chapter of the book: it’s about seeing and about the beauty we re-see into the world when we pay it some attention.
“There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace. There, too, is the necessity of his work: His tribe must be in short supply; his job has gone begging. The world looks as if it has been left in the custody of a pack of trolls. Indeed, the whole distinction between art and trash, between food and garbage, depends on the presence or absence of the loving eye. Turn a statue over to a boor, and his boredom will break it into bits – witness the ruined monuments of antiquity. One the other hand, turn a shack over to a lover; for all its poverty, its light and shadow warm a little, and its numbed surfaces prickle with feeling . . .
The whole marvelous collection of stones, skins, feathers, and string exists because at least one lover has never quite taken His eye off it, because the dominus vivificans has his delight with the sons of men.”
Our world is beautiful because God made it so and sees it so. And when we do the work of seeing — when we pay the “whole marvelous collection of stones, skins, feathers, and string” some rightful attention — we begin to more fully belong to him.
I suppose the kitchen is a place, for me, of seeing: of seeing my family, of seeing the beauty of food, of seeing the holiness of something as everyday and unextraordinary as whipped potatoes. I feel more alive when I’m living with the materiality of food – and recognizing my body’s presence in space and time.
But then, I must write about it – because it’s almost as if I can only make it most real by naming it. I have to write because without those words, I am tempted by blur and busy and bustle, too hurried to really live.
So then, twice-baked potatoes. And a blog post – to tell you what’s on the menu.