The Beautiful and Holy Act of Feasting

One of my favorite elements in Stephen Lawhead’s books is when he writes about food. For those who do not know about Stephen Lawhead, he is a writer of historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and imaginative Celtic mythology who has been creating stories of beauty and power for over 30 years. (If you are not familiar with his work, do yourself a favor and rectify that as soon as you can.) I have been reading Lawhead’s books since I was in the 4th grade. I devoured them as if they were water to a parched man. One of the common traits of his writing is the vivid and enticing description of times of feasting. The times of food, drink, and fellowship. These moments never disappoint.

The thing that made these moments so powerful, even though I did not recognize this fact until I was much older, is that they were not really about the food, however wonderful and appealing his descriptions could be. He had a more profound reason for painting these scenes of culinary joy. Lawhead knew the true, sacred power of The Feast.

Perhaps my favorite moment of feasting in any of Lawhead’s book occurs in The Paradise War, the first book of his magnificent trilogy, The Song of Albion. The protagonist, Lewis Gillies, a reserved, timid, and decidedly uncurious American studying in London, has come face-to-face with something he cannot completely understand. I will not spoil the fun but it is enough to know that things happen that should not happen based on our understanding of the world and he is struggling to make sense of it all. He meets a rather odd individual, Professor Nettles, who helps guide him in this strange new journey he frankly does not want to take. After Nettles attempts to explain the mysterious things that are happening to Lewis to rather unsatisfying results, he changes tack. Nettles takes Lewis to visit The Serbian. They arrive at what appears to be a warehouse, yet inside hides a place of unexpected joy and delight. It is a restaurant of sorts. A place where the owner and proprietor, Deimos, selects the meal for the patrons. He serves them with his own hands, bringing out one amazing dish after another. Lewis’s inhibitions and fears slowly melt away, under the unbridled exuberance of his host and of Nettles as they feast. Lewis succumbs to the revelry and digs in with abandon. The food, the drink, and the comradery in that old warehouse is a thing of beauty and it works on Lewis’s soul in a way that words, and facts never could. The wonders and possibilities of the “otherworldly” become tangible to him on that night.

It was Christmas of 1987. I was 10 years old. I grew up as a missionary kid in the country of Panama. That Christmas we experienced something that while shrouded in the haze of my childhood has never left my soul and heart untouched. Our neighbors, a couple who I honestly do not remember at all, invited us over for Christmas Eve dinner. In Panama, the custom is to eat a big, lavish meal on Christmas Eve at midnight. I have few memories of the night other than an overwhelming feeling of rightness of it all. The table, in my probably not completely accurate memory, was filled with foods of all kinds. There were meats, vegetables, salads, side dishes, desserts, everything you could ever want, all prepared with skill and care. And it was all there for us. Perhaps my parents have some idea as to why we were invited there that night. I do not. I do know it was a night I will never forget. Everything about that evening and that meal felt good. It felt exactly the way it was supposed to be. That is the best way I can describe it. It was right. While I am unsure about the spiritual state of our neighbors at that time, I do know our meal together was something special and sacred. They blessed our family that Christmas in a way that I am not sure even they realized.

I need to be clear about something at this point. I am not trying to make some grand theological point. I am not aware of the Bible speaking clearly or passionately about feasting in the manner in which I am writing. With that said, I do know that Scripture is full of examples of people enjoying meals together. Food and the sharing of it with others winds its way throughout the pages of Scripture. One of the most famous verses in Ecclesiastes tells us “that there is nothing better for [humanity] than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” We are also exhorted to do everything for the glory of God and that includes our eating and drinking. The Old Testament law, given to Moses by God Himself is full of times of feasting and celebration. Those holy days were divinely mandated. While Christians usually do not celebrate those specific days anymore, the foundation and truth behind them endure.

More than that, it is in the very actions of the people we read about in Scripture that we get a clearer picture. When Abraham meets the traveling strangers – the LORD Himself and His angels – he prepares a meal and eats with them. The Prodigal son is welcomed home with a feast. Jesus feeds those who follow him in miraculous fashion. The Last Supper. The great Wedding Feast of the Lamb that awaits all who believe. It is clear that feasting, eating together, is not something man invented. It is something good and holy that our Creator set in our hearts from the very beginning.

