My grandmother did not teach me how to cook brisket. But if she had, I wouldn’t be making it today.
This is the first Friday in Lent, the season leading to Easter that many Christians traditionally observe by fasting and abstaining from certain foods. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a common refrain. The church in which I grew up focuses a lot on such food-based observance: meat is not eaten on Fridays in Lent.
Which means that, according to the letter of the law, one may not eat a three-day-old pastrami sandwich—but going out for lobster would be perfectly appropriate. That doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice to me, unless one had a shellfish allergy.
I’m not here to argue theology or the rationale for food-based religious traditions. I just wanted to have lunch. I was running a little behind this morning, so I opened the fridge to grab something left over to take with me. But I couldn’t see anything meatless.
I honestly don’t think the creator of the universe cares if I have chicken salad on Friday. And for the first time, I’m working in a church that doesn’t have the same sort of restrictive traditions regarding Lent that I grew up with. Nobody would care if I brought a bacon-triple-cheeseburger for lunch. But it would feel strange to me.
I guess I could run out at lunchtime and buy a tuna sub.
And yet going out for lunch—even a modest one—seemed against the Lenten spirit. I looked in the fridge again.
There were couple of hard-boiled eggs. And the leftover vegetables from last night’s dinner. And some brown rice. Heat the rice and veg, slice the eggs overtop, maybe a splash of soy sauce…
Give up chocolate but have the apple pie? No coffee but twice as much soda? No video games but unlimited TV? Not much gain on those plays. But modest discipline seems appropriate. It’s how I was raised. It’s what I was taught. I won’t feel a need to confess if I have a bite of turkey some Friday, but I’m not quite ready to give up all “giving up” yet.
As I ate my not-quite-bibimbap—which was so much better than than any tuna sub—I thought of my mom and my grandma. I hope they’d be pleased that I kept tradition.
Like a grandmother’s brisket.