Most books fall pretty neatly into some category: fiction, theology, history, devotional, leadership, etc. The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon does not. It’s a cookbook, of sorts. It’s a theology and apologetics and philosophy book, of sorts. It’s a personal memoir and Christian living book, with a good bit of humor sprinkled in. The short quote on the bottom-front of the book by Craig Claiborne of The New York Times is fitting: “One of the funniest, wisest, and most unorthodox cookbooks ever written.”
Below is an extended quote that feels very much like C.S. Lewis might have written it. It speaks to the role of human longings and appetite to point us to the necessity of something bigger and more lasting that must exist and which can actually satisfy. Much like how Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Capon calls this our “uncosolable heartburn.”
“For all its greatness, the created order cries out for further greatness still. The most splendid dinner, the most exquisite food, the most gratifying company, around more appetites than they satisfy. They do not slake [satisfy] man’s thirst for being; they whet it beyond all bounds. Dogs eat to give their bodies rest; man dines and sets his heart in motion. All tastes fade, of course, but not the taste for greatness they inspire; each love escapes us, but not the longing it provokes for a better convivium, a higher session. We embrace the world in all its glorious solidity, yet it struggles in our very arms, declares itself a pilgrim world, and, through the lattices and windows if its nature, discloses cities more desirable still.
You indict me, no doubt, as an incurable romantic. I plead guilty without contest. I see no other explanation of what we are about. Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers, why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry, or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course, but out of more than that, too. Half of earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become. For all its rooted loveliness, the world has no continuing city here; it is an outlandishplace, a foreign home, a session in via to a better version of itself—and it is our glory to see it so and thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We were given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.” (188)
A couple other gems.
“May you be spared long enough to know at least one long evening of old friends, dark bread, good wine, and strong cheese.” (146)
“He [God] like onions, therefore they are.” (17)
“Man’s real work is to look at the things of the world and to love them for what they are. That is, after all, what God does, and man was not made in God’s image for nothing.” (19)
“Idolatry has two faults. It is not only a slur on the true God; it is also an insult to true things…The heaviest weight on the shoulders of the earth is still the age-old idolatry by which man has cheated himself of both Creator and creation. And this age is no exception.” (20)
“Let us eat. Festally [special occasions], first of all, for life without occasions is not worth living. But ferially [ordinarily], too, for life is much more than occasions, and its grand ordinariness must never go unsavored.” (27)
(Photo courtesy of the blog Little Book, Big Story which included this book in her top 10 books read in 2016.)