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The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection (Modern Library Food)
Robert Farrar Capon
Modern Library, 2002
320 pp., $17.00
Crossing the Postmodern Divide
University of Chicago Press, 1993
182 pp., $23.00
Holding On to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium
University of Chicago Press, 2000
282 pp., $26.00
Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry
The University of Chicago Press, 1987
310 pp., $34.00
by Andy Crouch
Eating the Supper of the Lamb in a Cool Whip Society
Many Christian retreat centers of a certain age have a library, typically furnished with understuffed sofas and chairs whose donors threw in several boxes of books while they were loading the station wagon. A few years ago I was browsing the dusty shelves in such a room, compulsively trying to fill a time set aside for silent prayer and Bible study, but not finding much to hold my interest among the earnest 1960s-era paperbacks. Then I saw something unusual—a hardback, published by Doubleday, in the dingy condition of a book that had been bought a long time ago but never read.
The book's author was the Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon, whose trilogy on the parables had recently been driving me back to the gospels with fresh curiosity. I sat down and didn't get up again until several hours later, having read the book twice. It was the first Christian cookbook I'd ever read, The Supper of the Lamb.
Capon's book is, quite literally, about a lamb supper, or more precisely, "Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times," a series of meals to be made from one freshly butchered animal. But it is also a rollicking theological argument—with another Supper always on the horizon—for the well-set table as the epicenter of grace. Capon takes the side of cream over calorie-counting, wine over weight-watching, and feasting, fasting, and even "ferial" eating over the mechanized, Cool Whip-and-cake mix approach to food. (An incorrigibly playful writer, Capon revives the medieval distinction between "festal" and "ferial"—a feria being a weekday when no feast is celebrated—to contrast everyday cooking with Sunday brunch and Thanksgiving dinner. For Capon, as for the medievals, the more festal days the better.) An entire chapter is devoted to the experience of slicing an onion.
I've never actually made any of the recipes in The Supper of the Lamb. I have hopes of being alive to see my fortieth birthday, and Capon's ancienne cuisine, heavy on butter and sherry, would give the American Heart Association ...