Steingarten loves food. In all its forms. Fancy, greasy, insectoid, raw, and haute. He is singularly open-minded about what he eats and will spend vast sums of money and time to find the perfect version of something. He spent something like $4,000 on caviar within a few months to determine which kind was the best. In his previous book he determined "scientifically" that Heinz 57 is indeed the world's most perfect catsup (by trying upwards of 40 brands with fresh McDonald's fries).
What concerns me is the implication that there can be only one ideal of any given food. Or object or person or trait, for that matter. Take pizza: there's New York style and Chicago style, just to name two. New York style is thin and crispy on the bottom, most sellers crisping it up in their ovens just before you eat it. It's huge and greasy and satisfying. Chicago style is deep-dish, sometimes with more than one crust. It's rich and overwhelming and satisfying. They're both fantastic, they're both pizza and, as my Loving Husband would say, why choose between the two? Why does one have to be better than the other? The same could be said for BBQ. I know, it's an age-old controversy--dry vs. wet, tomato vs. vinegar vs. mustard vs. something else, beef vs. pork vs. mutton vs. poultry. Loving Husband and I have eaten a lot of BBQ. We have taken at least one vacation with the destination chosen solely because of the BBQ establishments. Certainly there have been times we didn't like the food offered, but not because of a particular style but because that style wasn't done well. Why does one style have to be the best BBQ ever? And again, Steingarten writes about the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe (Toll House, of course), that it must be yielding but not cake-like, crisp but not crumbly, etc. In theory I agree. And most folk of any discernment would say that store-bought chocolate chip cookies are kind of crap. But one, be-all and end-all, perfect, ultimate recipe? I think not.
Perhaps this is why I'm an Episcopalian--we are, at least on paper, interested in the best of all sides, willing to have space at the table for vinegar BBQ sauce lovers and tomato-based sauce lovers, crisp and cake-y cookie lovers alike. There is such joy in being open to a multitude of tastes and people. Why restrict a church and even the Kingdom of heaven to only those people and theologies that we ourselves espouse? Why not see the beauty in each person, in each image of God, in each pot-luck dish and celebrate it as a gift from God?
I can't help but feel guilty on my day off. This morning, I got up around 6:30am, ate breakfast and...wait for it...went back to bed for 2 1/2 hours. Then read things on the internets, read some comics, did a few dishes, made a dinner reservation, ate lunch, read Loving Husband's Harper's magazine. It's been a good, quiet morning, precisely what a day off should be. And yet I feel guilty.
I should be ironing LH's work shirts for next week or spending quality time with the sewing machine and worship banners or cleaning the bathrooms or burying the compost or subjecting the basement to CleanFest 08. And here I sit updating the blog I have ignored for weeks.
At the end of the day, I'll no doubt cry, "I haven't done enough" and shake my fist dramatically at the ceiling. But I'm trying to let that go. Our culture is so fast-paced and pushy, we can't help but feel guilty or twitchy when not accomplishing something. Qoheleth would remind us that fast or slow, there is nothing new under the sun and everything we do is like chasing after the wind. Some might find that depressing, but I find it calming. Things fall apart, it says. Some things remain. You have no control and, far from filling me with fear, that thought gives me permission to let go.
simul justus et peccator literally means "simultaneously saint and sinner." i have been cleansed of my sin/wrong-doing/bad karma and have been given New Life and yet i continue to sin/do wrong/screw over my karma--how can this be? and yet it is. it is a great comfort to me to know that back in the day, theologically speaking, people were struggling with their salvation. plus we have a lovely latin phrase to sum it up.