Perhaps my favorite Scriptural example of this is found in the final chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus is alive. He has defeated death. He has appeared a few times to His disciples at this point but is not with them at all times as He used to be. He makes periodic appearances now. On this day, Peter and a few others head out to fish. It is something they know. Something they understand, which they need desperately in this time of things that simply make no sense to them. They fish all night but catch nothing. Jesus, standing on the shore, sees them and tells them to cast their nets on the other side. This has happened before and they know it, though they still are not convinced it is Jesus who is speaking to them. They obey, though, and they catch so many fish their nets are close to breaking. Peter is the first to accept that it is Jesus and he jumps from the boat and makes his way to the shore to be near his Lord. The rest of the disciples follow in the boat. Once they are all there, they find that Jesus has a fire prepared and is already cooking fish for them. He has bread as well. He invites them to come eat breakfast with Him. He breaks the bread and hands pieces to each of them. He does the same with the fish. The creator of the universe, the conqueror of death and the grave, cooks breakfast and serves them with His own hands. What a picture of humility! It is also such a simple and normal moment, one that is relatable to all of us. It is a meal. A time to sit down, eat, talk, and be with those He loves. In the midst of their confusion, uncertainty, and excitement, Jesus chooses to eat with this group of men who have followed Him for years.

I am probably stretching the limits of reasonable applicability and there are probably biblical scholars reading this who are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at my overzealous leaps of logic. I cry mercy. Perhaps I am overstating things. I do not think so but I will leave that to my betters to decide. I do know how my experiences have shaped me. I have felt the warmth, grace, joy, intimacy, love, and overwhelming rightness of feasting. I have experienced it with family and with friends, with neighbors and strangers. I have experienced it at church potlucks. I have seen what food and drink and companionship can create. I have seen it and know that it is good.

I have these friends. We will call them Sonia and Marvin. For as long as I have known them, they have lived out the truth of feasting better than anyone. They open their home constantly, inviting friends, family, and even some whom they have just recently met, and they break bread together. The food is always good, but that is secondary. What matters most, the thing that makes what they do so powerful, is that they open their home and their hearts and make everyone who enters part of their family. It is Christ-like and beautiful and it has blessed my life more times than I can say.

If done well, these times of feasting can be times of intense bonding. These times of feasting can loosen the tongue, open the heart, and remove obstacles to fellowship. This Easter, enjoy your time of feasting for it is a good and holy thing. Do so with the understanding that your Creator blesses all such acts of righteous pleasure. We were created to enjoy His many blessings and times of feasting and fellowship are blessings of the highest order. Gather with your family and friends, give thanks to the Father who gives us all good things, and enjoy this gift of the Feast.




Una Perspectiva Panameña sobre la Semana Santa

Puesto que pasé casi 30 años en Panamá como misionero, tengo una perspectiva sobre la Pascua de Resurrección que confío que haya enseñado una lecciones importantes.

En primer lugar, la Semana Santa en nuestros primeros años en Panamá tendía a ser influida mucho por el Catolicismo Romano, la religión predominante en Panamá. La semana entera era templada, con menos énfasis en los aspectos comerciales de la vida. El viernes santo era sobrio y solemne, las emisoras de radio y canales de televisión sólo podían tocar música solemne, penas funerarias, etc. Las iglesias celebraban misa para conmemorar el viernes santo. No había deportes o entretenimiento. Posteriormente, el viernes santo llegaba a ser más secular, y ha continuado así. Es posible que algunas emisoras de radio hayan mantenido programación solemne, pero no así los canales de televisión. Algunas personas mayores, estrictamente católicas, dicen que la fecha se ha convertido en tiempo feriado, pero no “día santo.”

Es interesante que en aquellos años el domingo de resurrección era como cualquier día normal. Se llamaba “domingo de gloria”, pero según nuestra perspectiva no había mucha celebración de la resurrección de Cristo, y la gente iba a la playa, tenía paseos, visitaba familia, etc., básicamente como cualquier otro tiempo cuando no le tocaba trabajar. Pero ni la solemnidad ni la frivolidad le tocaba a la gente profundamente. La solemnidad no influía a la gente a venir a Cristo para pedir perdón de pecado y recibir un Salvador que cambiaría su vida. La frivolidad no era gozo cristiano, basado en la certeza del Señor resucitado que había conquistado la muerte.

¡Qué diferencia descubrimos en la iglesia evangélica! En primer lugar, muchas iglesias celebraban un culto especial para el viernes santo que daba énfasis a los últimos siete dichos de Cristo desde la cruz. Yo pude participar en muchos de esos cultos durante los años, a veces predicando una de las siete palabras, como en un servicio unido, y a veces predicaba los siete dichos. El culto a veces se extendía mucho, pero el enfoque teológico y práctio ayudaba al cristiano y daba un buen desafío.

