Week 37: Pancakes in the Park, 14 September 2008

You may recall, back at Week 33, we meant to go to Pancakes in the Park, and found out, last minute, that the date had passed. Anyway, my same friend Emalee, who let me know that I was a week off last time, sent me an email letting me know Breakfast #104 was happening, and we jumped at the chance. We also called our friend, Elaine, to let her know we’d be on her side of town, and she decided to come along, too.

Pam and Tom and Zac provide the pancakes (and their home, and their hospitality, and their generosity, and their vision) and coffee, and the rest is a potluck. We took along homemade granola (minus the nuts, plus some more oats, a cup of wheat bran, minus the ginger and plus some orange peel) and Nancy’s plain yogurt . . . other offerings included a huge bowl of fruit, a warm blackberry cobbler, cinnamon rolls, juice . . . I feel certain there was more, and I simply didn’t see it. Children played in the driveway, at least three dogs came and went and wagged their tails at everyone, babies were passed around . . . I made a baby cry*.

There is something magical about coming face to face with people over food. There’s something intimate and bonding and personal about sharing “units of self**” . . . which is probably what makes invitations to dinner so compelling. In these moments, we slow down and focus on each other, on the food we’re sharing, on the moment at hand. This is perhaps what is so pernicious about fast food (even beyond the fat and the sugars, the degradation to the environment, and the poor treatment of workers)–we gulp it down, alone, in our cars. It nourishes neither our bodies, nor our souls.

The sweet languorous pace of the Passover meal, from which the Christian communion originates, is shared with the closest of family and friends, and includes not only the Seder meal, but a full meal following, is one of the best western examples of this tradition. Often, as I’ve ruminated here, communion is reduced to a drive-by fast-food meal . . . even for those of us who cherish it, it can be rote, isolated, and unfulfilling. A wafer and an antiseptic, disposable undersized plastic shot-glass of knock-off Welch’s grape juice tagged on to the end of a service without community leaves one hungering for so much more.

I like to feed people, and I like to eat with people. But I think, in my spiritual life, I’m left hungering for those kinds of connections . . . the great feast around the table, the delight other people have digging into warm food and close conversation. My favourite church day of the year, since we’ve moved to Spokane, is Christmas Day, when we go down to ECOR early early in the morning, turn on the heat, and start baking all kinds of wonderful things . . . eggy casseroles, yeast breads, fruited oatmeal . . . and the smell of bacon and cinnamon and homey cooking fills the fellowship hall . . . and, although the congregation is always relatively small, more than 95% stay, and sit, and eat, and share, before going back home to their trees and relatives and gifts. My derived happiness is not at all hurt by the associate priest’s poetic waxing that lasts nearly until Lent . . . he knows the power of supping with others.

There really is something magical about fellowshipping over food.

* In my defense, I didn’t set out to make the baby cry, but what I did was pretty dumb. She was having fun, sitting in Elaine’s lap, playing with my hand, and I decided to find something else interesting for her to play with. Across from the table was a bin of dress-up clothes the older kids had ransacked, and I grabbed a teeny teddy bear from it. That didn’t make the baby cry, but it looked like maybe it was a dog toy, so I decided to find something else, and settled on a red mohawk wig, which we petted for a while, stroking the furry red mohawk, and then turning it around to feel the rubbery “skin” portion. Then I decided to put the mohawk wig on. The baby was okay for about half a second, and then decided she did not think the universe was right and wanted it put back. Now. I had the wig back off before she let out the first scream, but it was too late. The baby was not to be consoled, even as Elaine turned her around and cuddled her close. Bad, Jen; bad, bad, Jen. No more pancakes for you.

**Some time ago, Michael read me something where the author spoke of food as “units of self,” which, literally, food is. What you put into your body becomes part of your physical self, and the author spoke of his investment in food and thus in himself.

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One Response to Week 37: Pancakes in the Park, 14 September 2008

  1. e says:

    Some thoughts. This group of people was in many ways more open and loving than many churches I have been in. That sometimes includes ECORE although it (ECORE) can be and has been open and loving, it has other moments also.

    And yes, you made that poor baby cry and that poor overtired mother than felt she had to take her back. I wasn’t going to argue with her, it would have done no good. But she looked like she could use a rest.

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