In my previous blog I wrote about Cornelius the Roman Centurion who appears in chapter 10 of the Book of Acts. I'm really having fun with this guy so bear with me.
The big deal about Cornelius joining the church was that he was a Gentile and the others were all Jewish. That meant that they couldn't eat with him, or he with them, which is kind of a downer when it comes to potlucks. But then Peter, the leader of the early church, had a vision in which God said that he was repealing all the laws of kashrut (or kosher) he laid down for the Jews several millennia ago.
For those of you who aren't familiar with kashrut, it's a whole lot more than not eating pork or shellfish. You can't mix meat and dairy at the same meal. Nope, no double cheeseburgers with a chocolate shake. All the forbidden foods are listed in Leviticus and they are considered Traiyf or unclean. Furthermore, you have to keep separate plates and utensils for meat and dairy. They cannot go in the same drawer or in the dishwasher at the same time. Some people, I've heard, even have two refrigerators! Hmm, sounds kind of autistic if you ask me. Then there is Passover with its own set of rules (and plates). And there are varying degrees of kashrut depending on your community and rabbi. Frankly, I don't think I'd have the discipline to keep kashrut. Anyway, being a Gentile like Cornelius, I don't have to, vision or no vision.
I thought it was rather ironic that this would be the topic of the church I attended last Sunday, because on the Friday night before I went to a Lions Club District Convention and there, plopped down on the plate before me was a piece of barbecued chicken and a smoked beef brisket. Now, I used to be Catholic and while the church abolished the no-meat-on-Friday rule a while back, Fridays during Lent are still supposed to be meatless. And this was in the middle of Lent! What to do? What could I do? I picked up my knife and fork and dug in. It was delicious.
I thought about that while I was listening to the pastor's sermon. Today's chefs have it far worse than what Cornelius and the Jewish Christians had to deal with. They only had to deal with kashrut or non-kashrut. Today's chef, in preparing a banquet for 200 plus people, has to consider: Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, vegetarians, vegans, those who are on special diets due to medical reasons, people with allergies, localvores (those who will only eat foods raised within a 50 mile radius), Fair Traders, raw foodies, Adkins, South Beach, all the various diets--the list is endless. Today I heard of a new one: the no white food diet. You don't eat anything colored white. All this makes communal dining a minefield, as there is no one food that will please everyone. In the end the chef did the sensible thing and accommodated no one. Like my parents used to say when we kids would ask what's for dinner, "Food. Eat it."
As for Cornelius and his new friends, I bet they went out and had a heck of a pig roast at his villa on the Mediterranean.
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