Rich Paxson

Describe a time you had a good restaurant experience.Explain what made the experience so good for you.

Thirty years ago this October, while traveling with my wife and two other friends in France’s meandering Lot River Valley, one evening we walked into the village of Anglars-Julliac for supper at La Palombiere restaurant. There were, of course, no Google Maps in 1986, but the magic of this Internet tool today tells me La Palombiere is still there looking just as I remember it!  http://bit.ly/2dUwrAx

As a way of journalizing during the trip, I saved copies of letters I wrote home, one of which I wrote on the morning after our meal at La Palombiere. I won’t share the entire letter. Just a couple of sentences provide the ‘flavor’ of my dining experience that night:

“Pot roast and egg noodles, a little red wine does wonders! Serve it family style on stainless steel serving platters, turn on more lights as additional patrons arrive, and don’t be too concerned that the waiter dropped an empty bottle that broke after bouncing on the terra cotta floor.”    

“The taste came alive a second of two after the first bite, a new and different energy, where before had been the taste of culmination, now came that of continuity. The message of life renewed, originating in the caves of Roquefort, warmed our palates in spite of the static burden of everyday existence. Such a hard cheese this Roquefort; but, only in the swallowing of it.”

I don’t remember to whom I sent that letter. I suppose whoever it was may not have known what to make of it, nevertheless, I think it fits the bill for this Forgiving Victim exercise. For whatever the reason, that simple meal – beef bourguignon, artichokes, red wine and Roquefort cheese – remains quite memorable to me.

What is it about some meals that capture our attention?  Towards the end of the introduction to ‘The Scarlet Letter’ Nathaniel Hawthorne http://bit.ly/2e2P8Sz describes a certain Customs Collector forever reminiscing about long-ago meals:

“As he possessed no higher attribute, and neither sacrificed nor vitiated any spiritual endowment by devoting all his energies and ingenuities to subserve the delight and profit of his maw, it always pleased and satisfied me to hear him expatiate on fish, poultry, and butcher’s meat, and the most eligible methods of preparing them for the table.”

I suppose that we all are guilty of, or totally immersed in, encapsulating life like Hawthorne’s Customs Collector, living within what we conceive of as our own stories, which, in fact, the social other continually is crafting for us. We surround ourselves with these social other stories thus maintaining ‘the static burden of everyday existence.’

But, now comes the Forgiving Victim, one day – every day, to ‘warm our palates,’ to illuminate the Other other’s life that is life, but only as we live it in Christ. Who reveals recipes written on our hearts as He scales the static burden away laid over our lives by the social other.  If ever we recognized the Oher other’s recipes for life as children, we long ago forgot them. But as adults, Christ shares God’s truths, just as they were given to us at birth – written on our hearts in ‘scarlet’ letters.