Instantly, intensely, I was swept up into an
experience that engulfs and transcends the senses…
Where to Begin?
I once heard a fiery preacher pronounce that we need a vision for life big enough to get us up in the morning. Breakfast comes to mind.
You’ll understand, then, that writing this post is tough. I want to illustrate what I mean by speaking of a life-vision and breakfast in the same breath. But how do I select a few “top” examples out of so many heavenly candidates? So, here I offer only some of the best of my best. And perhaps you’ll also allow me a little more space with this particular reflection to celebrate such surpassing wonders.
As a young boy I stayed with my grandparents in another town in another state for a whole week every summer. These were great highlights of my youth. Grandpa introduced me to the thrill of watching live stock-car races. The height of those highlights was breakfast with my Grandma.
My Grandma was an out-of-this-world cook, and as much and more a gentle and kind person as anyone I’ve met. Breakfast in her kitchen was an event of peace and wonder. Home-made rhubarb sauce was her crown jewel, real and pure, hot and steamy. Instantly, intensely, I was swept up into an experience that engulfs and transcends the senses. Let me put it this way: If you don’t believe it’s possible there is a good God, you just haven’t tasted my Grandma’s rhubarb sauce! The good news is, you can wait for it: She’ll be there again, serving her rhubarb sauce, and I’d love to share some with you.
Our Favorite Things
Not surprisingly then, one of our family’s favorite things is sharing artful food together, often at breakfast. In Grand Rapids, it’s at Arnie’s, with our young children slurping up their pancake syrup and where I would eat gourmet cakes for breakfast every day if I were allowed. In Los Angeles, it’s brunch at Ports of Call, with a window overlooking the water and more dreamy destinations over the horizon. In the Twin Cities, it’s Chianti Grill brunch for Father’s day, the Finish Bistro with best friends, a new food adventure with our daughter and son-in-law… That’s where I learned the joy that, near or far, home is where we celebrate breakfast together.
So many of my greatest breakfasts feature, more than the food, the friends I share it with. Breakfast with my friend whom I consider a brother on a sunny morning with the waves washing onto Laguna beach… Talking politics with another brother over a classic Key’s Café breakfast – the only place in the world I know of where you can order a Loon omelet, and where my friend and I raise a coffee toast to our hope that true justice will yet reign on earth… Sharing a sidewalk skillet of steaming fare with my son at the Buttered Tin and talking anything that comes to mind for living life together on the way…
Salmon on Earth
This one is on my bests list first because it is my favorite breakfast combo: Grilled orange Salmon, baby red paprika potatoes, onions, peppers, topped with soft-poached eggs and a spicy mango chutney. The best poetry is versed in food.
This one makes my bests list for another reason, too. It is served up by one of my wife’s and my favorite restaurants: The Good Earth. We dined (or swooned) there together back in our dating days in Minneapolis. We craved many stress-relief study-breaks over cinnamon tea and twelve-vegi soup there during our seminary years in Pasadena, another location, rhyming menus. And they were still serving twelve-grain pancakes from the earth’s blessings years later when we returned to Minneapolis. Yes, this whole breakfast thing is about the good blessings of good life in a good creation. Thank you, God. Thank you, my love, for sharing with me the joy of great times together spiced by good food!
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad…
For the wedding of the Lamb has come…
Blessed are those who are invited
to the wedding [feast] of the Lamb.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
Whoever is thirsty, …let [them] take
the free gift of the water of life.
– John’s New Testament Revelation, 19, 22 (NIV)
Some time ago, my family and I experienced the challenging and exhilarating experience of living for nearly a year in Pune, India. The food in India is truly heavenly. The multiple mixes of kaleidoscopes of seasonings is so exquisite, the only possible explanation is centuries of mastering the art of food.
Another blessing greeted us there: Gifts of generous support, care, and sheer friendship offered so freely I could scarcely believe it. I will not forget the gloriously spicy breakfast buffets my best friend and I shared together, drinking in the food and talking of many things under the sun and beyond. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it forever: Few things go better together than breakfast with a friend!
Really? – we’re gonna’ go there? Yep. And you’ll have to indulge me a little explanation to make sense of this one. You see, Chicago is a bitter-sweet “thing” for me. When our young family resided there for a preaching internship one summer, we found ourselves in a neighborhood NEAR the south side that was 95% White. I was dumbfounded by the reality of hyper-racial-segregation. I was not impressed. Of course, I can’t just pick on Chicago: I’ve since lived for some time in what has likely been the most White city in the world – though, in fairness, “the times they are a changin’…” Still, the fact that Chicago (or…) in part embodies such cultural patterns sours a bitter taste in my heart. Yet, I’ve also tasted true goodness in Chicago.