Cantábamos canciones como “Hay Un Precioso Mantanial,” y “¿Qué Me Puede Dar Perdón?” Además, cantábamos sobre la pasión de Cristo como “Oh Qué Amor,” y ¿”Sabes Que Murió Jesús?,” ese último cantada a la música de una canción popular en Los Estados Unidos en los años 1960 “Sealed With a Kiss.” Canciones hermosas, melódicas sobre la muerte de nuestro Salvador en la cruz que me tocaron profundamente, pero desconocidias en inglés.

El Domingo de Resurrección siempre era un día especial en Panamá. Cantábamos en español por supuesto, canciones como “La Tumba Le Encerro” (“Up From the Grave He Arose,”) con volumen y emoción, y luego escuchábamos en mensaje predicado en ese día de días.
Nosotros pudimos introducir el concepto de servicio de amanecer a la iglesia de Bethania donde servimos unos 15 años. Creo que algunas iglesias ya lo hacían, pero era concepto nuevo para muchos a quienes vimos llegar a los pies del Señor, y rápidamente se convertía en una de las actividades más populares e inspiradoras del año. Un servicio temprano, generalmente como las 5:30 o 6:00 a.m., seguido por un desayuno, y luego la Escuela Dominical, significaba un día glorioso en el Señor y con Su pueblo.

Recuerdo nuestro primer domingo de resurrección en Panamá en 1978, cuando nos reuníamos los domingos en la noche. Creo que era un 26 de marzo. Nuestro servicio principal se celebraba los domingos en la noche en aquel tiempo. Cantamos. Oramos. Yo prediqué. Al final, un joven de más o menos 20 años pasó al frente para recibir a Cristo. Su palabras fueron estas: “Sabía que tenía que haber algo más en la vida de lo que yo había encontrado, y esta noche lo he encontrado en Jesucristo.” ¡Cristo resucitó! ¡Él vive! ¡Ha resucitado. Ha resucitado verdaderamente!

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in English on April 13, 2017. You can read it here.)




An Ode to Imo’s Pizza

I’ll keep this brief. I love Imo’s Pizza. I have as long as I can remember. My grandparents lived in the St. Louis area and any time we were visiting, a trip to Imo’s was non-negotiable.

I realize there are many people who do not know about Imo’s Pizza. It is a regional pizza chain, mostly located in St. Louis and the surrounding areas. As of yet, they have not wanted to expand their footprint. While their influence is small, their fans are incredibly loyal. Their pizza is unique and if you like it, you probably love it on an almost irrational level.

There are also a decent number of people who do not care for Imo’s Pizza. I pity them, though I understand their position. Imo’s pizza is different. The crust is thin – cracker thin yet still chewy. They don’t use mozzarella cheese – though you can order their pizza with mozzarella if you don’t like their regular cheese. They use a specialty cheese called “Provel” that is gooey, flavorful, and the instigator of many very strong reactions. You like it or you don’t. There is not much middle ground when it comes to provel cheese. Wikipedia says it’s a “white processed cheese product particularly popular in St. Louis cuisine, that is a combination of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone cheeses.” That sort of describes it. What Provel does is give Imo’s pizza a flavor unlike any other pizza you have ever tasted. That can be a deal-breaker for many, who have certain expectations when they consume pizza. Imo’s shatters those expectations and wins a lot of new fans but it also drives away a good number of disgruntled pizza fundamentalists as well.

This past weekend, we took the second Lytle Man[1. You can read about the first Lytle Man trip here.] trip to St. Louis to celebrate the 13th birthdays of two more Lytle boys. Friday, on the way there, we stopped at Imo’s for supper. We devoured the pizza. Everyone in our group loves Imo’s Pizza so there was no kowtowing to certain pizza expectations. We love it so much that we stopped at that same Imo’s on the way back to Nashville on Sunday for lunch. Yes, we ate Imo’s pizza two times in the span of less than 42 hours. We regret nothing. I had a cold all weekend and on our first visit to Imo’s, I could barely taste it. It was still amazing. On our second visit, my taste buds were operating at about 70% and the pizza was that much better. Honestly, I can’t get over how good it was. It was the perfect cap off to our trip.

One final thought. If you have never had Imo’s Pizza and you find yourself in the St. Louis area and want to try it, keep an open mind. Don’t expect traditional pizza. It’s not that. It’s something altogether different and better. It’s Imo’s. And that means amazing.





