Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mardi Gras Is Meaningless without Ash Wednesday

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 I’m not very good at feasting. That’s not to say I can’t put down a few drinks or eat a lot of rich food. I’m not very good at feasting because I’m not very good at fasting, and I’m even worse at ordinary, everyday eating. Feasting is an art in contrast. We can’t have steak every night or a big bowl of ice cream (at least we shouldn’t). Steak is special because it is not an everyday meal; it is expensive because it is limited (there are only a few steaks per cow.) Ice cream is special because, like cigars, it’s okay to have one every now and then. But as an every-day affair it will kill you.
Still, too often I want steak on Tuesday and ice cream on Wednesday, and while there is a great deal worth celebrating, too much special makes nothing special.

On Tuesday we celebrate Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday. It is a day to feast, but it only makes sense if we follow it by the fast of Ash Wednesday. Without Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras is just a party signifying nothing. It becomes a feast because it is answered by a fast. And both feasting and fasting are measured by the ferial.

Ferial eating is everyday eating. It is casseroles and slow-cooked food from a crock pot and whatever you can throw together from the fridge. Ferial eating is that old-fashioned kind of thrifty eating where spoiled milk becomes sour pancakes and yesterday’s roast chicken is turned into today’s chicken salad. It is eating full of flavor and savor, if done right, but it doesn’t carry the same kind of richness that feasting does. It is stew instead of steak, an apple instead of apple pie.

Our culture isn’t very good at telling the difference . . .

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