The Rector’s Letter
The two biggest sellers in bookshops are the cookbooks and the diet books: the cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it.
Me? I’ll take the cookbooks any time. Diet books are admittedly not without their uses – especially when you need to get that little bit higher to reach the ingredients on the topmost shelf.
Needless to say, as the calendar has dripped through August and shone through September and brought us to Harvest my mind has turned to things edible.
I wonder what your earliest memory of food is? Mine is Teddy Bear Pudding (more on that at the Wakes Service on 11th October) and raiding the cupboard for grubby handfuls of currants and dried oats.
My mother was a cook. A proper cook. One of her favourite meals, regularly placed before us as we grew was a dish she termed ‘Enthusiastic Stew’ – she called it Enthusiastic Stew because she put everything into it! Once she got going in her food preparation her arms would whirl like runaway cartwheels: you could just make them out amid the fine plain flour dust-cloud that surrounded her whenever she stepped into the kitchen and anything within reach on the work surface was liable, if not screwed down, to be added to the pot. The result was invariably wonderful.
Don’t ever ask her for a recipe, though – she doesn’t do ‘definable quantities’ – you’ll be met with such phrases as ‘just enough’ milk and that you stop pouring in sugar when it ‘looks right’.
I don’t think we knew about calories and RDAs back in the day: all 6 of us children went off to school every day on fat-filled fried breakfasts. The food police wouldn’t have liked the fried bread mum served – doorsteps of deep-fried dough which would aquaplane off the plate if not carefully corralled by full-fat sausages, wide rinded bacon and a well placed chunk of black pudding. George Bernard Shaw, arriving on the scene before my mum, thus beat her to the quote she would otherwise have coined: ‘Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don’t eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. And yet I go marching on.’ Mum gave us so many things that I’ve since learned are bad for me I could probably sue her. And yet when I lived at home I was extremely fit and healthy (it must be having children that’s done for me!)
I grew up to respect food and to appreciate the need to make it stretch. Amid recent reports that up to one third of produce bought from supermarkets ends up being thrown away I wonder how we would stand if brought to account for our wasteful ways.
At Harvest we rightfully give thanks to God for a world in which we can cultivate such a variety of incredible foods: for his provision which means that we in turn can provide. We do well to remember that ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Psalm 24:1) as well as the words of Jesus found in John’s gospel: ‘Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give you.’ (John 6:27) I look forward to my first celebration of Harvest with you and to working together for that food which endures to eternal life.
For now, though, I’m off for a coffee and a slice of chocolate cake, courtesy of Betty Crocker. Best not to tell mum about that: she makes you turn round three times and break whichever wooden spoon you used to mix the pre-packed ingredients if you mention the name of ‘that woman’.
With a fond food farewell,
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