Father Capon & The Heavenly Banquet
The Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon has died. Fr. Capon is best known for his terrific book The Supper Of The Lamb, a culinary and theological meditation, with lots of recipes. I can’t tell you how effervescent this little book is. Andy Crouch once wrote of it:
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 a, well, you know. But I’ve hardly cooked a meal since without imagining Father Capon looking over my shoulder, commenting on my knife technique and urging me to have another glass of wine.
Here’s an amuse-bouche from Fr. Capon’s delightful book:
[F]ancy cooking and plain eating is as good for your taste as it is for your soul. … The plainest things in the world, prepared with care and relished for what they are, are better than all the commercial flummery in the dairy case.
Finally, if you cook fancy and eat plain, you move yourself a little closer to that fasting without which our age has little chance of keeping its head threaded on straight. Great cooking demands great eating; that is as it should be. But such frank eating, unless we are all to swell up and burst, must be a sometime thing. As I said, I would rather have one magnificent meal followed by a day of no meals at all, than two days full of ambitious mediocrities at close intervals. In this vale of sorrows, we should be careful about allowing abundance to con us out of hunger.
I know there must be more than a few readers of this blog who are Fr. Capon fans. Tell you what — if you open a bottle of wine tonight, or in some other way say a prayer in remembrance of this dear old priest-gourmet, please take a photo with a copy of The Supper Of The Lamb in it, and I’ll publish the picture as a special View From Your Table. I’ll publish every one sent to me, provided the follow the usual guidelines (e.g., no faces; remember that it’s the view FROM your table, not OF your table, etc.)