Tuesday, March 13, 2012

the last supper

He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you: do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.” Luke 22: 19-20

Top Chef, noun, An American reality show competition, airing on the cable TV network Bravo, in which chef contestants from around the U. S. cohabitate in a house for approximately 21 days while in competition against each other in a series of culinary challenges.

Bunny Mother, noun, Retired Playboy Bunny oligarch responsible for hiring, firing, training, conducting mandatory daily weigh-ins and scheduling work shifts for Bunnies. Demerits were issued if grooming was less than regulation perfect: “a clean well-fitted costume, matching

ears and shoes, clean, fluffy cottontail, immaculate cuffs and collar, Playboy cuff links, name plate and bow tie”.

Wilson, Clerow “Flip” Jr. (1933 - 1998) American comedian, actor and as heralded by TIME, "TV's First Black Superstar". One of 18 children, reared in foster homes and reform schools, Wilson joined the U.S. Air Force at age 16. Wildly popular given his hilarious personality, the nickname “Flip” was spawned from Wilson’s self-described "flipped out" good nature.

Predictably, you’re instructed to bring a bikini when applying for the position of Playboy Bunny. Deliriously dehydrated from crash dieting you parade before the Bunny Mother in stilettos, hopefully are hired and before you can gain an infinitesimal gram of fat “your costume…the world-famous image of the glamorous Playboy Club—wear it proudly” is custom crafted to your present measurements. It’s over—you’re cast in stone, destined to bulging eyes if you breathe too deeply. The only wiggle room is in close proximity to your behind and its faux fur “cottontail”.

A thinly veiled torture chamber, the Bunny costume is the first service uniform registered with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office and can be seen on permanent display in The Smithsonian. According to the official Playboy Bunny Manual “eating and drinking while in costume is forbidden”. No kidding. “While in costume”…or ever. “Bunnies must wear false eyelashes and bright vivid lipstick accented by lip gloss. Your Bunny Mother will help you choose styles and color for maximum flattery.” And it’s all incriminatingly documented, pictures at 11:00.

Your clean well-fitted Bunny costume aside, the Playboy Club was hardly A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. Sorry Ernest. Bunnies, able to identify 143 brands of liquor (blindfolded) and artistically garnish 20 festive cocktail variations (with two paws, er, hands tied behind their backs) dispensed their hypnotically intoxicating elixirs in dimly lit lounges—all while executing the famous “Bunny Dip”. She “gracefully leans backwards while bending at the knees with the left knee lifted and tucked behind the right leg. This maneuver allows her to serve drinks while keeping her low-cut costume in place.” Translated: your cleavage clears the keyholder’s ogling, slobbering leer. Compared to the “Dip”, the Bunny “Stance and “Perch” were no-brainers. But if you even looked at food—forget it—doomsday.

A card-carrying Baby Boomer, I’m incredulous surveying the latter half of the 20th century, particularly cultural trends regarding the corpus humanus and its maintenance. I howled over Flip Wilson’s character Reverend Leroy, pastor of “The Church Of What’s Happening Now” however, unequivocally, my favorite persona was Wilson’s self-preservationist, goody-goody Geraldine Jones:

“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t do windows!”

Let’s examine the span of our societal behavior. Exhibit A: exercise. We’d gone from relative inactivity to jumping jack flashing with TV’s Flying Wallenda-clad Dorian Gray: Jack LaLanne. Now it’s a bona fide OCD: we’re working out “religiously” with or without expensive personal trainers—an obsession viral enough to prompt running in Central Park after dark? Yikes! Exhibit B: smoking—it was downright trendy. In the late 60’s the Surgeon General might well have been Marcel Marceau. While cohabitating with nuns and sporting bad, box-pleated herringbone tweeds at a convent boarding school, secretly chain-smoking KOOL’s became my salvation. Decades later, society has effectively branded smokers leprous and, at least publicly, has legally curtailed the All American addiction. Exhibit C: drinking. With plastered Ray Milland in Billy Wilder’s harrowing film The Lost Weekend as a starting point, never before have so many folks, admirably, been in recovery. That said I presently have a window display of my art and a copy of Seventh Day’s Old Testament stories at the friendly neighborhood liquor store. And lastly, exhibit D: the alimentary four letter f-word: food. From a flabby road of trans-fatty fast food to “flavor of the month” celebrity chefs, to endless programming demonstrating infinite techniques for grilling Alaskan king salmon—enough—we’re full. Julia, Top Chef, Rachael, Nigella, Ina, Iron Chef, Iron Lung, Aqualung, Aqua Velva…Er, what were we talking about?

Hear ye, hear ye. This accelerated body awareness has also brought psychological neuroses out of the woodwork manifesting in myriad eating disorders—tragically everything from anorexia to obesity. Even the NEW YORK TIMES food critic Frank Bruni regurgitated his childhood of diets and disorders in a recent article, “I Was A Baby Bulimic” excerpted from his memoir, “Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater,”

Starve a cold, feed a fever. Feed the body. Starve the soul? Replacing the Biblical sacrificing of food to idols, the food has become the idol! A veritable golden calf, we worship the Kobe beef and it’s labor-intensive preparation but are catatonic vegetables when it comes to nourishing our souls. The insidious removal of God from his rightful place in our world—substituting everything from nouvelle cuisine to exercising our way to physical beauty—has created a highly contagious strain of spiritual anorexia.

Okay, I had to Google them for clarification but here they are, the official four food groups: (1) meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, peas, eggs and nuts; (2) dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt; (3) grains; and (4) fruits and vegetables. Of course there are limitless combinations of these staples comprising every diet imaginable. Yet my research produced results referring to a possible fifth food group. Another group? I reckon the most cosmically nutritious—and hardly fifth in order of importance—would be the spiritual food group: soul food.

We are what we eat? I’ve been known to binge on Hostess HoHo’s but I’m not going there with you. Where I will go with you is two millennia back in time to the ritual simplicity of the Lord’s Supper—and then fast forward to “The Church Of What’s Happening Now”, or more accurately, still. Hugely sentimental, I cherish tradition and tremble at the longevity of that humble meal. What’s the muscle versus fat ratio of your eternal soul? Do you crave food teaming with spiritual vitamins and minerals that build strong souls in 12 ways? “Do this in memory of me.” Me. J.C. Jesus Christ. The original “Top Chef”. Give it a try—the last supper you’ll ever need—and never go hungry again.

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