“Why I Grew a Luxurious Beard” or “The Key to Instant Manliness”

I am a man. A 41-year-old man, to be more precise. I am married, so I have done enough to attract and keep a woman interested in me. I have procreated – my three boys are proof of that. I love sports. I repeat: I love sports. I enjoyed playing football, basketball, and any other sport I could participate in while I was growing up. I love meat and I enjoy grilling the aforementioned meat. These are important things to know upfront because the next few paragraphs are somewhat embarrassing.

I have no interest in cars. I couldn’t begin to change the oil in my car or do any car-related repairs. I have tools but they are the basics, and even those I rarely use. I cannot build things. I am not handy around the house. (Though I am the good kind of handsy with my wife, but that is irrelevant information at this juncture…and borderline inappropriate.) I am an abject failure when it comes to fixing things in my home. I can change a light bulb or the batteries of a smoke detector, but ask me for more than that, and I will laugh in your face. Or cry. I cry a lot. At least, I cry when watching movies, listening to music, or reading books. I cry at church sometimes.

I hug my kids. I tell them I love them often – almost every day. I write sappy things. I care about emotions and feelings and things like that.

I don’t work out much…ever. I couldn’t beat most men in a wrestling match, though I would excuse myself since wrestling with other men sounds about as appealing as licking a cheese grater. When the world descends into a “Mad Max” hell-scape, I will be one of the first to die. I know it. I can’t pull off the whole dirty leather look and living in the desert would just be the worst. I could not survive in the wild for more than a few hours. I am not rugged.

Yet, I want people to think of me as a man’s man. I long to be viewed as a man that can handle himself in a fight. Someone who can take care of his family and if called into action could physically restrain an intruder. Reading that list above of all the things I am not good at, it would take me a lifetime to become proficient in them, and frankly, I don’t have that kind of time. And it sounds super hard. As previously stated, I am 41. I needed a way to improve my manliness without all the hard work.

So I grew a beard. A manly, glorious beard. I don’t want to brag, well, maybe a little, but my beard is awesome. When the light strikes it just right, it has red undertones that really make it hard to ignore. I’ve had complete strangers approach me and compliment my beard. No one ever did that when it was just my face. My beard has that kind of power. I can sense newfound respect in the eyes of people to whom I am speaking. Before people would look at me and my stupid beardless face and they would ignore me. No more! They see my luxurious beard and they can do nothing but listen to me with total admiration shining in their eyes.

Another benefit of having a magnificent beard is that it has amplified some of my already impressive skills. I’ve always had a good glare when someone has done me wrong or cut me off in traffic. Adding this amazing beard to the mix has turned that glare into a weapon that is almost too powerful. I brought a woman to tears the other day while driving home. She tried to merge into my lane with my car in the way and didn’t notice me (or my car) until I honked at her. She jerked back into her lane, looked in my direction, and I unleashed the glare. She looked both horrified and terrified. She immediately started bawling and nearly came to a complete stop on the interstate in an effort to escape my fierce, bearded glare. I hope she made it home safely. I’ve had to learn to temper the power of my glare now that I have an unbelievably cool beard.

So what’s my point? It’s simple actually. If you are like me and struggle with being as manly as you want to be – grow a beard. It doesn’t really fix any of your deficiencies but it makes you look so impressive that no one will even care anymore. For those sad, pitiful, unmanly men out there that can’t grow beards, I am so, so sorry. There is no hope for you. Just do us all a favor and try to stay out of public as much as possible. We don’t want to look at your ridiculously un-bearded face any more than we have to.
 

“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.” – Bill Shakespeare

 




Unprecedented Celebration Erupts After Hillary Clinton Announces She is Not Running for President

Washington, D.C. – In a show of unity not seen since the days after 9/11, the entire nation has come together to rejoice and celebrate the announcement that Hillary Clinton has finally given up any delusions of ever being the President of the United States. A party has broken out all over the country. Socialists and hard-core Capitalists are hugging in the streets. Ted Cruz and Nancy Pelosi were seen sharing a delicious ice cream sundae. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Donald Trump performed an inspiring Karaoke duet of Kool and the Gang’s classic, “Celebration.” Rachel Maddow and Tucker Carlson won the three-legged race tournament that was co-sponsored by MSNBC and Fox News. Bernie Sanders literally cannot stop smiling and laughing. Even the weather has been in the best mood ever, with temps in the mid-70s and nothing but sunshine as far as the eye can see.

Already three days in, there are no signs this newfound harmony will dissipate any time soon.




