Next Saturday evening we will enjoy the annual “Taste of Transfiguration.” I am really looking forward to this celebration, and have heard what a great opportunity it is to acknowledge and celebrate the wonderful diversity of our parish. We have members from many different countries and cultures, and will share food from our various traditions. I am German-Irish in background. In my family, we grew up on something called “goetta,” and I absolutely love it. It is very popular in the Cincinnati area, even in restaurants. Goetta is pinhead oatmeal mixed with pork sausage and hamburger and spices. After cooking it for several hours, it is usually placed in a bread pan, refrigerated, then sliced and fried for breakfast with eggs. These days people are experimenting with “goetta burgers” and “goetta pizza,” and each summer we have a “goetta-fest” on the river. I think it was a German peasant way of “stretching” expensive meat, by mixing it with grain. It is a comfort food for me!
When I came to the friars, many of whom are also German in heritage since we were invited to Cincinnati from Austria (the Tyrol) to minister to German speaking immigrants who were flooding into the country in the 1840’s, I learned of another German food: pea soup and knoedells. For this you pour thick pea soup over sauerkraut and knoedells (which are fried balls of stuffing or dressing, about the size of a meatball.) It sounds awful, but is actually quite good. Many friars eat this on Good Friday; I am not sure why, but it isn’t a penance!
The food we grew up on often becomes a “comfort food.” It reminds us of home and family. Sharing this with one another is a way of sharing something important, and extends our sense of family. Sharing food is always a bonding experience, and it is no wonder that Jesus chose eating and drinking as a sacramental sign and as a way of manifesting and extending his presence. One of my bible teachers said jokingly that “you can practically eat your way through the Gospels,” because there are so many stories of Jesus eating and sharing a meal with his followers and disciples. He ate with friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, with tax collectors and sinners, with his disciples. He invited himself to dine with Zacchaeus. He fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes. The disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized the risen Lord “in the breaking of the bread.”
I look forward to sharing this meal with you next Saturday and with many more meals around the Eucharistic table of the Lord. Both of those give me comfort!