You know how a recipe tells you exactly what ingredients to add and exactly how much? And if you deviate from the recipe you might end up making something tasty but at some point it stops being what you set out to make?
Well. For the past few years I’ve wanted to write a recipe for my own religion. I’ve had a vision of a personal farm-to-table spiritual restaurant. It’s a theory which has arisen based on the belief that only I could know my body’s optimum diet well enough to concoct the right spiritual practices for me.
So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. I’ve been clunking around the kitchen, wondering whether bay leaves, thyme, tuna, apple sauce, vinegar, pineapple, and ricotta cheese compliment each other. (Metaphorically speaking.)
One reason is that I like creating things. Another reason is that I felt betrayed by the faith I followed so passionately for so long.
But a huge reason I rarely admit is that I absolutely hate to follow directions. It’s a compulsive problem. Following directions makes me feel like a lemming, barreling and bleeding through rock and fire and water at the behest of some sociopath’s plan for world domination and I would rather stab myself to death a thousand times than to be led off a cliff by another Piper.
Anyway, the point is- if recipe calls for a tablespoon of sugar I’m immediately thinking about how the inventor of the recipe could not have possibly anticipated how much I love sugar and could therefore not have gotten it correct. Same with hot sauce. Same with anything. You can rely on this simple truth: I don’t trust whoever wrote the rules.
But last week in the kitchen I followed a recipe and it kind of worked. There were 7 simple instructions written in pencil on a stained 3 by 5 card. It was an old family recipe, a marinade we use to tenderize venison. In my memory it was a manly sort of recipe where A1 was bound to be involved. In reality I had to use lemon juice and soy sauce and absolutely no A1 at all.
But I followed the instructions for a change a before I was halfway through the whole house was filled with that familiar smoky scent. It was the soy/lemon combo that convicted me of my ignorance. What a weird moment in the kitchen- my eyes bulging at that stained old recipe card and instead of thinking about instructions for a marinade I was thinking about instructions I’ve heard all my life- how I ought to attend church weekly, pray daily, read and meditate in the mornings, give away a portion of my income, and so on.
And though I’m sure it wouldn’t strike everybody this way- as I was standing before empty bowls at the kitchen counter, with JD watching me, I found a strange comfort in the reliability of a recipe to follow. I skipped the A1 and I trusted that lemon juice would work. And weirdly, I believed it would work- that I wouldn’t ruin another large hunk of meat. (I’ve had to throw away a bunch of meat ever since JD was born and I started cooking dinners.)
Maybe this means I’m willing to follow directions- but like with God stuff. That’s terrifying to print. It’s easy for me to admit ignorance in the kitchen but it’s the opposite with religion. I feel as though I’ve tasted everything, as though I understand the underlying principles of spiritual sweets and spiritual sours, that I’ve known God and even understood certain mysteries. So to now arrive back at the curtain of unbelief, to admit that even with all the experience I’ve accumulated that I maybe need a simple recipe to follow- one made by someone else- now that is a marinade I don’t want to stew in.