Experts Now in Development of Artificial Theology (or A.T.) Designed to Update Scripture and Christian World to Modern Technological Standards

In January of 2020, a team of technologists received the Nobel prize after inventing the first phase of Artificial Theology. The first theological premise generated by this advanced divine program is that the universe was created by a gigantic 3D printer. To date, absolutely no proof has come to light to support the theory, yet techno-savvy scholars the world over are fully on board.

Since that time the new technology has continued to relate further new and exciting biblical-ish facts about the book of Genesis. While the Genesis project is yet at an early stage, debatably the most stunning new fact generated is that the I.R.S. was the original tempter in the Garden of Eden. This has confirmed the long-held belief that they are a thing of great evil. But this is only the beginning. After Genesis, A.T. will generate exciting new truths and facts about the rest of the Bible.

In less than two years, A.T. is anticipated to give birth to a further technology known as Artificial Christianity (or A.C.). In about six years, the project developers anticipate A.C. to have the capability of creating authentic Christian robots pre-programmed to follow a detailed A.C. instruction manual. This will include such protocol involved with things such as ushering, sound booth supervising, security, librarian, choir membership, nursery worker and many other roles.

In addition, the robots will be completely waterproof so they will be able to perform water-based ordinances such as baptism and feet washing. According to an early draft of the A.T. manual, human congregants can stay home on feet washing nights since the robots will be doing it on their behalf. (It is not yet known if robots at any stage can safely ingest foods and liquids so as of yet there are no plans for research and development of robots taking communion).

Expert futurists predict that when the entirety of this ongoing project is completed, the only human Christians doing anything at church except filling a pew will be the pastor, who along with his other duties, will be assigned to robot control.

There is much excitement in the Christian community regarding these imminent developments.

Veronica Samuelson voiced the thoughts of many fellow human Christians: “I can finally just sit in the pew without the guilt of not doing anything!”

Added fellow congregant Roger Ellerson, “Preach it! It will be great not to feel obligated to act on our faith.”

In light of the continuing promise of A.T. and A.C. advancement, theology professors of some of the top secular universities in the world anxiously await the final eradication of all remaining active human faith in the original Bible. Although the predictions exist, its full implications on the future of Christianity are not yet known. However, it is widely known that technology makes everything better, so expectations are high. Its so…exciting!




REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 2)

There are few things that are more emblematic of Southern Evangelical culture than the church potluck. Many jokes (some funny) have been made at the expense of faithful churchgoers enjoying a smorgasbord-type feast after service. Deal with it, we like to eat and we like to eat with our friends and fellow believers. Of course, when you open up the menu to any item that any person wants to bring, things can get a little tricky. It takes wisdom and quick decision-making to ensure that your plate is filled with only the best foods available. That’s where REO comes in. We’ve spent the last few months meticulously sifting through every potluck food imaginable to create our top ten. These are the ten items that consistently rise to the top – the cream of the crop, if you will. Unless something in the preparation process goes horribly wrong, these are the ten items that will not fail you. Today, we bring you the best of the best. We crown our victor and celebrate with all our fans.


Recap: 10-6:

10. Meatballs
9. Velveeta Rotel Dip and Chips
8. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
7. Mexican Cornbread
6. Pigs-in-a-blanket


5. Ham N Cheese Hawaiian Rolls

Hawaiian Rolls were created by the King’s Hawaiian Company in the late 1950s. By 1960, California man Joe Cooper had taken an entire bag of these delicious rolls, cut through the middle, and melted ham and cheese inside them. They were a huge hit with Joe’s family and friends, but Joe was an atheist so his creation never made it to a church potluck. It wasn’t until 1983 when Edna Clarkson took Ham and Cheese Hawaiian rolls to an event at First United Methodist Church in Starkville, Mississippi that the phenomenon was truly born. Lives were changed that day and the church tripled in attendance. The rest, they say, is history. (Mike Lytle)


4. Chili

Picture this…you’re standing at the front of the food line and you’ve just grabbed a styrofoam plate and your plasticware. You scan down the tables of glorious food spread out before you, but something catches your eye…wait…is that??? No…it can’t be! But it is! Someone has haphazardly thrown a bunch of meat, beans and peppers together into a crockpot, added a bunch of spicy chili powder to it, and proudly set it out for all to enjoy. (Rarely have I had a chili that I didn’t like. And when I did eat a chili that wasn’t great, a little extra Tabasco sauce or cheese is all it took to kick it up to a normative level again.) You reach down and pick up a styrofoam bowl as well. Time to feast. (D.A. Speer)

For something so delicious the recipe for chili is actually quite simple (look at me pretending I know how to cook!). Despite its basic ingredients, a pot of chili can taste very different from one potluck to another. Yet nearly every kind of chili is delicious. Unless it’s canned chili which is an affront to nature! I’ve read that many churches have amended their bylaws to include the following, “Thou shalt not bring canned chili to church potlucks”*. I digress. Plain chili is wonderful. But when cheese and crackers/corn chips are added it transforms into something divine!

