Despite the first Sunday being our Church’s normal monthly fast day, I felt too excited to cook something pretty and delicious from my new cookbook to want to fast, and I had my heart set on crunchy French toast made from slices of brioche spread with Adam’s peanut butter and dipped in a mixture of eggs and cream and whole milk plain yogurt and dragged through crushed corn flakes and sliced almonds and browned on a griddle and topped with fresh cinnamon whipped cream. The image in my mind seemed almost its own religious experience, preferable by far to fasting. I set a loaded plate of fancy French toast and bacon before Dad, feeling pleased with myself, and loaded up my own plate of deliciousness. Dad offered two slices to Stacy, the CNA, who was not too proud to accept, and which I honestly was about to do, on my own, out of politeness. After eating (is the taste ever as good as the romantic anticipation?), I began to walk away to other labors that weighed on me, when Dad called after me to cook some bacon for Stacy. I found myself suddenly enraged, and turned back to the kitchen and tore the package from the fridge, spilling cold bacon on the bar. Mom saw my distress and coolly but immediately said, “I’ll do it.” I knew instantly something was off, because, as a rule, I do not experience rage, except perhaps over child abuse and domestic violence and human trafficking, and certainly not over something so trivial as toast and bacon. So, why the sudden rage? I knew this was my opportunity, before moving on, before making mistakes, to turn inward the bright lights of introspection and understand my distress, layered though it was sure to be. Clearly, I had been pandering for praise for my fancy crunchy French toast, as well as for my magnanimity in making and serving it. A little deeper, I saw that I already resented feeling like a servant, bustling dutifully about to meet each need, and I felt belittled at another’s apparent presumption that I had nothing to do but stand by to fulfill the next manifested need. And I had things to do, my things! Worst of all, I felt demeaned at being told to be a servant to a servant. Many layers, none flattering, each reproaching. And I thought of Jesus, the Son of God, a God himself, the Creator and Master of earth and sky and cosmic universe, who yet made himself the servant of all, who in symbol washed his followers’ feet, instructing me to do likewise. Dear Jesus, I turned my thoughts outward, upward, to the Divine Presence, please help me be more humble. Help me to not be too proud to give and to labor, for others. Stacy had mentioned how much her husband loves peanut butter and French toast, both, but it was too late for me to offer her a slice to take home to her husband: she was out the door before I finished figuring out my frustration, and I lost the chance. And by then the time had come for choir practice. Mom held tight to my arm as we walked slowly into the neighbor’s house for rehearsal. “It’s so nice to have a strong arm to lean on,” she said to me kindly. But I was not feeling strong of spirit or strong of character, even though Mom had seen my distress and also had seen past my selfish fit over bacon straight into my heart and felt quite convinced I was steady and firm and strong, and good, as I will aspire and work harder to be. Perhaps next fast day I will simply fast.
(Crunchy French Toast, from Tieghan Gerard‘s Half Baked Harvest cookbook Recipes from My Barn in the Mountains.)