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Lenten Ritual

Lenten Ritual

    I just ate two hot cross buns.  It must be Lent.

    In other years that sugary indulgence would have been the prelude to a sermonic discipline that takes me to Easter like a marathon champion at the tape, exhausted, exhilarated, and empty.  Anyone would be, what with at least ten extra sermons to write, not counting the usual Sundays.  So in the forty-nine years just past the icing cross on the curranted bun tasted bittersweet, for being a sugar appetizer to seven weeks of hard mental effort.

    Ah, but this Ash Wednesday I am free at last... God  Almighty, I'm free at last!

    But puzzled: the hot cross buns, purchased at Waldbaums, came with a prominent label, "KOSHER PARVE ."  Jewish hot cross buns?  I was tempted to go to the meat counter to see if I could buy some glatt kosher bacon. 


    For the fun of it long, long ago, I made periodic visits to Thirteenth Avenue, Brooklyn, which could easily pass for a boulevard in Tel Aviv.  I bought pizza there.  Kosher pizza.  That experience, buying a tomato pie from a fellow in a yarmulke, was equaled when I purchased a pizza-to-go from a shop in Barre VT where the proprietor, a few generations down the line from the original stonecutters (Rock of Ages) from Italy, addressed me in the Vermont dialect, "Hoya, what'll ya have."   I mean, anyone whose name ends in a vowel shouldn't speak Yankee fluently.

    The world grows closer... er, tastier.  Cross-cultural currents are leaping gustatory barriers.

    I, brought up on an Englishman's boiled everything, learned to cook so that I would have an excuse to eat all of those fragrant, luscious meats and cheeses hanging in the windows of the salumerias in Stamford's West Side.  The first spaghetti I was served at home was really macaroni noodles in tomato soup.  But what did we know in the age before pizza?  Now I can cook, without having to consult a cook book, a dish of risotto and wild mushrooms, using Arborio rice.  Try me sometime.   

    Then there's the family from Brazil who, through my tempting, got hooked on maple syrup, the darker the better.

    The culinary integration of the world began long ago.  The Vermont mill owner who sold me the wood for the sills and underpinnings of our cabin (a man appropriately named Carpenter) on one of his deliveries to our hill extolled a recent discovery, a cheese, Gorgonzola, he tried to say.  Centuries earlier, I learned this week from Henry twin, the Narragansett Indians taught Cotton Mather the particular joy of succotash.  Ugh! lima beans and green corn.

    Which brings us back to kosher hot cross buns: I guess, considering how much we have borrowed from the Jews, Christians ought to be willing to reciprocate.  Like what I recently heard a rabbi complain, about the way he was being treated by the lay governing body of his congregation, that they were "crucifying" him.  No sooner did he say it, than he had misgivings, allowing that maybe he should use another word.  "No need to apologize," I replied, "I do understand what you're saying."

    Who knows what I'll find the next time I go to Walbaum's?  Maybe a chocolate Star of David alongside the Easter Bunny. 

    That's the way the kingdom may come, one good taste after another.                 CCRWH

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