Table lessons … with bacon
Our God is a God of love. The proof is in the pudding. Literally. It’s in chocolate pudding, banana pudding and caramel bread pudding with whiskey sauce. It’s also in coffee, wine, creamy sage risotto and bacon… especially in bacon.
In every sweet, salty, peppery, savory morsel we put into our mouths, God’s love is manifest. Food is a testimony to his desire to nourish us, nurture us, comfort us, teach us, delight us and live in relationship with us. Saint Paul tells us so: God “gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your heart with food and gladness (Acts 14:16-17).
The bread we eat — smothered in butter, dipped in oil, toasted and topped with a good goat cheese — was, from the beginning, meant to bear witness to God. Food does this first on the natural level. Chicken soup nurtures us back to health when we’re sick. Cookies cheer us when we’re down. A fine meal of salmon and roasted potatoes, cooked for us by our sweetheart, tells us we’re loved.
Food also does this on the supernatural level. In the Mass, Jesus gives himself to us as food: bread and wine become his Body and Blood, and that Body and Blood accomplish on a supernatural level everything that ordinary food accomplishes on a natural level. When we eat the Bread of Angels, we can be healed, comforted, nurtured and nourished with the very life of God. This is all by design. From the beginning, he poured out his love for us in food — manna — knowing all the while that one day he would nourish us with Heavenly Bread.
Food’s job is to give us a foretaste of the Supper of the Lamb. Our job is to let food do its job: to let it draw us together in friendship, delighting, comforting, pleasing, and nourishing us, never abusing the gift by intemperate or fastidious eating, and sitting down to every meal with a spirit of gratitude.
In a fallen world, that is sometimes difficult. But grace flows both ways. Just as our daily bread can teach us truths about our Heavenly Bread, our Heavenly Bread can give us the grace to appreciate our daily bread. The Eucharist can help us eat everything eucharistically — with thanksgiving, joy and love. And whenever possible, with bacon.
EMILY STIMPSON CHAPMAN is the author of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet. She blogs at TheCatholicTable.com.
Bacon and Sage Risotto
8 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp bacon grease, reserved
3 tbsp butter
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
6-8 cups chicken broth
1 small bunch of sage, roughly chopped
2/3 cup parmesan, shredded
Chop onion, mince garlic, shred cheese, roughly chop sage, then set them aside. In a medium stock pot, bring broth to a simmer. Chop bacon into 1-2 inch pieces. Fry in large pot until it’s done to your liking. Drain bacon on a paper towel. Pour o grease, reserving 2 tbsp.
Heat reserved bacon grease plus 1 tbsp butter in same large pot over medium heat. When butter is melted, add onions. Cook until translucent (3-5 min.), add garlic and cook 30-60 seconds more. Add rice, mix in with onions and garlic. Allow rice to toast for 1-2 min., stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high. Add wine, stir until absorbed.
Add broth slowly, one ladle at a time. After first ladle of broth, stir rice until liquid is absorbed (about 1 min.), then add next ladleful. Repeat until rice is creamy and soft, but firm to the bite, stirring almost continuously. Remove from heat, add remaining 2 tbsp butter and parmesan. Stir vigorously until combined. Add sage and bacon, stir, salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves: 6-8.