A Recipe For A Feast Worth Sharing

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I didn’t want her to see me fumble around with the spices she effortlessly wielded.
She had been making these dishes her whole life, learning at the side of her Amma. This was my second attempt at making the fancy chicken roast and fragrant pulau, Bengali staples. My friend says they are her comfort food. They are mine, too. The fragrance of ginger, garlic, and onions sautéing on the stove smells like home to me, taking me back to the year and a half we lived in Bangladesh.

I had tried to gather all the right ingredients and tools. She looked around wondering what she would mash the daal with. I didn’t have the flower-shaped wooden utensil perfect for making the lentils into the creamy, yellow goodness we’d pour over rice. She asked for a spice in Bangla and I couldn’t remember the translation. Was that cumin or coriander?

***

I worry every time I write. What will people think? It’s obvious my faith has been changing over the past few years. How could it not? I’ve been immersed in the wide, beautiful world of the global church. I’ve taken beautiful things from the various traditions I’ve been immersed in and my practice has become a smorgasbord of diversity.

I’ve sat cross-legged on the dirt floor of an Indian slum church and passed chai between us like holy communion. I’ve prayed with monks and Coptic priests, and with women who found Jesus after they were rescued from sex slavery. I’ve worshipped in a room full of countless languages intermingling at once. Between the Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Coptic, Pentecostal, Catholic, and house churches I’ve been able to visit—I couldn’t tell you what stream I claim as my own.

I’ve also been a part of such a diverse global sisterhood through my writing. My eyes have opened to things I never thought of in connection to my faith before like systems of oppression, racism, immigration, poverty. I tip-toe around conversations involving politics or church, about faith in connection with activism. I believe the two go hand-in-hand; they must. But I don’t want to offend. I want to know the perfect way to do this.

***

We were planning for lunch but, as always, a feast like this takes longer than we expected. That is why I had always been afraid to do more Asian cooking; I wanted to know the perfect way to do it before I tried. We had to peel the ginger and garlic, chop them, and blend them into a creamy mixture. We added spices from canisters strewn all over the counter, cashews, and yogurt in the blender to make the base of the perfect gravy for the chicken.

Presentation is vital, too. The rice must be a perfect mound inside the serving bowl with crispy onions dotting the top. The rest of the dishes should be kept warm so that the host can serve everyone in the right order, with daal and white rice for the end of the meal. Our table looked stunning.

The kitchen was another story. Bright yellow turmeric streaked the counter. Oil splatter covered every inch of the stovetop. The sink was overflowing with every pot I owned.

The meal was perfection. I watched my daughter scoop handfuls of rice into her mouth with a sigh. Each taste reminded her of the land she loved and the people she missed. We laughed around the table and chattered with our friend, Bangla words we hadn’t spoken in months tasting as sweet on our lips as the food. This kind of meal takes a lot of time and even more mess. Every bite, every laugh together is worth it.

I have only cooked Bengali food twice since that heavenly meal months ago. Over the holidays I attempted fuchka, our favorite street food. I couldn’t find all the ingredients and had to improvise. It wasn’t exactly right and yet the moment the tamarind sauce hit our lips we didn’t care. My sloppy attempt didn’t matter; the fact that I tried did.

***

I don’t know the way forward. I am stepping into the year ahead with such tenderness. After so much deconstruction of everything I thought I knew, I am in a season of rebuilding. Faith. Life. Everything. I am trying to hold loosely to it all and trust that something beautiful is going to emerge. I am trying to be okay with not knowing all the answers but stepping out in faith anyway.

Maybe you feel a little bit this way, too? Maybe you aren’t sure you have all the right tools? What if it all falls apart? Sometimes it does. I’ve made some disastrous samosas. The bread crumbled when I was wrapping them but they were still delicious. I’ve also made some rice that burned and ruined the dinner and the pan, too. I learned and did it better the next time.

It isn’t going to turn out right the first time (or the fifth time). Sometimes we have to wait longer than we want.

Sometimes it’s going to be perfection though. We will find connecting and nourishment. We will find our people and laugh together over a meal that feels like the Kingdom has come to earth at last.

We have to keep trying even when it feels everything’s a mess. Sometimes we follow the recipe; sometimes we toss it and write our own. We should always invite others to join us! A feast worth sharing takes time and hard work. It takes working together. It is messy. It is beautiful. It is worth it every time.

 

 

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