The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon (2002)
It’s that time in January when resolve starts to wane and diets fade away. I understand the impulse. I intended to post another commentary on a faith-based diet this week but was led astray by a beautiful book of faith and food that might be described as an anti-diet. The Supper of the Lamb is a book dedicated to a deep love of food as an aspect of God’s creation. Robert Farrar Capon, an Episcopal priest, encouraged his readers to look carefully at the things of the world and love them for what they are (19). Capon provided thoughtful reflections, persuasive arguments and enticing descriptions throughout the book to pass along his beloved recipe for “Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times” and persuade his readers that it is no mere recipe; it is a way of life (22).
Capon calls his cuisine “ferial” or ordinary but his description of this cuisine is extraordinary. Capon’s approach to lamb, and all food preparation, might be considered mindful cooking. With one chapter dedicated to appreciation for the onion and another on consumption of minerals, vegetables and animals in poetic form this book remained grounded in the things of life. At each step of his recipe, Capon described the proper tools, ingredients and attitude. Capon stressed throughout that ingredients deserve respect as fellow things or beings created by God. He described every encounter between cook and ingredients “a session, a meeting, a society of things” (11). So, at each step of the recipe, Capon explained and considered the necessary ingredients, recommended the proper tools and provided the appropriate method for a successful session.
Capon’s respect for the food of God’s creation engendered a hearty dismissal of dieting. He urged his readers to lessen their fear of “little invisible spooks called calories” (26) and encouraged them to consider taste before nutrition. He called for the addition of butter to almost everything and supplied decadent recipes for sauces, pastries and pastas. Despite his distaste for diets of any sort, Capon ended up recommending a procedure that serves calorie counters well. He prescribed a plateful of lettuce before a large meal with bread for the heartier appetites to fill stomach space before the indulgent food is served. Capon suggested fasting as the appropriate method for losing weight and the moderation of breakfasts and lunches in order to enjoy special suppers. He encouraged a breakfast of coffee, fruit juice and a slice of (homemade) bread (146) and a lunch of “a crust, a leaf, and a glass of wine” (147). Despite Capon’s utter disregard for diets, I imagine that if one followed his recipe and adopted his way of life, they would see an increase in spirit and soul and perhaps even a decrease on the scale.