REO pro tip: Chili holds heat better than most foods. So, at potlucks where the food is prepped well before the designated meal time always go for the chili as it will still be hot. (Mark Sass)

*I read this on the internet so it must be completely factual.


3. Fried Chicken

I could be wrong, but I suspect that if potluck chicken was as consistently good and hot as freshly made fried chicken, this would be higher on this list. Maybe this would be the case. However, Number 3 is still very respectable and is well earned. I do know that it is my close second favorite behind deviled eggs. It is so close that it is pretty much a tie. Yeah, sure, potluck chicken is often a mite on the coldish side—maybe lukewarm—but I still love it. It and deviled eggs are always my go-to potluck foods. (Ben Plunkett)

I have deeply fond memories of Homecoming Sunday every October at Horse Branch Free Will Baptist as a child in the 80s and 90s. It meant I got to see the late NFL games since there was no Sunday night service. But it also meant this extravagant, bountiful smorgasbord of a buffet right after church. And every year I made a beeline for the chicken. It was often cold but it was still so good. Other than Uncle Remu’s at Walmart, I’ve never had a bad piece of fried chicken. And those Church potluck dinners in my childhood were no exception. (Gordy Cannon)


2. Sausage Balls

A well-made sausage ball is hard to beat. Unfortunately, I have developed a weird pork allergy/intolerance so I am now deprived of all the wonderful pork related foods, including sausage balls. Still, even with my new-found ailment, I cannot deny the glory and the wonder of the classic sausage ball. You can eat these things hot, cold, warm, or lukewarm. You can dip them in a sauce or you can eat them just as they are. While they do vary in taste depending on the spice level of the sausage used, they are pretty great in any form.

REO pro tip: The spicier sausage used the better. Also, do not use too much breading. You want these to have a nice balance of meat, cheese, and breading. We don’t call them bread balls, after all. (Phill Lytle)


1. Deviled Eggs

Many ill-advised haters of deviled eggs love to point out that it has “devil” in the name and that therefore it is obviously a thing of great evil. However, back in the 1700’s when deviled eggs first became a thing, “deviled” meant “spiced.” That’s not a joke. Look it up. Anyway, that makes deviled eggs a thing of great good. And indeed, it is, my friends, this soft and supple culinary masterpiece deserves to be in here in the upper reaches of the potluck top ten. Its haters be boggled. They’re the ones of great evil, so there. (Ben Plunkett)

There is nothing devilish about these delightful creations. Look. I get it. If you don’t like eggs, or mayo, or deliciousness, you might find these little bite-sized beauties a bit repulsive. That is entirely your loss and entirely okay with me as that will leave more eggs for me to eat. At any church potluck, one of the first items to be completely eaten are the deviled eggs. Mark it down. That is why they finished number one in our bracket. They might be polarizing but for those of us that love them, they are the go-to item at any potluck dinner. A church potluck without deviled eggs is a truly horrific thing. We want no part of that. (Phill Lytle)

To me the beauty of the deviled egg is the balance of the two main ingredients. I used to watch my mom make the yolk mixture and then eat the leftovers and it was so good, but not nearly as good as when it was with the white of the egg. The two together are just sublime and hence, #1 for this group. (Gordy Cannon)


That’s our list. We’re sure everyone will completely agree with all of our choices. Be sure to post your kind and encouraging reactions in the comment section below. We look forward to reading them and celebrating all these great potluck foods together.




REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 1)

There are few things that are more emblematic of Southern Evangelical culture than the church potluck. Many jokes (some funny) have been made at the expense of faithful churchgoers enjoying a smorgasbord-type feast after service. Deal with it, we like to eat and we like to eat with our friends and fellow believers. Of course, when you open up the menu to any item that any person wants to bring, things can get a little tricky. It takes wisdom and quick decision-making to ensure that your plate is filled with only the best foods available. That’s where REO comes in. We’ve spent the last few months meticulously sifting through every potluck food imaginable to create our top ten. These are the ten items that consistently rise to the top – the cream of the crop, if you will. Unless something in the preparation process goes horribly wrong, these are the ten items that will not fail you. Today, we give you one item that just barely missed the cut as well as numbers 10 through 6. Come back for seconds tomorrow to fill up on the top five.