A couple years later I returned for an urban ministry conference hosted by an African-American church IN the south side. For a few days I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of a three-generation Black household. The conference was great, spiritually encouraging, ethically challenging. The highlight came when the Grandma of that household announced she would be taking me out for a day on her town – Chicago! We visited the art museum, talked on the trains, and enjoyed lunch at one of her favorite downtown eateries. There she wove a magical sweet spot for Chicago my memories will never forget. For dessert, this 80-year-old elder orders us “Death-By-Chocolate.” This one would not be in my top-ever breakfasts only because it was lunch, but I’ll take the liberty to fudge it this time.
And then our daughter lived in Chicago for a couple years. She had her own bitter-sweet experiences there – but came to make that city her own, and loved it. Her enthusiasm rubbed off on us. She introduced us to more than one wonderful Chicago breakfast joint. The most memorable, a Scandinavian bakery up one of the train lines north out of downtown amidst ethnic urban neighborhoods. Just a purely wonderful breakfast. So much so that when my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in downtown Chicago a couple years later, we took the “trouble” to go back for more. Some breakfasts are just worth it.
There’s a coffee-shop turned restaurant, a small joint on an urban corner moved to a beautiful location overlooking the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, called the Wilde Roast Café. That’s as in Oscar Wilde, the playwright. The decor evokes his contributions to the art of live theater, another of my favorite things. One of my most joyous memories of my teenage years is the sheer delightful privilege of acting in Sir Wilde’s most loved play, The Importance of Being Earnest. Masterful sarcasm, brilliantly understated comedy, hilariously shallow characters who say it all: what fun! And in this café on memory lane for me, I enjoy my favorite breakfast food done up in a high-society style that Mr. Wilde’s plays make fun with: French Toast, with rum-soaked peaches, and a glorious sauce of caramel and butter and something better, all drizzled strait from heaven with delicate waves of whipped cream.
Simple quiet breakfasts with my wife on summer weekend mornings, outside on a patio of bricks laid by our own engineering, engulfed in a garden of green grass and red roses planted and groomed by our own hands… Now that’s what I call breakfast!
Before I reveal my final entry in this little journal, I must be allowed a dreamy interlude. Here is my simple top-breakfasts-wish-list. A series of breakfasts in exotic eastern cities – Hong-Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney. For some reason, a breakfast of delicate Swiss pastries overlooking Lake Geneva – perhaps in hopes of picking up motivations in the air from one of my Bible-teacher heroes. Shore breakfast on Lake Galilee – an Easter morning sunny-side-up would be ideal! Serving a French toast breakfast for my grandchildren, with rhubarb sauce – hopefully an event to celebrate many times on this growing list. And most dreamy, breakfast (and I doubt the menu will matter) with a champagne bottle of Chianti in a private villa in Tuscany with my bride of thirty-five years (well, ok, it might take us ‘til forty years to save that money)!
I entre one more specialty to top off this menu: Breakfast on the north shore of Lake Superior at the ice-crack of Spring with our faith community. Brother Dan is cooking lake fish, like the resurrected Jesus cooking for his friends on the shore of Lake Galilee. Plus, chef Dan tops it off with his oven-baked French toast (my “favoritist” rendition). Believe me, when the saints go marchin’ in, Dan’s oven-French-toast will be in those numbers.
So there we are, around a spacious wood table next to a warming fire, breaking French toast together in a circle of close and deep friendship. And then they allow me the privilege of serving Holy Communion – one of my favorite feasting activities. Here is the fore-taste of the great breaking-fast to come, when we will dine in the SON on a golden patio beside the river of life in the city of God at the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revel 19, 22)! And already, as in this profound love-feast, the living Jesus is in the midst of us, serving us breakfast!
Life on this Wilde river of a world sails many white waters along its winding course. It takes great vision to embrace this voyage with hope. Amidst the spray, sometimes paradise does break forth on earth. For me, those times often happen at breakfast.
Readers are also encouraged to explore other posts in this series: Living Life
God so loved the world… God is love!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…
and the tree of life…
at the middle of the great street of the city…
and the leaves of the tree
are for the healing of the cultures.
John 3; 1 John 4; Revelation 21, 22