Finding God around the table
Do you see the common thread in these scenarios?
1) A cocktail hour before a business dinner. 2) The home-cooked meal that Mom whipped up in between the after-school pick-up line and soccer practice, waiting to be served to a tired, rowdy and sweaty family. 3) The romantic anniversary dinner at that fancy restaurant downtown which has garnered so many accolades. 4) The Sunday feast at Grandma’s house where all the aunts, uncles and cousins come to spend the afternoon enjoying each other’s company and Grandma’s cooking. 5) The simple Lenten lunch that some church ladies like to share before their rosary group.
Each example has something to do with food, with meals, right? Yes, but each example is really about communion. At first glance that might not seem to be the case. But if you’re a Catholic foodie, the deeper meaning might become clear.
When it comes to making sense of the complexities of human life, I like to remind myself that God made us and he knows us. Because he knows us, he knows what we need. He created man and woman in his own image and likeness. He created them out of love and for love — and love means a communion of persons. Not even sin can change that fundamental fact. We are made for love and we long for communion.
In Genesis, as God began to make good on his promise to repair the damage caused by sin, he began to form for himself a people, a family. He did so by binding the people to himself through a series of covenants, each of which culminated in a shared, communal meal. The most striking example of this covenant meal is the Passover, when God set his people free from slavery in Egypt. That meal — with its unblemished lamb and unleavened bread — foreshadows the new and everlasting covenant established by Jesus on the cross, the covenant made present in the world today in the Eucharist.
God knows what we need. He made us for communion with himself and with each other. This is why shared meals are so important. Around both the table of the Eucharist and the family dinner table, we can experience communion. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass, we call it Holy Communion. That, of course, is communion par excellence with God himself. But we also experience communion around the table — for breakfast, lunch or dinner — when we share a meal with family and friends, and even strangers.
We might not always be mindful of it, but we’re wired for communion. This month, let’s pray to be mindful that we were created for love, for communion, which so often we find around the table. To whet your appetite, I’m sharing my special seasonal recipe. Bon appétit!
JEFF YOUNG, best known as The Catholic Foodie, is an author, blogger, radio host and podcaster.
LEARN MORE: CatholicFoodie.com
Pumpkin Soup with Kale and Kafta
2 medium yellow onions, diced
4 ribs of celery, diced
1 med pumpkin, cleaned, peeled, cut into 2-3” pieces
2 tbs garlic, chopped
1 gallon chicken stock
1 batch of kafta, browned
1-2 heads of kale, cleaned, chopped into 2” pieces
Cayenne to taste
1 tsp each ground allspice, nutmeg, cumin
2 tbs of olive oil
Sauté onions and celery until translucent. Add garlic and pumpkin. Continue to sauté for 5 minutes. Cover with chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Season with salt, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, cumin and cayenne. Cook until pumpkin is soft (25-30 min.). Purée pumpkin with an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor (make sure your blender or food processor can be used with hot liquids). Return soup to pot and add lamb meatballs and kale. Simmer on medium to medium/low until meatballs are fully cooked and kale is softened (about 25 minutes).
Kafta (Lamb Meatballs)
2 lbs ground lamb (or substitute ground round beef)
1 large sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
6 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbs fresh mint, chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
1 tsp each fresh cracked pepper, allspice, cinnamon, cumin
Mix all ingredients together and roll into balls of desired size. Preheat skillet to medium-high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil to skillet (or other oil with high smoke point). Add meatballs in batches. Brown on all sides. Remove and let drain on paper towels.