This afternoon, like most Sunday afternoons, a good portion of my time and attention is spent in the kitchen. I enjoy good food, lovingly made, and so I ensure as far as possible that the meals that come out of our kitchen are exactly that. But most of the time, food preparation is neither easy nor quick for me. As anyone who follows my other blog, benzoateintolerancesupport.wordpress.com, will know, I have to follow a complex special diet to control a medical condition. Consequently, as much as the supermarkets are full of pre-prepared foodstuffs designed to make our lives easier, I have to start from scratch 90% of the time when making a meal.
Sundays are, of course, usually about the roast dinner. For the next couple of Sundays they won’t be – following in the tradition of my partner’s family we aren’t having a roast dinner now until Christmas day – but on an average Sunday a roast chicken is the star of the show. And and after a light lunch I start on my preparation, making such things as stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, sauces, gravies and so on from scratch as well as preparing vegetables taken fresh from my garden. My eldest stepson helped me one Sunday and was thoroughly shocked to realise that preparing a good Sunday dinner took three whole hours of his life!
Today, since we are having a slightly easier meal, pizza, means that I don’t have to cook quite as much. I do still have to prepare my pizza toppings from scratch, though, as I cannot have tomatoes (I use a sweet-potato based topping sauce, if anyone is interested!) but the meal isn’t so much work so I’m taking the opportunity to cook some Christmas food in advance – cake for my younger stepson and Christmas pudding for me (which also has to be made from scratch as I can’t have dried fruit!). So even if the food is slightly different, it is still largely a typical Sunday.
That is our typical Sunday. I try to go to church, all being well, every Sunday morning, and I cook every Sunday afternoon. On the rare Sundays I don’t cook, I garden (although not in weather like we have today, let me tell you!). And as I cook, or as I garden, I find myself meditating on the simple task of working with my hands to create something good and enjoying the sensory stimuli. Be it the sensation of flour running through my fingers and the scent of herbs and garlic from the stove, or the sensation of picking salad leaves from the garden and the scent of lavender as I walk by, the senses can be assaulted from all directions by both pastimes.
Christian meditation has a bad name, I think, conjuring up images of a dusty, old chapel lit by a single flickering, insufficient candle, several similarly dusty, old people sat on hard pews, and nothing but the drip-drip-drip of a burst pipe somewhere to listen to. But when faced with such sensory pleasures as you experience when taking your time to prepare a good meal or tidy a nice garden, suddenly another world of meditation opens before you. When you bake your own bread, you suddenly are able to imagine just what the loaf may have felt like to Jesus when he broke it. When you get a sudden rush of fragrant, spicy scents from flowers in your garden, you are able to imagine just what Jesus may have been surrounded by when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. The bible stories that Christians know so well no longer are just words and pictures – suddenly they become far more than that – they become something real.
So I guess a typical Sunday to me involves both worship at church and worship of a different kind at home. In the morning I sing, listen to the Word, and join in a corporate act of worship. And in the afternoon my worship becomes more earthy, more sensory and less demonstrative, both contrasting and complimenting the morning’s experience. I firmly believe that you can experience the divine everywhere and anywhere – as long as you allow yourself to do so. My kitchen, and my garden, are places I can do just that.
I sometimes get frustrated that I cannot have ready-prepared meals and that I have to spend so much time developing my own recipes and cooking. I sometimes don’t want to spend three hours preparing a roast chicken dinner. But I guess there wouldn’t be nearly so much opportunity to meditate if you are just popping the cellophane on a ready meal as contrasted with carefully sifting flour or slowly and methodically grinding spices. Perhaps in a way my dietary restrictions are a blessing, allowing me to witness the divine through the mundane.
Perhaps that’s really what my Sunday is about, and what all my days should be about – finding moments, seeking opportunities, noticing the brief flashes of beauty, when the divine can be glimpsed even in the most mundane of situations. Perhaps that’s what my food-inspired meditations can teach me. And perhaps it’s something we all could do with paying more attention to.