Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tapas vs tuna noodle casserole

Yesterday Mr Neff wrote about the value of small. Confidentially, I thought his article could have been smaller. But I really liked these paragraphs. Maybe because they involve food.

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From "A Perfect Pearl: A small gospel can be a beautiful thing" by David Neff

Last January, Mark Labberton began this final series of Christian Vision Project essays by comparing the gospel many of us live by to a bland bowl of lima beans. "Many have the impression," he wrote, "that the gospel is small, smooth, and tasteless."

When I re-read Labberton's essay, I began to think of a different kind of "small" food. I thought of tapas, the small portions of intensely flavored dishes that have long served as appetizers in Spain. Over the last quarter century they have become an entire cuisine in some American restaurants. The first time friends invited me to a tapas restaurant, I was not intrigued. It was the 1980s, and American culture still celebrated the all-you-can-eat buffet. The idea of going to a restaurant to eat small portions didn't seem special to me. But my first tapas bites were a revelation. An epiphany. The intense tastes of garlic or cumin or chilies brought such a rush of flavor that it reoriented my whole approach to eating. This was food that could not be wolfed down unthinkingly, like the 1950s American cuisine of my youth: tuna noodle casserole, Jell-O salad, mashed potatoes. These little dishes demanded that I nibble slowly, chew thoughtfully, and savor.

Hear the parable of the tapas menu. God offered us something that could have been small, obscure, and forgettable. He didn't offer us some grand universal principle. His gift was the life and death (and resurrection!) of just one person in a small country repeatedly crushed and occupied by foreign powers. He does not give us love or peace or brotherhood. He gives us Jesus, who died like a common criminal.

But when we pay attention to the small thing God gives us, it changes our entire approach to life. We see the world differently. What had seemed insignificant now demands our full attention. What had seemed ordinary now seems interesting. What had seemed a dead end now promises great potential—the redemption of the whole world.

(c) 2008 by David Neff
Used without the author's permission or even awareness

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