In honor of the Homer Women's Conference, where I am speaking this weekend, I'm taking us back to the Potluck--where we experience the joys of the Casserole Rapture, of the Soup Left Behind, and where we are reminded again of what makes food----Holy.
I don’t know how you feel about potlucks, particularly church potlucks. I’m not feeling exuberant about them right now. In fact, I’m licking my wounds, with a little salt and pepper at this moment. I shouldn’t be doing this, though--- it may ruin my appetite for the three gallons of soup no one ate a potluck this week.
It was good soup, too. Chicken tortilla, with chili peppers, corn, black beans, tomatoes and the best of all spices, cumin. Served with tortilla strips and sour cream, both of which were demolished, but the soup? Barely touched. And because my own family likes it so well, I fixed three times the usual potluck amount so we could have a meal at home out of it as well. We’ll be eating it for a month, assuring its instant drop to the last-meal-I-ever-want-to-eat-again list.This is the trouble with potlucks. I hate it when my food isn’t eaten. I feel rejected. I question my worth. I question my taste. I know I’m not strange or unusual. No one wants their soup or their casserole Left Behind at a church potluck. It’s the culinary equivalent of missing the Rapture.
We all know the triumph of the disappeared casserole, when our enchiladas or the fried meat nuggets we picked up on the way to church fly off the table before the tuna noodle bake or the macaroni salad is even touched.
But---The Soup Left Behind . . ..
(Not enough faith? Not enough pepper? What’s the missing ingredient?)
Perhaps I’m being too sensitive. I do maintain, however, that cooking and eating shouldn’t be competitive. Food shows don’t help a bit. All the Frantic Chef shows have turned cooking into an emergency, resolved only by tense music and the flashing of expensive knives by the most creative cutthroats to don an apron.
In the church, we are a little more relaxed, resolved to live by grace, but grace doesn’t always extend from our faith to our taste buds. Neither does it always extend the long full length of the potluck tables. (Frankly, all grace aside for the moment, some people are terrible cooks, and they bring terrible food. I won’t name any of those so-called foods [though some of them begin with the word “jello” and some include the words "potato chips"],
but this is clearly the “luck” part of the pot. The vast offerings, more food than we can possibly eat, demand hard choices: Spaghetti pie or Green bean casserole? Potato-weiner bake or broccoli cheeze-whiz casserole? Some we lower our paper plate for enthusiastically; others we lift it just imperceptively higher, meaning, “Are you kidding me? I would never eat that!)
I wouldn’t fuss about this at all, but some of it matters. I think God cares a lot about food. And I’m quite sure our potluck days will not be over when this world flames out and the new heaven floats down to stay. I think we’ll be cooking in that bright heavenly city—which, I know, is dismaying to some. I say this not because I wish it so, but the prophet Zechariah ends his entire book (of mostly horrific coming destruction) with this stunning vision of heaven---which is all about the kitchen:
“On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them.”
This is how holy heaven is: At the potlucks, every pot and pan and casserole dish will be holy to God--- and every food (Tuna casserole? Spaghetti pie?) made in it---will be holy to the Lord.
Holy to the Lord.
And maybe there my soup will be eaten, down to the very last bean and spoon of broth! Nothing left over. All eaten with gusto, requiring not even a sprinkling of salt or grace.
But then again, maybe not. Maybe heaven is the place where I will not care if my soup is gone in the flash of a ladle---or left behind. Where I will not count my worth by others' appetites and tastes. Where I know so much joy in the gathering and stirring and tasting and spicing and bringing and serving that I do not need others to confirm what I already know:
This soup is made holy by my love for God and for his good, hungry people, and already, in the making of it, I am blessed. Even, at times, enraptured.
We could be filled this way.
Our food could be holy this way.
Our food will be holy this way,
Maybe it already is . . . .