Wednesday, August 20, 2008


John Skillen writes:

"Italians talk a lot about food. Take the outdoor market days in Orvieto. An attraction for the visitor, but gird your loins as you approach Paolo's vegetable stand, and don't look around for the queue. Join the press of pushy local women jostling for Paolo's attention, when each customer must discuss the relative merits of this season's food in relation to prior years, of this or that melanzane in relation to the others in the crate, in relation to the recipes for which the food is destined, and, of course, with a final few words over the price, all of which stands in some obscure-to-me relation to how large a handful of parsley and other greenery gets thrown in at the end for free.

And hospitality. If you are invited to join the Lardani clan for dinner Sunday afternoon, for example, you better be ready to leave chronos (the time of the clock) behind and enter kairos (the time of occasion, of seeing an action through to its proper conclusion, no matter what the clock says). The meal—and the conversation that informs it—ends when it ends. The sequence of piatti courses and the pauses between them shape the time. No preplanned end-time pushes backwards to encroach upon the unfolding trajectory of the meal. Nothing is permitted to be more important than the communion of the community gathered around the table. For me, such meals give a little foretaste of the eternal now of the eschaton and the great supper of the Lamb.

Why cooking and dining are so heavily freighted with our deepest joys and fears and hopes and anxieties is the subject of Agnes Howard's essay, "Why Cook Dinner?" in this issue of PALIMPSEST, the online journal associated with Gordon's Studio for Art, Faith and History. This issue also includes Nicholas Wolterstorff's "How Did Eschatology Get Linked with Eucharist?" and Thomas Jones' "A Spasso con Gusto' and the Slow Food Movement."

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