Perspective: A Roasted Chicken, Halloween, and All Saints Day

After writing about the
history of All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day,
I decided to embark and mark the occasion myself.
It was a first.
What follows is my experience of it,
and why I hope to continue to commemorate it in the future.

With love,
Jessie

Come Saturday, after salting a chicken I had planned to roast on Sunday (I was trying a new Zuni Cafe recipe by the late Judy Rogers), I thought how wonderful it would be to actually create a vigil for loved ones I knew that had passed.  This was on the spur of the moment, but on the heels of learning more about my cultural (and Christian spiritual) heritage from just days prior.  A variety of questions began to surface as I scrounged for candles, made a quick shopping list (containing the candles I realized I didn't have), and asked myself how I wanted to indeed commemorate this holy event, having never before marked it (nor had been around anyone who had).

Somehow, as a child, I always got a little weirded out
when I would see photos of dead people with candles nearby. 
Was I supposed to feel their spirits? 
Was I on sacred ground that I didn’t know about? 
Were they in the room?? 
Was I worshipping
them?? 

But lighting the candle I designated as “the Christ” candle
—symbolizing the unification of all believers both passed and present—
I felt peace. 
I lit the candle and prayed
and
moved onto lighting other candles
representing particular loved ones.

 

And so on my evening went, and at one point, I chose to have certain photos of family and friends developed at the store as well as placed a few special, sacred, and symbolic items near the candles that were either from those loved ones or reminded me of them.

Meanwhile, the salting was doing its job and apparently, I learned, salt makes the body of a chicken more tender rather than dried out.

Chicken_1.png

ON THE PRACTICE of SALTING EARLY
{Zuni Cafe Cookbook, p 36 + 37}

“Aside from simply allowing time to diffuse the seasoning throughout the food, which is reason enough to try the technique, early salting promotes juiciness and improves texture.  This is the felicitous result of a few reliable fibers that would otherwise resist chewing.  A second process is more complex.  Initially, salt does draw moisture from cells ~ whence the widely accepted belief that it dries food out.  However, the quiet trauma of osmosis is temporary.  With time, the cells reabsorb the moisture in reverse osmosis.  When they do, that moisture is seasoned with salt.  {And, I’ve found, sugar or other aromatics you might have used.  A little salt in a marinade seems to assist in the movement of other flavors into food.}  …  What is more, that intruder salt changes the proteins ~ they “open up,” enabling them to entrap more moisture than before.  When you heat these transformed proteins, they don’t coagulate and squeeze out moisture quite the same way unaltered proteins do; some of the recovered moisture survives the ravages of heat.  All of this results in seasoned, moisture-laden cells, less tenaciously attached to one another than their unseasoned counterparts.  I love this tender succulence and aim to use just enough salt, and allow enough time, to achieve it.”

 

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I would think being salted would be unbearable but the bird seemed to be fine with it...  I find that retaining my saltiness in life can also feel uncomfortable.  My grit (my salt--my courage, strength, humility--) is at stake with every decision, choice, and motivation and may either remain and continue to get seasoned or be stripped away and become bland-into-nothingness.

Jesus actually says something about us and salt, and it comes right after his sermon on the Beatitudes (which is about how to live from the heart when real life happens), "You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out…”  Perhaps retaining our saltiness or having our grit become more flavorful from experience, ironically and paradoxically, keeps us tender rather than what one may expect to happen: we get dried out, calloused, and even helpless.  According to Ms. Rogers, the salt opens up the muscles and alters their proteins so that the meat will become more succulent.  Maybe Jesus knew this when he said a string of blessings just before the bit about salt.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons (and daughters) of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted
because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And, salt makes other things salty.  Perhaps if we change and become more tender from being near the Rock (interestingly, Jesus was sometimes referred to as the Rock) and thereby becoming salty, we may indeed salt our surroundings.  I wonder if it's like love.  The spreading of love happens from being loved and then infusing that love into a relationship which then is changed by love.  But where does it start if we are only changed by love?  Well, with Love itself.  Perhaps salt is like that.  Us, salt, and God.

All Hallow’s Eve was quiet, the bird was in the fridge, I was home alone, and I was surprised to realize that simply remembering with space could puncture the surface tension of memory.  Grief, lament, sadness, loss, a surprise forgiveness all coalesced into a stream of peacefulness.  Sitting at the table, with the candles and everything aglow, I simply was with the One who is.  The space never felt so harmonious, spacious, or peaceful.

And the ebb and flow of godly lament was experienced, and come All Saints Day, I was exhausted soon after waking up and having breakfast.  I thought it a shame I wanted a nap, but I did.  A wave of tiredness exuded from every cell and fiber; I almost fell over.  Confusion did too; for some of these deaths, I had grieved already, others I wanted to but was amiss in how to.  All Hallows Eve I did as well as that afternoon when just a word in a book could cause a weeping.  So, I slept.  I knew grief took many forms.  Hours later and seeing the curtains filter less light through, I awoke and felt as though I were in a different space.  Refreshed and renewed; invigorated as if I had just gone through something.  I had gone through something.  I ventured out and picked up my photos--four in all--and headed back home to roast the chicken.   Joy-filled.  Given the previous evening the night before, I was surprised to feel such a lightness now, but I knew it filled out the space just like the mourning did before.  I began to rinse the chicken and place fresh herbs inside it.

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I took out the pictures and one by one, placed them in their frames.  Ironically, they happened to be black frames.  When it came to my grandmother, one of the loved ones I was remembering, I realized I had a slightly dressier one to put her photograph in.  She always dressed so well and so nicely, never did I see her without her eyebrows done or her hair in place, but now as an adult, I wondered if this also cost her something inside.  Perhaps some earthiness.  She seemed to me to need everything to be in place and all in line all the time.  I found the white, glossy, silver-trimmed frame I was looking for and placed her picture inside.  Setting it next to the others and with tea candles aglow, I looked to my lit Christ pillar, and experienced the communion of saints with her and with the others I remembered that night.  A wave of joy arose again.

The roasting went phenomenal especially given my tiny little oven and me rotating it every ten minutes (at the knowledge that I was drastically loosing heat each time).  One hour after placing the chicken in, I had a gorgeously plated dinner laying in front of me and in the comfort of prayers and memories, all held in the love of Christ. 

Held in front, behind and before,
below and above.

And somehow, surprisingly, when the evening came, I felt more whole, more integrated, more connected.  More earthy, more salty, and full of amazement and wonder.  This was enough of an experience to appreciate the richness that is beyond the here and now.  There was a sacred holiness, and these were truly two holidays (hol-y-days) which perhaps may always be entered upon by nicking the surface of memory.  What a feast.