Honorable Mention

Lasagna

I’m a picky eater. This is not news to anyone who knows me. So, for those kindred souls potlucks can be slim pickins. As I wander down the aisles I often find myself lost amidst a sea of food. Fear and dread build as I press onward into the unknown waters. Will I find something… anything to eat? Or will I collapse from hunger and exhaustion at the row’s end? But the moment when all hope seems lost my eyes discern a twinkle. A pan of golden goodness–lasagna! Shining and radiant like a lighthouse of hope in the darkest of night! Picky eaters gather near and find sanctuary inside the walls of its glass or aluminum pan. (Mark Sass)


10. Meatballs

Is there anything that sounds more appetizing than meatballs? Who is dumb enough to pass up eating balls made out of meat? Not this guy. At any church potluck I have attended, I am sure to look around as quickly as possible to find this most savory dish. Just find the crockpots. Sometimes, the crockpots will have lesser culinary items in them like roast beef or some sort of soggy vegetable, but if you are fortunate, you will find glorious meatballs swimming in a delicious BBQ sauce. I pile my plate high with the balls of meat with no concern for my fellow potluckers. It is their loss if they didn’t go for the meatballs first. (Phill Lytle)


9. Velveeta Rotel Dip and Chips

There are a few foods that I know are truly horrific for my health, but I can’t stop eating them. This is one of those. If you have ever looked at the Velveeta Rotel dip after it has cooled, you will know this is a substance you should never introduce into your gastrointestinal system. We all know it. Yet that doesn’t seem to matter to any of us because it tastes so good! Does this make us bad people? Yes, yes it does. Oh well. Pass the chips… (Phill Lytle)


8. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

There’s nothing to home-cooked food to me quite like a perfectly prepared piece of meat and a perfect side right next to it. Often in my mom’s kitchen, and at countless church potlucks around the USA, mashed potatoes and gravy fits that bill. I’ve loaded my plate with them a couple of times in my life to the point of drawing stares from the other people in line. (Gowdy Cannon)


7. Mexican Cornbread

I enjoy almost any type of cornbread, but this variety takes it up several levels. Mixing cheese and chili peppers into a traditional sweet cornbread recipe is simply genius. The best version of Mexican cornbread is made in a mini muffin pan. I am pretty confident that I could eat my weight in those muffins. Even though Mexican cornbread muffins are not as well known across the country as some items on our list, for me they are a clear number 1. One of the 10 worst moments of my life occurred in April of 2012. I was so far back in line at a church potluck that I missed out on the Mexican cornbread. The wounds from that day have healed, but I still bear the scars. #NeverForget (Mike Lytle)


6. Pigs-in-a-blanket

Somehow I missed out on these as a small child and first tasted them as a teenager outside of my hometown. And I was totally impressed. It wasn’t just a miniature hotdog. It was a miniature hot dog in a pastry where both are packed with flavor. I have probably been to a few potlucks where 80% of what I ate was just these things, especially when it’s mostly finger foods and not a lot of meat is present. God bless the genius who invented them. (Gowdy Cannon)


So there’s the first half of this list. Feedback about it is strongly welcomed below. But don’t judge us too harshly yet! We have the top half coming tomorrow.




In Earnest Praise of the Multitalented Knife

This February, I am bringing to you the next installment in my hotly anticipated kitchen utensil series. This year I introduce to you—drum roll, please…and Triangle, if you don’t mind—well the title already spoiled the surprise so never mind. Anyway, “multitalented” is just one of the many attributes that describe this little sharp slice of silver. It is in equal parts wise, knowledgeable, sober-minded, and lethal when needed. Here are the top five awesomenesses of the kitchen knife:


The Knife has More Use Than You Can Shake A Stick or Knife At.

Like the fork, there are quite a few different kinds of knives. And that’s all I’m saying about that. I am not learned in the many intricacies and various genres of the kitchen knife. There may be a dozen different varieties in our utensil drawer at home. I don’t know. They are all butter knives to me. And then there is the sharp knife holder thingy. As long as I can butter a piece of bread or cut a slab of meat. I’m good, I’m good.


The Knife and Fork are Soul Mates; They is BFFs, Yo!

