I was unaware Robert Farrar Capon, the late Episcopal priest and author, published The Supper of the Lamb in 1967.
Furthermore, I knew nothing of Capon’s “culinary reflection” when I began housekeeping in 1970 with The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. I built my family table upon the recipes between those beloved and battered red-checkered covers.
Page 247 smells of Chess Pie. Dessert has always been my favorite course.
Long in my empty nest, my friend Carol gifted me The Supper of the Lamb for Christmas 2013.
“Let’s discuss the book next month,” she said. “I think you’ll love it.”
The author hooked me with his dedication page: “To my wife: the lightning behind all this thunder.”
In the preface, Capon states his cookbook “involves considerable fiddling around…and from it, you may learn things you never knew, or be confirmed in prejudices you have always held–or even come away with a new recipe or two.”
Who doesn’t love fiddling around, learning new things, tasting food preferences, and acquiring a new recipe?
I dove into Capon’s “Ingredients” for “Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times” knowing the dish and leftovers would never see the light of my refrigerator.
Then came the onion in “The First Session” with the boom of a theologian and amateur cook who loves the world’s “textures, tastes, and smells, enough to keep us intrigued for more time than we have.”
An onion grower, I studied one of my crop, and indeed saw the architecture of a Russian church spire.
“You will note…that the onion is a thing, a being, just as you are. Savor that for a moment. You are constituents of a place in the highest sense of the word,” Capon says.
No, his isn’t the typical cookbook. I should’ve known from the jacket art, The Wedding Banquet by Peter Bruegel, courtesy of the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum.
You won’t find such food-human spirituality in the Betty Crocker Cookbook, Gourmet, and Beard on Pasta. You won’t read such wisdom as, “A man can do worse than be poor. He can miss altogether the sight of the greatness of small things.”
An onion is more than an ingredient. It’s food we plant, weed, and harvest. We slice the elongated separations that form the globe.
“The oldest fingerprints in the world are those on tools…and the knife reigns supreme,” says Capon.
A diced onion simmers in my squash soup.
The Supper of the Lamb has redefined its genre, no longer limited to recipes and how to set a proper table. Capon speaks of affection for food, people, animals, place, and our Creator.
“Indeed, the whole distinction between art and trash, between food and garbage, depends on the presence or absence of the loving eye,” Capon says.
We see this in Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Still Life with Onions.”
Dear Reader, Carol and I talked long and lively about the beautiful layers of paper in an onion. We were glad to consider the greatness of food and what we love.
One another.
Please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exJDhkFJGg0 for a brief history of Renoir’s Still Life with Onions.
Contact Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.