Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Let's talk about food ... and wine!

[Caravaggio, Bacchus, 1596]
A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.
--Brillat-Savarin, or maybe an Italian proverb
I enjoy wine. But I readily acknowledge that some people should not drink wine: recovering alcoholics, of course; drinkers who don't realize they're alcoholics; people taking certain medications; people who are about to drive cars or pilot airplanes; children; and so on.

To be fair, there are people who shouldn't eat bread, either, though not as many.

Yes, wine can be dangerous. In scripture and other literature, it can indicate evil and punishment and terror.

In the Bible, wine sometimes accompanies wickedness and judgment. For example, the Psalmist writes that "in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed; he will pour a draught from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs" (Psalm 75:8).

St. John of Patmos says that Babylon--herself a symbol of corrupt governments and multinational corporations--"has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (Revelation 14:8; 18:3).

In "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," Julia Ward Howe uses wine production as a double symbol, evoking both the Last Judgment and the American Civil War: "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; / He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored."

But more often, wine brings to mind abundance and contentment and friendship.

Hear Moses' final blessing on his people: "So Israel lives in safety, untroubled is Jacob’s abode in a land of grain and wine, where the heavens drop down dew" (Deuteronomy 33:28).

And the Preacher's summary of a good life: "Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do" (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

And the delightful quatrain by Hilaire Belloc:
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino.

A drink that can evoke friendship and anger, blessing and corruption, joy and addiction, holiday relaxation and highway death, family harmony and family destruction--what a symbol!

In Prince Caspian, Book 2 of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis describes the Pevensie girls' reaction to a wild party with river gods, forest goddesses, maenads, Silenus, and Bacchus himself:
"I wouldn't have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we'd met them without Aslan," [said Susan].

"I should think not," said Lucy.

This is part of a series of short posts especially for people who attend St Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, where I'm leading conversations about food on September 22, September 29, and October 6. I'll post about food every weekday between September 16 and October 4.

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