Last year I named a few of the greatnesses of the royal fork. The fork and spoon are sort of friends, but more like frenemies. The knife and fork, now there is a pair that has chemistry. There is a pair I call true BFFs. The two don’t always work in conjunction with other utensils. However, when there is a silverwarey team-up to be had, its most often betwixt the fork and the knife. Say you have a steak or something that you need to cut. Admittedly, sometimes a piece of meat can be cut with a firm fork push, but sometimes that doesn’t work. In such times, the first utensil the fork calls for help is not the spoon or tongs. No, nor chopsticks or skewers. No, its first call is the knife. It is perfect for the job. Stick that fork in your steak and the knife glides perfectly through those slender prongs and gets the job done. Some are naturally gifted, others were trained by the Central Utensil Agency.


The Knife is the Perfect weapon for the Utensil-Based Superhero.

It has always astounded the utensil superhero world that the Blue Raja[1. The Blue Raja is a hero in the criminally underrated film, Mystery Men. He fights crime by using forks and spoons.] adamantly refuses to wield the greatest of all utensil weapons, but after all, as he clarified for The Shoveler he’s not Knifey Boy or Stab Man. While that does make some sense, the cardinal rule that the CUA teaches all of their superhero students is that the kitchen knife should always be their primary weapon. While it is true that not all kitchen knives are as lethal as a gleaming steak or butcher knife, the serrated butter and table knives can also be worthy servants in daring do.


It is a wonderful bridge for the Tiny Crackeletti.

Not long ago I briefly referred to the relatively unknown sidewalk crack dwelling Tiny Crackeletti Tribe. I mentioned that today they most frequently employ themselves by manning rarely seen sidewalk crack bridges all over the world. One of the of the most famous of these bridges is The Great Butter Knife Bridge, which can be found in a dark alley in New York City. (It’s exact location is a closely guarded secret known only to the Crackeletti world.) Crackeletti from all over the world take a yearly pilgrimage to this gleaming silver structure. It is widely considered to be one of the five Crackeletti-wonders of the sidewalk world.


Certain Knives Are the Most Intelligent Knives in the Kitchen Knifey Kingdom. Nay, of the Entire Utensil World!

You have probably heard the saying in reference to a dim-witted individual, “he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” These days just about everyone takes this as a clever turn of phrase likening ones mental sharpness to the knife’s literal blade sharpness. Oh no, no, no. The knowledge has been lost in the deeps of time that this particular idiom is actually referring to the great intelligence that exists in some knives in the kitchen knife culture. Some are pretty dull, hence “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Truly, some butter knives are so intelligent that they (and some butter and toast) were instrumental in the many visionary innovations of Leonardo da Vinci.





An Open Letter from Maude, the Farting Cow

Hi, Maude here.

It’s come to my attention that a few Democrats recently introduced a new bill called “The Green New Deal.” It’s full of all sorts of wonderful ideas, including retrofitting or rebuilding every building in the United States to meet with new energy standards. That doesn’t sound too difficult to pull off. I mean, it’s not like there are 100s of millions of buildings in the US…

Most of the stuff doesn’t affect my life at all. I am a cow. I have simple needs. Grass. Water. Some room to roam. You know. The usual. If I say so myself, I don’t really ask a lot from the world around me. Me, and others like me, are simple creatures. So, you will share in my shock and horror that this new bill specifically targets me and my, how to put this delicately, flatulence. This bill wants to eradicate, and I quote, “farting cows.”

Excuse me! I will have you know that I suffer from a very common malady among my kind. I have a touch of irritable bowel syndrome. It’s no laughing matter by the way. It can be a bit embarrassing from time to time, but the other cows understand exactly what I am dealing with, as so many others have this or similar gastrointestinal issues. It’s not like we sit around and try to see who can pass the most gas every day. (Well, Henrietta does that but no one likes her and she is giving us all a bad name.) Sometimes, you just have to let one fly. Is that so wrong? Is this where we are as a society that we are going to not only shame cows that are passing gas but plan to get rid of them? That’s a nice way of saying we are going to exterminate all gassy cows. I won’t stand for it. (Well, I’ll stand because lying down is really hard for a cow, but you know what I mean.)

So, this letter is for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez (or Ms. Ocasio-Cowhater as I am going to call her from now on) and her friends that helped write this new bill calling for my death. We reject it out of hand! We will have nothing to do with this blatant and offensive bovine shaming. We ask that everyone else, cow or human or any other creature that struggles with a rumbly tummy, stand with us! Say no to the “Green New Deal” and its ridiculous attempt to get rid of cows. Mooove over, sister and let the adults handle things from now on!