Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Layers of Taste

By David Horn, ThD
Director, The Ockenga Institute

I love cooking shows on television. There, I said it. I don’t know why except there is something about a master cook putting just the right amount of butter into a sauté pan, and then adding the precise amount of onion and—can you believe it?—cinnamon and basil leaves together to make a simple glaze in such and such a recipe. ‘Oh, and don’t forget the pinch of sea salt.’ All this effort ends in layers of nuanced taste designed to stimulate a three centimeter flap of real estate we call the tongue.
To be honest, most of the layers of taste are wasted on us hungry souls. Many of us don’t have the capacity, or the patience, to drill down through the layers of taste to appreciate the dishes we eat. It is a little bit like a friend of mine who brings a very clean and experienced pallet to his wine drinking. I don’t know how he does it, but he can smell and sip and observe a vintage and, in a moment, tell the degree of pressure the grape was crushed under during the second week of September of such and such a year, grown on the south side—the sunny side—of certain area of south of France in a specific type of soil. For me, the wine is purple and wet. For him, it is musty and bruised.
Most of our lives are lived in this twilight zone of taste. But, to hear us talk on most days and most subjects, you would think that life and all it has to offer us is painted in big bold strokes of black and white. Perhaps we have been watching too much cable news. We like to make our comments on life large and brash. Perhaps our life of faith takes on this strident sense of self-assurance as well, as if God weighs in on His providential work in our lives always with complete clarity.
But, God rarely pronounces the final word on what he is doing with us before it happens. What if living a life of faith requires more of us than making bold declarations about His whereabouts. Maybe it requires that we live patiently in the midst of the quiet ambiguities of our lives, instilling faith in us that is not so much timid as complex. Now…do you see how the cinnamon mixes ever so nicely with the basil leaf?

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