Happy Easter! Alleluia Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and is alive!
So this might seem like a rather unorthodox Easter post, but I promise if you stick with me it will all come together in the end.
I’m a bit of a Food Network fan, especially the competition shows. I find it incredible how chefs are able to come up with such delicious, intricate dishes in minimal time and often with minimal or odd ingredients available them. It sounds like my kitchen at 5:15pm, though typically minus the “intricate dishes” part and sometimes the “delicious” part.
I was recently watching a show called “All-Star Academy” which involves home (not professional) cooks who are mentored by celebrity chefs through a series of challenges until there is a winner (There can only be one! – shout out to my husband who enjoys yelling that at the TV whenever the judges of any competition show say something along those lines, he’s a goof and I love him for it). One of the mentors this season is Andrew Zimmern from the Travel Channel show, Bizarre Foods. While his mentees were cooking, Andrew threw out this piece of advice:
Salt is for bringing out flavor. Pepper is for adding flavor.
I was struck by this simple, straightforward piece of cooking advice that I had never heard before. Starting from my first days cooking with my mom and grandma I was always told to make sure to “salt and pepper” (and usually garlic too, we are Italian to the core) whatever we were making. It’s so automatic that I had never thought about why these two ingredients were so essential so nearly every dish we created.
Based on Andrew’s one-liner, salt is not for adding flavor. That’s pepper’s job. Rather, salt is used to bring out and enhance the flavors already present in the ingredients. According to Michael Wignall, a Michelin star British chef, “It’s [salt] the basis for any great cooking,” he says, “you can have a great dish, but if you’ve not seasoned it, it’s just not there. Salt brings the best out of food and – regardless of whether people say it’s bad for you or not – the body needs salt to work properly.” Salt must be used properly in cooking. It’s not just to sprinkle on your plate tableside or to season meat before searing, never to be touched again. Different types of food will require salt at different times, but it sounds like nearly everything requires even just a touch of salt.
I like to think in an “if, then” pattern, it helps me to find the logical flow between ideas. So, in that model, here’s what we know.
- If salt is missing,
- Then, a dish is lacking.
- If salt brings out the best when used appropriately,
- Then we have to know how, when and where to use salt in a dish.
Transition now to me driving in the car the next day and while listening to the radio hearing this Gospel verse:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?” (Matthew 5:13)
I was already thinking about how I use salt and pepper in my cooking and now God had layered into my thoughts the notion that we are salt in the world. This verse took on a whole new light. Actually, I had to completely re-think my understanding of it.
Prior to the revelation given by Andrew Zimmern, I had not thought about how salt functioned in my meals, just that I needed to use it. Salt isn’t necessarily supposed to add to the dish, instead it brings flavor out, enlivens, makes the best version of the dish.
Before understanding how salt works in food I don’t think I properly understood what Jesus meant when he said “You are the salt of the earth.” We aren’t necessarily bringing something new to the table. We aren’t a new flavor profile, we aren’t meant to “spice things up.” That’s not the purpose of salt. If we are the salt of the earth, then we are intended to bring out the best in the earth. We are to enliven the people we meet and help them become the best versions of themselves.
Let’s go back to those “If, Then” statements, but updated. Instead of “salt” we will say “My witness.” “My witness” means specifically your faith, your personal witness to the mercy and love of Jesus working in your life. The “dish” is “my world”, meaning everyone and everything you come in contact with.
- If my witness missing,
- Then, my world is lacking.
- If my witness brings out the best when used appropriately,
- Then I have to know how, when and where to use my witness in my world.
Jesus doesn’t command us to be salt. He doesn’t ask us to be salt. Jesus tells us who we are: You are the salt of the earth. Our very identity is wrapped up in the mission of Jesus. Jesus sends us on mission to bring out the best in our world around us. We share our gifts and talents in order that others might come to know God better. We speak out when we see injustice and we actively work for the protection of the dignity of all people. We live each day in such a way that proclaims “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” even when the weather is crummy, we lost our temper with our kids, we had to wait in traffic or we received difficult news.
If we fail to live our life in this manner it is as if we have lost our saltiness. We aren’t bringing out the best in others or ourselves. We aren’t helping the lost, comforting the sick or feeding the hungry. We are complaining, wallowing and despairing. Guess what – we all, and often do, fail.
Thank goodness this isn’t the end of the Gospel! Through the glorious resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate today, we are able to regain our saltiness. Jesus says that sin and death is not the end. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we are able to renew ourselves as the salt of the earth. Every time we receive the Eucharist we are renewed. Every time we go to the sacrament of Reconciliation we are cleansed. Every time we choose God instead of choosing despair we are refreshed. Every time we choose things that bring life instead of wallowing in the culture of death we are reborn. Every time we embrace the cross Jesus greets us with arms outstretched, welcoming us home.
Through the blood Jesus shed for our sake, the salt of the earth can regain its saltiness. Salty once more, we find ourselves able to bring the Good News of Jesus to all corners of our world.
May you each have a blessed Easter and feel God’s love surround you. I hope you find yourself salty this Easter season.