I found out this past weekend that the Homesick Texan, one of my favorite food bloggers, is the daughter of an Episcopal priest. I got a little too excited to learn this – as if closing the degrees of separation between us might make some of her cool rub off on me. You might remember that not only am I married to an Episcopal priest, but my dad, brother, brother-in-law, and adopted grandfather are all priests. I grew up surrounded by men in black shirts with white tabs in the collars, and incense smells like home to me. It’s not a surprise that a lot of my identity is wrapped up in the church, and finding connections there is always a little thrill. I sometimes feel like the Kevin Bacon of the Episcopal Church – seven degrees of separation from anyone who’s been ordained in the past 30 years.
I was first introduced to the Homesick Texan blog and cookbook through a friend, and now the blog is my go-to source for Tex-Mex recipes. Her King Ranch Chicken, salsa verde, and chicken enchiladas have all made our regular rotation.
The more I think about the clergy kid connection with food, it makes good sense. There’s always been a connection between religious communities and food traditions. We grew up when potlucks were still common for church gatherings. Everybody knows that the best recipes come from the grease-stained pages of old church cookbooks, written by grandmas and used until the pages start to tear. The church seasons of my childhood were marked by Lenten soup lunches, Shrove Tuesday pancake dinners, Friday fish fries, and holiday traditions. One self-proclaimed crazy cat lady made us an extravagant gingerbread house every year, and it always ended up being eaten by our cat, which thrilled the crazy cat lady. Clergy families learn quickly which recipes reheat well for the clergy-parent who was called out on an emergency pastoral call during dinner, and which ones freeze well for the family who just had a baby or experienced a loss. We choose grazing food for holidays, when we have people in and out of the house, and a stressed-out priest who may or may not have time to sit down and eat with the family, but still needs something to sustain him or her through a long day.
The rituals surrounding food and church echo each other – the Eucharist is the most important meal we eat each week, and we eat it with our church family. The Advent wreath on our dinner table reminds us about the light that comes at Christmas. I won’t even tell you how many varieties of snack food have littered our pew over the years.
Our family has a copy of this icon in our dining room, where we eat most of our family meals.
It was written (icon-speak for painted) by Andrei Rublev in the 15th century, and it represents the Trinity and the hospitality of Abraham. Rublev’s feast day in the Episcopal Church is the same day as our oldest son’s birthday. I would tell you more about Rublev and the theology represented by this icon, but his official website is in Russian, and, well, I have my limits. My point is that we always have hospitality and the importance of sharing meals present in our home. We don’t always have the most spiritual dinner table discussions (see also: two small boys; cross-reference: Despicable Me references), but the foundation of our family life is right there on the wall, even if we’re eating reheated Chinese food out of takeout containers.
And so, Homesick Texan, a shout-out to you and your priest-mom. Peace be with you.