I have a shelf in one bookcase which is full of cookbooks. Gourmet dishes, Pampered Chef recipes, a Superbowl Party smorgasbord and of course an ancient Betty Crocker tome. Favorite dishes and desserts are easy to find. Classics like chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles are stained and careworn from repeated use. I’ve only prepared dishes like coq au vin and stuffed peppers a couple of times. Whether I know the steps by heart, or I constantly have to check the amount of each ingredient to be mixed into a dish, I am rediscovering the joy of cooking.
Grocery shopping is certainly different now. Some items that used to be reliable staples are often gone. I’ve given up trying to buy garlic cloves. Cucumbers and rice are now back on the shelves. Most versions of pasta are still out of stock. So, I’ve had to improvise and refer to some of those cookbooks which have been waiting on the shelf all these years.
In the late 1990s my sister gave me a book called Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. It is the biographical account of Sarah “Sadie” and Elizabeth “Bessie” Delaney who were civil rights pioneers. The book was quickly turned into a Broadway play. I saw the play when it toured across the country. The setting, their kitchen. The reason, preparing a family dinner. The conversation, their life story. As the play unfolded I felt I was part of their family. As the two sisters snapped green beans, rolled out pie crust and made dressing for the meal they were about to serve, they also talked about the importance of family, friends and what it meant to live through the 1920s flu epidemic, the Great Depression, two world wars and the Civil Rights Movement.
The Broadway play illustrated the importance of table fellowship. As the sisters talked about their heritage, they also invited Amy Hill Hearth, the journalist who penned their story, into their home and their lives. The time the three ladies spent together as they prepared the meal was as precious as what they were cooking.
As we shelter in place, may we take the time to share new and old recipes, as we sit or stand in our kitchens. May we create ways to pass on our families’ heritage, sharing the momentous events that changed our lives. I invite us to talk about our faith. We can speak of the ways our faith has been shaken and strengthened throughout our lives.
One day soon we will gather again to celebrate Holy Communion. When we do, I hope that we will create a space to talk about how meaningful and precious the bread and the cup are to us. Maybe we can speak about a special Communion we received, following an illness, during a wedding or after a loved one died. Could we possibly talk about how moving it was, as clergy, to offer the bread and cup for the first time? Or as laity, do you remember when you were asked to assist a pastor or bring the elements to be shared? We will certainly share the story of our Savior’s salvific love in new ways as we relive and remember what happened on the night in which he gave himself up for us. I look forward to the day when we will break bread and drinking from the cup. And Amen.