My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Holy Relic

In the Roman Catholic tradition, relics of saints are often venerated for their healing and mystical powers. Relics are divided into three classifications: A first-class relic is one that was directly associated with the life of Christ (part of the cross, the Holy Grail would be the holy grail of relics) or a body-part of a saint. All those are first-class relics.

A second-class relic is something that a saint owed; St. Thérèse’s rosary or her personal bible. A third-class relic would be something that touched something of hers; scraps of clothing. I think.

Even though I had spent a number of years as a Franciscan friar and a monk, I never could really “get into” the whole relic thing; probably due to my Southern Baptist upbringing. (I once filled a holy water font with plain tap water simply because I was unable to find a priest hanging around to bless it. I also put a few drops of bleach in the water, no doubt, due to my years spent as a restaurant manager.)

Like I said, I’ve never really held much veneration for holy relics – until now.

It turns out that my friend, Mike, (Michael, Mikey) had once taken a series of cooking classes taught by our dear Julia Child back in the early 90s. He was living in San Francisco at the time and these classes were being offered at an upscale hotel there.

At one point, Julia was demonstrating the use of a citrus zester (a micro-plane) and Mike mentioned that he didn’t have one.

“Well, what do you do?” she warbled. He explained that he used a box-grater to which she said that he really should have a micro-plane.

Later that day, Julia took the class to her favorite cookware establishment, Sur La Table; sort of class outing, a culinary field trip. A few moments later, Julia walked right up to Mike, held a micro-plane in his face and pronounced: “There. Now you have one!”

She had made it her mission to purchase one for him as a gift.

Last night, I was in Mike’s kitchen and asked to see the “holy lemon-zester.” I have to admit that it was just about the best micro-plane I’d ever held. It really did have a special feeling to it.

Here is Mike, proudly displaying a true relic.

(Technically, it’s a second-class relic, but I hate to relegate it to that level.)

When I snapped a photo of it, the light reflected off it as if it were a halo; no doubt, evidence of its supernatural qualities. Do you hear the choirs of angels in the background?

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