IMAGE OF CHRIST IN MY PIZZA CRUST

There’s an old movie with Sam Elliot (one where he is always moping around crying – very unusual for him) called Off The Map.  I happen to love the movie.  Haven’t seen it in many years, but to my way of thinking, it has captured something of the essence of life and culture in New Mexico.

I bring it up only because it has a scene that depicts a small town café with a handmade tortilla tacked to the wall because when the cook prepared it, they noticed the appearance of the Virgin Mary in it.  The movie then depicts folx from as far as forty miles away making pilgrimage to the café to see it.

I have family and friends who would do that.  I am sure of it.

Tonight I was cooking for my family.  I am not the good cook in our home, but I do a fair bit of it.  Most of my cooking is what I call “kit cooking.”  Tonight I used a pizza kit, not sharing the brand name, I only say that it was purchased at a major national retailer.  I have used this particular brand many times.  My family seems to like it.

However, for the first time ever, I saw the impression of a human hand in the pizza crust.  Almost like hands in concrete or like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, except this one had no signature.  For the first time, I gave real thought to the fact that this pizza kit is really “hand-made” and not machine produced.

So, I looked closer at the packaging.  Sure enough, it boasts “authentic hand-made” right on it.  I never noticed before.  Then I looked up the company on line.  I began giving more and more thought to that handprint.

I have noticed that these pizza crusts have imprints, depressions, and thick parts.  They certainly are not machine precision.  Mountains and valleys, they have.  But I never really thought about the hands that prepare them.

The hand was small.

My hands definitely are not small.  I reckon, I wear an extra large glove.  The impression left in my pizza crust appeared almost childishly small to me.  Probably an adult, and if so, almost certainly a woman.  My hand just dwarfed it.

I began thinking about that small hand.

Who is this person?  Where is this person?  This person put herself into our food; she left her very  personal mark.  Yet, I in no way have any clue who this person is or anything about her.  I almost certainly never will.

But she fed us.

Then I began considering how until I saw that perfect hand imprint, I was assuming that a machine had prepared my pizza crust.  I thought about how cheap the pizza kit was and wondered if she got a fair wage for her work.  I fear she did not.

The name of the brand suggests that the company is Italian, but I noticed in the fine print that the company is not located in Italy at all.  It’s not American either.  Things are not as they appear to be.

If you read here often, you have probably seen where I sometimes make mention of the long running slogan used in advertising for The Olive Garden.  The slogan is out of use now, but for many years they used to say, “When you’re here, you’re family.”  I always note how hollow that actually is.  When you eat at Olive Garden, you are not family!  Not even close.  You are a paying customer!  Also, most of the people working there are not Italian either.  In fact, I expect they do a lot of kit cooking!

I don’t mean to suggest Olive Garden is a bad place to eat.  Not at all.  For that matter, I recommend it.  But it is not what it claims either.

But that hand impression in my pizza crust is.  It is the mark of a person – a real person.  Maybe a child, but likely someone’s mom.  Probably someone who has prepared thousands upon thousands of these pizza crusts.  I wonder how long it took her to prepare mine.  I bet she was fast.  I hope she was well compensated.

Recently I have begun rethinking my racial biases and sensitivities (or lack thereof), especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death.  I have talked about those matters quite a bit recently on the blog too.  And it occurs to me that in my mind’s eye, as I think about this person who I believe is probably a woman, I liken her to my mom feeding me.  A white woman almost automatically pops up in my imagination.

Then I read a very interesting blog last night posted several months ago by a very thoughtful young person who critiqued Robert Lupton’s book Toxic Charity in a blistering review.  Actually, he hit it with some very erudite language, some of which I found hard to follow.  I happen to think Lupton’s book is bunk too, but for perhaps different reasons.  Nevertheless, some of the thinking this blogger laid out struck me as both insightful and cutting far deeper than I had considered on my own.

Here is a bit of his:

Lupton says, “We discovered it is more difficult to detoxify pathological relationships than to build new, healthy, reciprocal relationships between the rich and poor.” (Lupton 18) I suggest the toxic pathology he’s referring to, Imperialist-White-Supremacist-Capitalist-Patriarchy, is the same toxic pathology he benefits from.

“The Imperialist-White-Supremacist-Capitalist-Patriarchy” does strike me as a pathology Lupton benefits from.  But it strikes me as a pathology I benefit from too.  (Actually, he had a couple other far more hard hitting and spicy remarks than this one, but this one comes to bear – in my mind – on the topic I blog about today.  I mean, this blogger calls Toxic Charity “pity-porn.”  I love that line, though I will quibble with it.  I think Toxic Charity is a condom for pity-porn.  Probably, I should reblog that post!)

What if that hand print is made by a black hand?  What about a brown hand?  What about red or yellow?

They all bear the image of God.  Why do I automatically see a white hand in my imagination?

I decided I found the image of Christ’s hand in my food.  And when I determined that, I felt sure then that she is underpaid.  I felt sure then that those hands were tired and maybe in need of a rest.  But those hands fed me and my family tonight.  And though the kit allows me to express some of my own creativity, I found that hand impression disappearing beneath the sauce and cheese to be the most beautiful part of our meal.

I guess this is my little pilgrimage.  Not a forty mile drive down a dirt road to the local café, but an 1148 word post instead.

Thank YOU Jesus.

 

 

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