Food, friendship and the divine

I miss eating crispy pata. Two more weeks and Easter Sunday will be upon us all  I can finally enjoy it again, along with bacon and ice cream, and chocolates (I gave up meat and sweets for the entire Lenten season). Over the past week I have been eating Carmel’s Dulong in Olive Oil, poured on top of white rice, for lunch and dinner. If I have it for a midnight snack I eat it with crackers. The taste somehow satiates the crispy pata longings I have, even if dulong is nothing crispy and porky. Last week I got as a birthday party giveaway bottles of Tinapa with Capers. Oh my. It is so delicious, and silently demands that you eat it with rice. (Maybe because it is a product of the Divine Livelihood of the Parish of St. John Bosco at Arnaiz St. corner Amorsolo, Makati, tel. 894-5932. Buy lots of bottles, it becomes an instant hit with everyone who tries it!). There must be some special, holy ingredient that goes into it; that or it very simply has God’s blessing (I am inclined to think it is more of the latter).

Another thing I have added to my meatless meals to make it more exciting is guindillas, green chili peppers marinated in vinegar and salt. It is delicious and the only downside is it makes you eat so much. It is available in most delis, I get mine from Terry’s, the brand is Rioverde, but I am pretty sure it is available in the groceries also.

Still on food, I have a newfound appreciation for grace said before meals. During a New Year’s Eve meal in Hong Kong that we spent with the Guevarra family, Tito Boy asked for God’s blessing and that the food we were about to enjoy would not only address the pleasure of eating but that the same should nourish our bodies to make us healthy and strong.

I have dwelt on that premise faithfully since then. Relative to that a priest also told me that every meal should not be a mindless activity. It is one of heaven’s daily gifts to us  every plate offers the chance for us to regain some of the strength that the day has consumed so that we can keep moving forward, every plate is a chance to be nourished and maintain or recover good health. In the olden times, a blessing was said before each meal so that in the event that the food had poison or something unclean was unintentionally incorporated into the process of preparing it, it would have no power over you. I like knowing that. It gives me a great measure of peace, this truth that there is so much power and blessing in God’s word if we take it to heart and have faith.

The school I attended from elementary all the way to high school was run by Benedictine nuns and one of our reading materials was the life of St. Benedict in comic format. I have a copy of it, given to me by Sr. Mary John Mananzan just last year. One of the pages depicts St. Benedict about to eat poisonous food prepared for him by some bad elements who were jealous and spiteful. As St. Benedict blesses the food, the plate breaks in half, leaving the culprits aghast. Is it not nice knowing there is always Someone greater and bigger than all of us who happens to be just and merciful? And that even if evil forces roam around the earth we can live life fully and safely because He watches over us?

I am reading now two books given to me as a set by one of my nicest and kindest friends, Rowena. The first is entitled God Never Blinks and the other one is Be The Miracle, both by Regina Brett. Every night I listen alternately to Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Charles Swindoll or Eckhart Tollle on my iPod because it balances me and grounds me in what is truly important. I am a Catholic but I appreciate the work of many Christian authors. I am not judgmental about religions; there is much wisdom in what the Dalai Lama, a Buddhist, once said during a conversation he had with Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologist  that “the best religion is the one that gets you closest to God, the one that makes you a better person.” And what makes you a better person? The Dalai Lama continued “Whatever makes you more compassionate, more sensible, more detached, more loving, more humanitarian, more responsible, more ethical. The religion that will do that for you is the best religion.” Think about that. Love really is the greatest commandment; what you do for the least of your brothers is what counts.

Since it is Holy Week I highly recommend that you get a copy of Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved. I hope it is still available in the bookstores.It is a beautiful read and I try to revisit it every Holy Week. It is one of those books that make you hunger for God’s presence in your life. I remember spending Holy Week in Boracay many years ago, lost in the pages of that book each afternoon that we were there, as I got cozy in a hammock that swayed under the shade of two trees. I remember truths so simple and real, and this knowing in my heart that God, more than being this great Almighty Being we must revere and honor from the vast distance between heaven and earth, really is a friend  Someone we can converse with in stillness, Someone we hear even amidst the noise, Someone whose embrace we can thankfully collapse into anytime of the day if we just pause long enough to remember we can actually do that.

I started this piece talking about crispy pata. Heaven knows how it found its way to God. It just did. So here’s to all the meals that we all will enjoy  may it nourish us in ways that are so much more than our five senses will recognize. And here’s to enjoying a real friendship with the Divine; may life be all the more beautiful in doing so.

 

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