“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.” Psalms 23:5
Mister Beecham invited a young Atheist couple and two other Christian couples to dinner. The Atheist husband, Borden, had just begun work in Mister’s office and was new to the area. The dinner was to welcome him not only to the firm and our home, but the couple to the community as well.
As a Christian wife and mother, preparing meals is approached as a joyful offering to the family and others with praise and thanks to God. I cannot help but say the Lord’s Prayer as I knead bread, consider the Seder supper when properly setting the table, or remember the feeding of 5,000 when preparing fish. I did not want to offend our guests, so I thought it prudent to consult the scriptures and ponder the menu for any hidden Christian agendas that might lurk within the food or preparation and cause undue resentment for our guests. I didn’t get very far before I became ensnared with potential controversy.
Salt in the Bible is used in various ways to symbolize permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification. It enhances food and is necessary for life, which is probably why Atheists prefer using the chemical term sodium chloride. I guess if we name it something else, the religious significance is dimmed.
I like to use sea salt rather than table salt for everyday meals, because it has a lighter slightly briny flavor. I figure we get enough iodine from the fish we eat, so the iodized table salt really isn’t needed. Kosher salt is great for a provincial stew or roast and even a good grease cutting abrasive for cleaning after a meal, but I didn’t think we needed to get too particular.
For this meal, I decided on the pink Himalayan salt. While I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t show up in Tibet, I wondered if our guests would think this was in reference to the great flood or get the impression I was supporting the oppression of Tibetan peoples working in salt mines. I was starting to get a headache from all this pondering. All I had on the menu thus far was salt. Being an Atheist must be difficult with all this consideration and rejection.
I decided on herbed Cornish game hens, rice pilaf, sautéed spinach with balsamic vinegar and fresh bread rolls. I found the game hens priced incorrectly at $1.77 each instead of per pound, so I felt the dinner would be frugal as well as delicious.
For dessert, a simple gooseberry cobbler with some homemade ice cream always seems to be a good final course. Mother has a secret feral copse of these on the old home estate. We fight the birds for the biggest berries and get enough berries to freeze or home can several pints each year.
When our guests arrived, I felt a relief. I had spent the day polishing, scrubbing and refreshing the house, the kids and pets. I added leaves to extend the dining room table and used a tablecloth I had sewn for the larger size. I had my dinner schedule nailed down so I could be an attentive hostess and still serve what I hoped would be a nourishing and pleasing meal of fellowship.
Borden’s wife was not what I expected. She seemed dour. Her expression was one that hinted of a nearby foul odor. Her eyes scanned me in such a way I felt like I was preparing for an international flight. I was glad I had showered and had on clean underwear. In her mid 30’s, she had a small nose ring that immediately made me want to rub my own nose. I fought off the urge by offering pre-dinner cocktails and freshly brewed peach tea with mint simple syrup.
Mister Beecham and I had discussed the meal prayer before hand and decided we could forgo our usual thanks and praise because I covered that in the preparations. Instead, he wrote a very light hearted toast of welcome. Mister Beecham does very well with these sorts of things.
Everything went well until dessert. The toast was greeted with laughter and everyone seemed to enjoy the hens and spinach. Borden’s wife made a small remark about vinegar being offered to Christ twice as he was crucified, but it was largely ignored. I noticed her plate was rather clean at the end of the meal.
Sarah, one of the wives I knew from an agape group, asked about the game hens. I told her about the mis-pricing. Borden’s wife seemed to spark to life. “If you knew it was mis-priced, isn’t it hypocritical of you as a Christian to steal?” she said in a mocking tone.
Sarah and I sat with our mouths a little agape, but not with Christian love. Borden sensed his wife’s agitation. He touched her arm which was quickly jerked away. Since everyone seemed to be finished, Mister Beecham intervened and started herding guests to the porch so I could prepare desserts in the kitchen. Sarah asked to help, but I really needed the time to myself. Sarah and I alone in the kitchen could tempt fate with idle gossip. I really didn’t want to indulge in such things.
I busied myself with plates and cobbler, stopping for a few moments to rub the itch on my nose where a nose ring might be if I did not believe in God. I quickly cleared the table and put the china in a sink of soapy water to soak while the coffee brewed in the French press.
I was sure to serve Borden’s wife dessert first. She seemed complimentary of the cobbler. Everyone finished their desserts and left in good spirits and of good cheer a couple of hours later.
Mister Beecham kissed and hugged me after the last guest was sent home, patted me on the backside and asked if I needed help cleaning up. I told him no and patted him back.
While I finished cleaning up the kitchen, I thought about the evening. How difficult it must be to let go of what is so ingrained in our cultural folkways and standards. The Bible is an enduring plan of life wisdom that touches nearly every part of western civilized life as well as being a basis for faith, forgiveness and judgment. I thought about Borden’s wife and how difficult it must be looking for hidden God meaning in everyday life so it can be examined, judged as wanting and swiftly rejected.
As I dried the last of the dessert plates I prayed for the wisdom to be more mindful of the wants and needs of others, the understanding that leads to kindness and the strength to reject turning from faith. We all question the existence of God and struggle to live in this world. No one’s faith is perfect, certainly not mine. I rubbed the phantom nose ring itch again.
When I turned off the lights I considered once last prayer. “Lord, I know you aren’t done with me yet. I need your guidance. Forgive me for licking that woman’s dessert plate and serving it to her.”
“Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.” – A. Einstein