Thursday, July 07, 2005

Grandma's Eggplant

My Dad's mom was Russian Jewish. When she came to visit she always carried bundles of delicacies from New York that we could not find in the any of the small, southern towns in which we landed. This was WAAAAAAAAAAY before they sold Bagels at the local Safeway. She also came ready to prepare my Dad's favorite foods which my mom, descendant of many generations of Ohio Protestants, couldn't quite pull off.

One of these was her eggplant spread. You roast a whole eggplant until it is completely, entirely slimy and sqishy. (Poke holes in it to let the steam out.) Then you let it cool, scoop it out of the skin, chop it with onion and mix in olive oil and salt. Take a slice of rye bread, the darker the better, slather it with this stuff and eat it.

We all loved this stuff. However, it looks like mucilage and it has a strong eggplanty flavor that is something of an acquired taste even for those positively disposed toward eggplant. And it was nothing like anything our neighbors were eating. It was not a company dish. We made it for ourselves and enjoyed it privately. Why expose Grandma and her eggplant to misunderstanding, rejection and ridicule? Why make our friends uncomfortable by offering them something they almost certainly would not like?

Once, however, we happened to have a guest hanging around when we made a batch. To our surprise and shock she liked it and wanted the recipe. But this was an accident and we did not test market any further.

It occurs to me that many church members feel about Church something close to what we felt about Grandma's eggplant. We loved it. It was a family tradition. But we knew it looked weird to outsiders so we didn't push it. We were blown away when an "outsider" actually liked it, sure that this must be a total fluke.

In fact, some church growth experts exhort us to expunge any trace of eggplanty-ness from church life. The key to success is to get rid of anything idiocyncratic or odd. Jettison anything that is not immediately accessible and enjoyable: old hymns, prayers of confession, creeds, terms like Advent, Trinity, Ascension, Atonement, or Incarnation. Include nothing that one must learn love over time.

Perhaps this is what Paul was refering to when he claimed, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel!"

And in case you were wondering: yes, the eggplant can be cooked much more quickly in the microwave, but the resulting spread will have much less complexity and richness of flavor. Sort of like certain praise choruses . . . . .


Quotidian Grace said...

"like certain praise choruses": the 7/11 ones. You know, seven lines sung eleven times.

Loved this post.

Apostle John said...

Glad I found your blog -- very interesting reading

St. Casserole said...

Excellent! This will preach! I believe I'll put it in my illustration file, with proper credit to you.

LutheranChik said...

Go in peace and serve the eggplant! :-)

(Believe it or not, we had eggplant for supper tonight!)

Seriously -- let's stop being ashamed of being who we are, and being ashamed of our collective Christian heritage, and tell the Church Growth marketing wonks to go do something useful in the world while the rest of us get on with being the Church.

Preacher Mom said...

Love this analogy! I'm with Apostle John - glad to find you. I'll be dropping in again soon!

Preacher Mom said...

Love this analogy! I'm with Apostle John - glad to find you. I'll be dropping in again soon!

Preacher Mom said...

Sorry - my cat is stretched out across my lap and half of my laptop. (She enjoys blogs, too!) Didn't mean to hit the button twice.

the reverend mommy said...

Amen, sister!

BTW, our spread is made of roasted cloves of garlic, mixed with butter. Doesn't look too bad, but boy you don't have to worry about people getting in your face!