On The Idea of Soul Food

     In 1977, I sat at the oval shaped wooden table that sat dead center of our family kitchen, and I watched my mother prepare her church famous potato salad. 

     It was an early Sunday morning, somewhere around six a.m.  Momma was sipping on a cup of decaf(which could interfere with the classic taste of the recipe), so she had commissioned me to be her personal taster. 

     “Taste this.  I need to know that there’s not too much mustard.” She told me.

     I was never one to do anything without questions, and understanding. So, while leaning in to nibble off of the plastic fork that she had gotten from her stash underneath the bar area that she used for storage, I asked her “Why?”

     “Too much mustard, and it’ll be too salty” she said with a roll of her eyes.

     I took a taste, and it just seemed to melt against the warmth of my ten year old tongue.

     “Eeeeyumm!” I said, my eyes no doubt rolling in the back of my head from sheer pleasure.

     It was perfection, I tell you. The creaminess, and the fluffiness, of that potato salad made me want to learn more about what she did in that kitchen. So, like a magician’s assistant, I let her try out every kitchen trick she had on me.

     Even then, I had an understanding of the importance of passing down information, and knowledge, generationally.  Back then, our parents, our elders, passed down what they knew because they understood that what they knew, was all they had, besides Jesus.  

     And, if nothing else, they wanted to make us good spouses, and have us be able to feed our families, even if what we had to feed them wasn’t very much.

“Food for the body is not enough.  There must be food for the soul”

                      -Dorothy Day

     And, they kept us in church, didn’t they? These parents of ours, children of the children of the children who were raised by slaves, passed down to us the only comfort food for the soul that they knew: The Word of God.

    “Man cannot live by bread alone” they would preach out over wooden podiums.  “But by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God!”.   And, this was a definitive declaration; something agreed upon by all.  This was part of a recipe for salvation, passed down generationally, because it was all they knew.  God was all a lot of old school parents had. So, passing down knowledge of Him was about way more than church.  It was about leaving their heirs with something more valuable to them than goods, and wares. It was about a legacy of love, and finding peace.  It was about eternal life. 

     With all this is mind, I wonder why we are so quick to get in the kitchen and recreate grandma’s recipe for peach cobbler, taking every measure to recreate it perfectly, yet we mock, and downplay grandma’s recipe for holiness, and success in the church.

     “They were too tough!” I hear people say.  “Oh, it don’t take all that! Those old saints were trippin'” some of us declare. Yet, looking back to those old saints, they were far better structured, much more prepared, and way less likely to jump in front of a crowd of people declaring themselves as prophets, or psalmists, or gods. They added humility to the recipe of salvation because their cookbook(The Holy Bible) told them to.  

    And now, in 2017, you want the ones to whom this recipe was passed down to leave out ingredients, or add something inorganic to a recipe that’s worked for years? Does that sound logical to you?

     The recipe is the point. It is a connection to everyone that came before you.  It pays homage to the struggle of being without, the idea of coming together, and the necessity of being able to follow simple instruction in a world without structure. The recipe is important.

     And, if my mom had have left out one ingredient in her potato salad, it wouldn’t have been the same. It would’ve been edible. But, it wouldn’t have been perfection on that plastic fork in 1977.  If she had been careless in her preparation, I wouldn’t be a boss in that kitchen right now. I can appreciate that. 

     We live in a culture today where everybody who thinks they have obtained a lil knowledge wants to take that lil bit of knowledge, and bash in the church.  And, it’s ridiculous.

     We forget what they had to endure just to give us hope for the future.  We judge them, and talk about them without the understanding that the church, and God’s Word, was all they really had.  Without it, they would have failed. 

     We bash the church for not standing up against political issues, for not coming out to march, and walk, and scream at police, and lawmakers, about issues in the black community, without realizing that they were never taught to.  It wasn’t a part of the recipe.  The recipe called for prayer, and supplication.  That’s what they knew.  And, that is what they passed down.  

     Learn to appreciate the meal for what is.  You want to tweak the recipe in your own house, have at it.  But don’t bash the church. The recipes that they left us, to them, were invaluable; it was their golden goose, a key to Heaven.  And, they thought you were worth it. They thought you would appreciate it someday.  Don’t prove them wrong.

     Until our next cup;

     JFaye

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