Michelle and I had the most delightful anniversary dinner on Friday evening at La Boucherie, a fantastic foretaste of what must await us in farmie foodie heaven. Even though each dish we had could by itself be a contender for best meal it was really the coupling together and arrangement of the dishes in a what felt like a food symphony of ever increasing crescendos that made the overall experience what is hands down the best meal we have ever had. For those familiar with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, think of that meal Michael Pollan described with the prophet of farming and food Joel Salatin (who, it should be noted, is presently in the UK with fellow Vashon parishioner Brandon Sheard, the Farmstead Meatsmith). Similar to that now famous Polyface Farm meal, everything which was crafted into the more than six courses we were served for our anniversary dinner at La Boucherie was grown or raised on the owner’s Sea Breeze Farm also located on Vashon Island. Such locally sourced food was then artfully prepared by La Boucherie which specializes in and has begun offering courses in charcuterie.
Our guided pilgrimage into French farmhouse cuisine began with amuse-bouches and, like each course, was perfectly paired with a French wine. The pâté and salad courses revealed not only excellent food—some of which was formerly part of the ambience growing around us—but also the passion for authentic food our server shared; Rose moved to Vashon in order to cultivate such food at Sea Breeze Farm where she has been butcher, cheesemaker, and candler. Michelle just about stopped at the ecstasy brought on by the pork broth which bathed the grilled mortadella steak, chard, and carrots while the subsequent course of ravioli bolognese was for me just about good enough to die for—a fate with which I had already chosen to flirt despite my α-gal mammal meat allergy. As the evening continued on and as the al fresco dining porch was getting filled we were brought by the chef two different varieties of beef, one dry aged in Sea Breeze’s own cave, along with braised vegetables. Finally, two different desserts including a clafoutis topped with roasted hazelnut ice cream and paired with sauternes, locally roasted coffee, and herbal tea capped off our evening before we made our leisurely Passeggiata around town.
At some point, ever the liturgist, I pointed out to Michelle that our server gave us a perfect example of what diakonia looked like in a classical context, the same term being taken over into Christian usage and, therefore, was an illustration or analogue of what a diaconal liturgical role ought to be. Rose heightened the experience of the meal, explaining the food and drink she set before us, where it came from, and prepared us to enjoy it, though without intruding on Michelle and my encounter through the meal. Our server shared her involvement in the opus, the work, of Sea Breeze, being one of the butchers, cheesemakers, and having moved to Vashon to grow such food and, therefore, was interested in sharing her investment in and passion for the food. In the same way a deacon in the liturgy should be personally invested in and through ministry in the corporal works of the parish and bring this to bear into the sacred liturgy making palpable the link between those (our opus, our work) and the opus Dei (the saving work God does in making us participators in the divine liturgy). By thus connecting the terroir and meal as did our server, serving as a visible, the deacon serves as an incarnate link between the corporal and spiritual, both holding together the the earthy and haute cuisine we’re too wont to separate in our all too often insipid imagination.
We returned home reminiscing about some of our favorite films about food, films that focus on the splurge, the eucharistic self gift of the culinary artist who brings people together in conviviality, such as Babette’s Feast, Big Night, and even Ratatouille. Indeed, with the eyes of faith we can see that “To eat good food is to be close to God” and, with palettes and imaginations awakened to the delight of creation cultivated, rise to say to all people, “In Paradise you will be the great artist that God meant you to be. Ah, how you will delight the angels!”