Three years ago I read The Supper of the Lamb for the first time. Robert Farrar Capon changed how I see the act of eating.
(Take note of “the act of eating” as opposed to “food.” It was written in 1969 and encourages a ridiculous amount of pasta consumption. We will get to that.)
The book marries my loves of Jesus, wine, and cooking and eating food. If you are into at least two of those things, you definitely should buy it here.
I am trying my best to find the perfect pull quote for you, one that encapsulates the essence of this book. It’s impossible. I would end up quoting the whole thing. So here is my incredibly insufficient, sophomore-level summary of a book I have read multiple times and still don’t quite understand.
When we cook and consume food here on earth, we prepare our tastes and sensibilities for the wedding supper of the Lamb, the day we sit with the Bridegroom and feast and drink the best wine in the history of the world.
Imagine how differently the act of eating becomes when instead of supplying your body with nutritients, you are practicing for heaven.
Really good meals make me cry.
Everything we eat should prepare us for that, including the quality and preparation of our food. Get to know your food. One of the beginning chapters recommends spending two hours with an onion.
I got to know a leg of lamb.
Sprinkled through all this theology, there are recipes (it is a cookbook after all). The flagship of those is Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times. Here’s a good spot for a pull quote:
“Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times is not simply a recipe. It is a way of life. It does indeed produce thirty-two servings from a single leg of lamb, but at the same time, it opens the door to a school of cooking that has produced some of the greatest dishes in the world.”
This series of recipes teaches the “wholesale and deliberate manufacture of leftovers” to produce four different meals that are each lovely. Meal preppers rejoice!
Plus, I’d never made lamb, so here we go.
All four meals came together without much excitement. I struggled through the process with following directions. The first time I read this book I learned so much about taste testing throughout a cooking process and following my intuition and tongue when adding ingredients and spices. I became quite stubborn.
I’ve eaten lamb twice before this. I grew up eating the meat my dad shot and as it turns out, lamb hunting is generally frowned upon. (Rafe and I reminded each other several times throughout these four meals to not think about the meat being lamb or else it became sad.)
I wanted so badly to learn something profound about myself or the world or the symbolism of the Lamb. I tried to keep an open mind. The book has changed so much of my life and I hoped so badly for another revelation of some sort. I’m still mulling the week over and searching for higher truths.
As of right now, I am still waiting. Nothing may change and that’s okay. The process of preparing and eating these dishes with good company was enough of a foretaste to keep me satisfied.
I leave you with this, a long excerpt and the greatest toast ever written. You should tell it at parties.
“I wish you well. May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity. May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at least become considerable. May they rejoice that they will never again be mistaken for callow boys. And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed. May we all sit long enough for reserve to give way to ribaldry and for gallantry to grow upon us. May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old, broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men. We are great, my friend; we shall not be saved for trampling that greatness under foot. Come then; leap up on these mountains, skip upon these hills and heights of earth. The road to Heaven does not run from the world but through it. The longest Session of all is no discontinuation of these sessions here, but a lifting of them all by priestly love. It is a place for men, not ghosts—for the risen gorgeousness of the New Earth and for the glorious earthiness of the True Jerusalem. Eat well then. Between our love and His Priesthood, He makes all things new. Our Last Home will be home indeed.”
My higher truth arrived.
I’ve had great experiences with this book before. In preparing the lamb, I was ready for another great experience. So much so that I missed what was happening in front of me. I tried to turn something that was already sacred into something more sacred and in doing so, I lost the sacredness.
Capon says, “Man’s real work is to look at the things of the world and to love them for what they are. That is, after all, what God does, and man was not made in God’s image for nothing.”
The little lamb kept me excellent company through four Sessions and I missed it because I was searching for something more life-changing.
So I guess the lesson I learned here is to not miss what is happening in front of me while I am waiting for something else. My son still doesn’t sleep through the night. I often tell myself how much better things will be when he’s a little older. But now I’m afraid of what I missed in the right now, which is now lost forever to the back then.
It’s okay if you think it’s silly that I am able to come to such conclusions after cooking a bunch of lamb. You’re probably right. But I’m telling you, that’s the beauty of this book.