Milton Brasher-Cunningham’s book Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal is a feast packed into a small book. It is a book to savor, and to return to again and again. A mixture of prose, poems, and recipes creates a delightful read, and a sense of sitting around Milton’s table or sitting with him in his kitchen as he prepares a meal. This is a rich book that weaves together reflections on the place of meals and foods in our life and relationships and through these stories of food and cooking illumines the author’s understanding of the Eucharist.
Each Chapter of the book is opened with a poem and concludes with a food poem, I mean, recipe. The connection between the poem the chapter and recipe aren’t necessarily obvious, though the dish of the recipe generally functioned as a central component of the chapter it concludes. I found this as an encouragement to make my own connections and conclusions as a reader. Through the poems I anticipated what I might find in the coming chapter and the recipe allowed me to savor the chapter just read. In doing this I was continually longing for something more. Each chapter left me feeling that there was a hollow part of Brasher-Cunningham’s account of meal and Eucharist.
There is so much to affirm and to relish and savor in this book about meal and Eucharist. The connections between breaking bread around dinner table with friends and family, and the bread broken and distributed, and cup blessed and passed are beautiful and moving. Yet, these metaphors and reflections tended to send me to the anthropocentric aspects of Eucharist. In the we make meals, Brasher-Cunningham seems to conclude, so we as humans of faith make the Eucharist. We become the body of Christ by what we do, by the connections that exist between meal and Eucharist. I find this hollows out the Eucharist of its divinity. The transformation offered as only that which other fallible foible filled humans, Rather than by the very presence of the God-human Jesus Christ in bread and wine.
Keeping the Feast then attends to one side of the equation of the Eucharist, and is a beautiful reflection on how one may weave altar and the meals we share with friends and family every day. The lopsidedness of the book left me wanting more. And perhaps that is part of the point.
Check out Milton Brasher-Cunningham’s recipe blog