Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday herald the restrained meals of the Season of Lent.
By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
"You need to have a hobby!“ My Mother’s words have sounded in my ears, even after her death seventeen years ago.
A wide variety of options have been examined over time. Yet when measured up against the definition of a hobby as something which is seen as a regular activity, done for enjoyment and which encourages acquiring substantial skills and knowledge, it has been difficult for me to discern any of my leisure activities which can be said to meet that standard.
In my retirement from full time parish ministry, especially as we all try to manage our lives through the experience of a pandemic, like many others I have gravitated to the kitchen. Spending time slicing, dicing, prepping and cooking definitely meets the hobby criteria of being a “regular activity”. Invariably, I find that pulling a meal together is an enjoyable experience. If I look back over time, I may even be able to identify that I have acquired a few skills and a bit of knowledge! I can finally claim an activity which has reached “Hobby” status!!
When social media or a television show offers the opportunity to travel from the comfort of my armchair or spectate as chefs around the world generate both practical and visually artistic culinary creations, I am entranced. Recent publications like “Anthony Bourdain Remembered” and Stanley Tucci’s, “TASTE - My Life Through Food”, provide not only optional avenues of escape, but also thought provoking insights on how familial and cultural elements are interwoven onto a framework upon which our lives are shaped.
Inspired by recipes and stories I venture into the kitchen, sometimes labouring through detailed measurements, but often exploring the unknown by riffing off the precise details found in a printed recipe and utilizing the ingredients available at home.
It is difficult to compare my efforts to the work of some of others, whose culinary efforts may be found being shared on social media. My personal fulfillment is found in the act of creativity. I always appreciate the attitude of Jacques Pepin, who concludes each of his video cooking demonstrations with the salutation “Happy Cooking!“.
Food and stories about food trigger memories. As a child, I remember walking into my grandparents’ kitchen after they had harvested tomatoes from their large garden. The tomatoes were ripening on the windowsills and the fragrance of the tomatoes saturated the air. As my grandfather talked about his lengthy rambles across the English countryside with his friends in the early 1900’s he remembered, with a smile, the simple joy of eating an onion which had been roasted in a campfire one evening. Growing up, special family meals and celebrations provided many moments which the limited space available here does not allow me to share with you.
Many places in different parts of our global village, in different parts of our own country and close to home have links to, or associations with, a special food or meal. Cods’ tongues in Newfoundland; lobster in the Maritimes; rabbit stew in Quebec; bannock in Moose Factory, Ontario; bison and Saskatoon berries in the Prairies; salmon cooked over an open fire in British Columbia; (is your mouth watering yet?), all have their place in my memory and a story attached to the moment.
The combination of familiar day to day living and travelling experiences causes not only a tingling of the tastebuds, but a much deeper sensation. It is the combination of the memory of the food and the location, but also the memory of those with whom I shared the meal which enhances the memory and makes that moment a more vivid recollection.
The simple reality is that for those of us who have been called to priestly ministry those moments when we have been privileged to share in or given the opportunity to preside at a celebration of the Holy Eucharist generates its own memories. As a boy of 13, I travelled with my Father along the rail lines or Northern Ontario as we lived for a month in the community of Nakina. As we visited a home in the town of Collins, Dad celebrated the service of Holy Communion at the kitchen table. After the service, the space which had been used as the Lord’s Table, became, once again, the kitchen table, where we enjoyed a meal with the family.
I remember being given the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral and in the sailors’ dining room on board a ship docked in the Port of Windsor. Presiding at Eucharists with the Sisters of St. John the Divine; the community of St Paul’s, in Churchill, Manitoba; the bilingual fellowship of St James’, Caucona, Quebec; and services through the years in congregations which I have served; each of these, and more, have their own special place in my memories of holy table fellowship.
Upon reflection, it feels to me that as people of faith, seeking to express our Christian faith in and through the Anglican tradition, the extended period of time which we have been living through with the pandemic experience has left many of us hungry for Eucharistic fellowship. Within our liturgy we recognize the unique nature of the Eucharistic experience.
Throughout the Church Year foods have been linked to the Feast Days of Saints and to acts of devotion. Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday herald the restrained meals of the Season of Lent. The forty days of devotion and culinary restraint are broken up by the Simnel Cake of Mothering Sunday as well as the special dishes associated with the feast days of Saint David and St Patrick. Hot Cross Buns, Roast Lamb on Maundy Thursday and Easter Eggs all have their devotional meaning and significance.
Upon reflection, it feels to me that as people of faith, seeking to express our Christian faith in and through the Anglican tradition, the extended period of time which we have been living through with the pandemic experience has left many of us hungry for Eucharistic fellowship. Within our liturgy we recognize the unique nature of the Eucharistic experience. As we begin to move through the Season of Lent, we look towards that moment when we remember, ”On the night before he gave up his life for us, Jesus, at supper with his friends…” (BAS Eucharistic Prayer #5 / page 205).
As Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples ( his friends ), at that Passover meal with the words, “Do this in memory of me”, the act of sharing in Eucharistic table fellowship is a core element in our own identity. As a part of our Baptismal vows we claim that with God’s help we will ”continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.” (BAS pg. 159).
The Psalmist captures the moment well:
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who trust in him!
(Psalm 34:8 BAS pg. 745)
May we all discover the truth of those words in our lives today.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.