On one hand our culture is committed to the Decartean principle, the sovereignty of empirical evidence: If it can be seen, it must be true.
This idea is regularly mixed with sentiments which take on an aura of reality if spouted by a sufficient number of “experts.” Be they genuine or charlatans, it makes little difference, so long as they get enough positive attention from print and electronic press — “the media” — accompanied by large doses of mockery directed at anyone holding opposing points of view. Eventually, these opinions may even acquire governmental recognition and the force of law.
“It must be real if it’s on TV,” a phrase originally coined as a satirical gibe at the public’s gullibility, has taken on a measure of frightening reality. The media simply regurgitates what it’s fed, forming a closed circle of thought. In this way any theory, factual or not, becomes “common knowledge” — to be believed without question.
On the other hand, although seemingly committed to objective truth, our duplicitous age allows — may even insist upon — paradoxical inconsistency when it comes to faith and morals. In those areas, science becomes subservient to personal belief: truth becomes a matter of conjecture.
One example is: “To you it’s a baby; to me it’s a fetus. Never mind that medical scientists say life begins at conception. My body is my own.”
Another is: “I believe in freedom of religious speech as long as you don’t say things that might make me feel ashamed of myself.”
Something considered sacred today might not be tomorrow. Not to worry — if God is dead there’s always the California notion of Zen Buddhism to fall back on.
Did I say we live in a duplicitous age? It’s really nothing new. In every age the euphoric cry “Hosanna to the Son of David” of Palm Sunday is too often degraded into the snarling guffaw “Hail, king of the Jews” of Good Friday.
Sir Francis was on to something. Jesting Pilates appear in every age.
For Palm Sunday dinner, consider dinner popovers filled with creamed smoked salmon, accompanied by a hearts of palm salad. The popovers crowning their ramekins suggest Christ the King, while the hollow popover suggests the soul without Christ.
The fish is an ancient symbol of Jesus who fills the soul, as the smoked salmon fills the popover. The tart lemon on the hearts of palm recalls how the joy of Palm Sunday gave way to the pain of Good Friday.
Ingredients for Popovers
1 cup flour, sifted
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. melted shortening
Beat eggs until frothy, then add 1/2 cup of milk. Stir in salt and flour, and beat slowly until all the flour is moistened. Add shortening and remaining milk. Continue to beat until the batter is free of lumps. Thoroughly grease six to eight custard cups or muffin tins with shortening (or sausage drippings for flavor); fill each halfway with batter. Bake in a hot oven at 450¬∫ F for 35 minutes.
Note: Using meat drippings — lard or suet — for cooking purposes was not allowed on Fridays until Pope Leo XIII granted a special indult in 1887.
Ingredients for Creamed Smoked Salmon with Capers
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small white or brown onion, chopped
1/4 pound smoked salmon, chopped
1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
3 tbsps. capers, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
In a sauce pan or large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Drop in the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the smoked salmon and continue cooking until the salmon turns opaque, one to two minutes (no more).
Next, pour in the cream and add capers. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, but be easy with the salt; both smoked salmon and capers are already salty. If the sauce appears too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of milk or water.
Hearts of Palm Salad
Soak 1/4 cup of sliced red onion in cold water for 10 minutes; drain. Toss with two cups of sliced hearts of palm, one cup of sliced celery and a handful of chopped parsley. Next add three tablespoons each of lemon juice and olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve over fresh leaf spinach or arugula, drizzled with olive oil.