I believe in bread and wine. I believe in bread and wine not only, because they have been the absolute staples of the Western diet for millennia, but because from bread and wine you can learn everything you need to know about living a good life. In fact, bread and wine are the perfect metaphors for life.
My mother, a bon vivant if one ever existed, was the first person to show me the importance of bread and wine. Growing up, my mother was the only mother I knew who baked her bread fresh. This is not to say I spent my entire childhood never tasting store bought bread. I imagine such a thing would be nearly impossible in modern America. Nonetheless, a lot of the bread eaten in our home was made right there, the old fashion way and not in a bread machine. Now baking bread is a time consuming task. While it is not necessary to tend to the bread for every minute, through out the whole process you must remember that you are in fact baking bread: no trips to the mall, no becoming lost in daytime television. The reward for the sacrifice of your time and energy; well, home bread is simply better than store bought bread. The message is also simple: With a little extra effort, you and those you loved ones can enjoy a simple thing, the most basic type of substance, in an better way and this was simply a better way to live. Period.
The simply better principal also applies to wine. You see, as a child I was allowed to have a glass of wine with dinner from the time I was eight or nine, though these initial glasses were often quite diluted. My Greek-American mother simply saw no problem with this. Wine was part of her culture. Frankly, I might very well have been among the few of our neighbors drinking wine at dinner, surrounded as we were by Mormons and Southern Baptists. Nonetheless, early on I understood that drinking wine was about more than our heritage, it was about how life ought to be. Drinking wine, always good wine though not necessarily the best, meant remembering that there was always pleasure in life, albeit of varying qualities. It meant being assured that this small luxury was to be found even at the end of the worst day.
At the end of every day, bread and wine were placed on my childhood dinner table. They are what I place now on my table, weather or not company is coming. Certainly, this is in part due to the culture in which I was raised. Culture certainly influence Jesus’ menu at the Last Supper. But, I think that, like me, Jesus would have chosen bread and wine even if culture had not demanded they be part of the meal Bread is the most basic of foods. It nourishes and feeds everyone, primarily due to low production costs. Rich and poor can eat bread with their meals. There is also good bread and bad bread. Bread that is mass produced and bread that is made with love. If you want to know about the simultaneous equity and unfairness of human life, you need only look at bread. Wine also reveals a central truth about human life: you could be drinking water; in fact drinking water might even be better for you. But water has no joy to it. It merely sustains life. Pleasure in drinking is found in wine. When you drink wine you are asserting your belief that you should enjoy this life, just in case there isn’t another one. I believe in bread and wine, because I believe in this life, with all its contradictions, its pleasures and its pains. I believe in bread and wine, because I believe that when we come to the table of life we should eat substance and drink pleasure.
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