Sunday, December 14, 2014

Angelic Latke Music

Pastor’s sermon last Sunday asked us to pay attention to the message of angels.  I thought it was an excellent sermon – it’s hard to make a new point about the Age Old Story of Christmas, but for me it was jarring.  For the past few weeks and months I think I’ve been getting some messages, possibly from angels.  When I say angels, I don’t mean winged humanoids dressed in frilly clothes, or humanoids with perfectly pleasant behavior.  I mean people with a message from God.

Back in November, I read a disturbing article in The New Yorker about a black teen who was accused of a crime and spent three years in jail before the case was dismissed.  I could not help wondering if the outcome would have been the same if the kid were white.

Before and after reading that, there were events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland…

This Thursday I went to a Presbytery meeting, where we spent an hour in an ongoing examination of the cost of racism. 

There is not liberty and justice for all, in this land.  That’s the angels’ simple message. But they have not told me what a white middle-aged suburban woman can do about it.

On Friday I had to get started on making potato latkes.  This is an annual ritual in which potato shards and a thin layer of oil get distributed all over the kitchen. This time, rather than live-streaming the latkes straight to the plates of hungry people, I was cooking them solo, to freeze for the synagogue Hanukkah dinner next week.   I needed some music for the next 1 ½ hours of potato mayhem.  What better expression of “December dilemma” than to listen to Handel’s Messiah (Christmas portion) while cooking Jewish holiday food?

To the strains of “Comfort ye, my people,” I cried over the chopping of the onion.  With “Every valley shall be exalted… and the rough places plain,” I was peeling the rough skin and bumps off the potatoes.  “And he shall purify” the extra starch out of the shredded potatoes. 

I added the other ingredients, but the batter looked a bit weird.  Just when we got to “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” it dawned on me that I had forgotten to add the flour.
Latke batter.  Purists would probably use only
 matzo meal rather than flour.  I didn't feel like rooting around
in the basement to find the matzo meal.

Soon, the oil was heating up, and an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds, who were “sore afraid.”  Angels again! The shepherds’ fear reminded me of the Cost of Racism discussion.  Fear lies at the heart of racism.  Some people have paid a heavy, heavy price.  I am afraid to do anything about it, and besides, I am not sure what to do about it. 

At first, I made only 3 latkes at a time, so as
 to not get distracted and burn them.
I started the process of frying the latkes.  I hit my stride when the music got to “Come unto him, all ye that labor.”  

Twelve precious latkes, ready to freeze.  Of course, I measured
them, because in my experience with Jewish food,
By the time I had twelve latkes ready to go in the freezer, we were beyond the Christmas portion of the oratorio – moving beyond glory, light, and joy.  “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” made me think of the grief of the mothers of these young men who have been killed.  Of the grief of police officers who have the difficult task of maintaining safety and order, who have to deal with frightening situations all the time.

What would That Man of Sorrows have to say about us?  About me?

See the jelly roll pan of latkes in the freezer?  I get such
grief from the family for using the jelly roll pan
for anything BUT making jelly roll.
But it's perfect for freezing latkes.

I ended up putting 30 latkes in the freezer.  The crowd on Tuesday will probably consume about 500 latkes. My effort is just a drop in the bucket, and yet it is more effective than I feel I could be against racial injustice.  It is not time, yet, for the Hallelujah Chorus.

I don’t know where the angels’ messages will lead me.  For now, I am just doing some reading.  I have started The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander.  I’d welcome other reading suggestions on the topic.  Having said that, I have to delay more consideration of this serious issue because I must spend every waking minute in the next week either practicing the piano or making latkes. 

The aftermath of latke making.


Angie said...

As your blog title states, "Deep Thoughts . . . " I don't know the answer either. Wish someone did. Your latkes look delicious!Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, dear friend!

JJ said...

It frustrates me to no end that, although some progress has been made, there is still a looooong way to go in treating people equally.

Alison said...

Sadly, there is much in our society today that is fear-based. :(

Green Girl said...

It almost seems like we've backpedaled on this issue. In college I learned from Gloria Ladson-Billings who has written on this topic with and educational lens. It makes my heart weary.

The Crislers said...

I think you should have everyone who eats one of your latkes read this post before consuming, so they don't just gulp it down; these latkes deserve introspection and gravity. I like how you laid out your thought process as you worked; I feel like many of us are thinking along similar lines while trying to go about our daily lives.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

These are deep thoughts, worthy of the savoring of latkes made with such care. I listen at the Presbytery meeting and am comforted that people are noticing, that they do care, and then I read the writings of those who have left/would like to leave the PC(USA) and feel like pulling out my hair. Micah 6:8 continues to convict and challenge me, as does Matthew 22:36-40.
Thank you for being one who cares.

slow panic said...

I'm so glad you wrote this post. I feel that same helplessness as another middle-aged white woman. All of the tension and racism and evil and wrongness just breaks my heart but I have no idea what I should do and so I just turn away from it (if I'm completely honest).

I think reading is a good place to start. Really. The more we know the more we can do. Even if it is just in the way we interact with others

Also, on a lighter note -- does anyone use jelly roll pans to make jelly rolls? I think not! I'm using mine to make some toffee this morning....