The kinship of food and meal making is part of the human experience. But like many other things in life, the Jesuits offer us wisdom on how to be present with God in moments of everyday miracle and blessing – including mealtimes.
Father Bob Lyons, S.J., has been a Jesuit for 50 years, and a foodie his whole life. (Although, he admits that in his childhood he was a big fan of the popular canned Spaghetti-O’s.) He believes that when one is creating food, one is creating a social environment. “It’s not so much about what we eat, but that we do it together,” he says.
That’s how he landed the role of master chef when the Jesuits gather for special occasions. He keeps his recipes on old cards and computer files like the best of us, and he’s had his fair share of kitchen blunders, citing a time that he undercooked multiple Thanksgiving turkeys for a group of about 60 Jesuits and friends. He doesn’t have a favorite recipe, and doesn’t think a meal has to be expensive or complicated to show love to your guests – it just has to be made with intention. “A bowl of cereal in the morning, or a run for a fast-food cheeseburger, that’s not an event!” He loves summer picnics, pasta bakes and French onion soup. His favorite part about making food is the making of conversation that inevitably happens when people are gathered, and the fond memories we collect with our calories.
Fr. Lyons fondly remembers a time that he was invited to a student’s home to learn how to make homemade ravioli. He carried the recipe card in his wallet until years later when he found himself in Saratoga, California, visiting another student’s family. The children of the house especially loved getting their hands and everything else covered in flour, and though it wasn’t a step on the recipe card, the warm summer day demanded they run through the sprinkler in the backyard after to clean off.
“I suppose it is a spiritual experience, to engage others in conversation and to work together,” he says. With a gesture of his hand he shoos away all media devices from his kitchen and dining table. “No smart phones, no television sets, none of that!” The divine purpose of cooking? To slow things down and let down our defenses. “We are one together, we can learn from one another.”
Where is God in the kitchen? He’s in the extra love added to every recipe, the meals we make for others, and in the food we are blessed to receive. The meal is a continual reminder that we can find God in all things.
READ MORE: Who’s serving the Jesuits? Learn about Chef TJ Shelton and his role at Gonzaga’s Jesuit House.
[By Sidnee Grubb, ’18]