The World is No Disposable Ladder To Heaven: RIP, RFC

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Until 2003, Father Robert Farrar Capon served as an assisting priest at the Episcopal church fewer than 300 yards up the street where I grew up. I can remember learning to ride my bicycle in shaky circles in the parking lot of the historic (circa 1830) Baptist church that my father pastored, next to the parsonage where we lived. When I was ready to brave the sidewalk, I pedaled confidently until, passing Holy Trinity Episcopal, I’d invariably begin to totter. “Why do you always go wobbly when you pass the Episcopalians?” my father teased. “Do you find their theology wobbly?”

In truth, I was drawn to Episcopal worship before I had words to explain why. In my own church we sang songs that promised that if we turned our eyes upon Jesus, “the things of earth/will go strangely dim/in the light of his glory and grace.” I was weak in the knees for a way of worshiping that did not pit the “things of earth” against the “glory and grace” of Christ, but was capable of seeing them—the humblest of elements—charged with such glory. This is what makes The Supper of the Lamb remarkable both as a work of theology and as a cookbook: “The world is no disposable ladder to heaven. Earth is not convenient; it is good; it is, by God’s design, our lawful love,” Capon wrote. For Capon, discussing the physics involved in the preparation of a perfectly smooth gravy—down to the details of what sort of whisk does the job best—was of a piece with celebrating the goodness of God who created it all for delight, who means to lift all the good things of this world to grace, to that

unimaginable Session
In which the Lion lifts
Himself Lamb Slain
And, Priest and Victim
Brings
The City
Home.

Robert Farrar Capon’s writing is charged with an intense love for God and for all that God has made; it is deeply opinionated, utterly unique, and saturated with grace, reflecting the quirky appeal of the man himself, who, though now lifted to glory, leaves behind a warm invitation to taste and see that the Lord is indeed good.

{Read more of this piece, which originally appeared at Christianity Today here. Spoiler: RFC once asserted that all mothers should be plump, and he once burned a $20 bill in the pulpit!}

The Best Pizza in All the World

Last year I moved back to my native land–the greater (i.e. downstate) NY area–after many, many years away. I’ve lived in Philadelphia, Chicago, California, Scotland, and Germany in the meantime, traveling to Rome and Paris in between. In each place, I longed for a real NY slice.

Before singing the praises of my hometown pizza, I give you the utterly biased and probably unfair generalizations of the pizzas from my travels:

Philadelphia: Renzi’s pizza in Bridesburg is good, but kinda salty and overly tomatoey for my taste.

Chicago: Stuffed crust is interesting, but kinda gross, and Chicago thin crust tastes icky and Bisquicky. Plus, why do they cut it like that? And why no pizza “by the slice”?

California: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the California Pizza. Pineapple? Yum. Fresh Veg.? Yum. But still not quite like home.

Scotland: Can’t tell you how I hate to confirm the (sometimes unfair) “Bad Food Britain” stereotype. But CORN and PRAWNS on a prefabricated crust with bland, corn starch thickened ketchup tasting sauce? Why?

Germany: Joey’s Pizza isn’t fantastic, but it has a major advantage for the expat who speaks German haltingly and has no car–ONLINE BESTELLUNG und LIEFERUNG! (you order it online and they bring it to your door, free!) The best pizza in Germany is probably made by my friend Crystal. (Hi Crystal!)

Rome: I seriously offended some Italians by saying so, but I found Roman pizza seriously disappointing. That could be because NY pizza is more influenced by a Neapolitan slice (or so I’m told), but I don’t know.

Paris: Some may think this is blasphemous, but we actually ordered in Pizza Hut while staying with a lovely friend outside Paris. It took much longer than US Pizza Hut and tasted much better, too. (My son had a broken leg and we were in crisis mode. Pizza is the official food sponsor of Stone family crisis mode.)

The FIRST DAY we were back on native soil, I HAD TO HAVE pizza from La Capricciosa Brick Oven Pizza, right here in Greenport, NY. 

Oh, this pizza! It’s made from scratch, right there where you can see it. Its crust strikes a perfect balance of crispy and chewy, beautifully dimpled beneath just the right amount of a tomato sauce that’s at once tangy and savory. And the cheese: neither too little nor too much, and none of this part-skim stuff. Health food? I think so. It’s REAL FOOD. Nothing prefab. Nothing fake. Made before your eyes by people you can talk to.

(in case there was any doubt about where allegiances ’round here lie…)
The pizza man was all "why you wanna take a picture of my hands?"
playing with cars helps you wait for your pizza--my nephew (kind of) Dante

(note that my sons KNOW how to fold a real NY slice. so proud.)

It’s truly delicious! Even among NY pizzerias, it is king. I haven’t had a better tasting slice ANYwhere in the world.

{Not that I’m biased or given to superlative statements.}

I suspect that we all have some food or foods that just taste RIGHT to us, that make us feel that we’re really at home, and call forth from us spontaneous delight and gratitude.

What’s yours?