Saturday, December 10, 2011

Moon Over Sinner Food


Church food is the best food. Why? In black churches, cooks aren’t just cooking for anybody. They’re cooking for God. And God loves flavor. My church is celebrating its 25th anniversary banquet, and so my family’s house has been like a pressure cooker for the last 48 hours. Each year, my mother drags my father all over Miami, looking for the best cuts of goat meat and chicken. Prep work is serious. My mother massages chicken with obscene amounts of garlic, thyme, onion, and Nature’s Seasoning. She cleans the goat meat with vinegar, seasons it similarly, but she also adds a bright-flavored Jamaican curry for curry goat. Voluptuous women named Sistah This or Evangelist That pour into the house with smoked, country hams, brown stew chicken, Haitian macaroni au gratin, potato salad, and rice and peas. Most of them are Nurses’ Aids and have just completed double-shifts, but you wouldn’t know it if I didn’t tell you. They have ceaseless energy, offering these gifts with hands that have bathed the sick, comforted the dying and borrowed a necklace or two from the infirmed. But my mother secretly deems her food the best. This year, her sous chef—a new member we’ll call Sistah Jerk, has won the golden jerk award. Guys, her chicken is worthy of heaven’s table—tender, smoky, sweet-spiced, Jamaican jerk perfection. I’m talking glossy-lipped-chew-the-bones perfection. I watched her melt the coconut cream into the gungo peas and rice, and it, too, made the angels lick their fingers clean. Tonight’s full moon will bring in all types of church folk and quasi-church folk. They’ll emerge from dusty bibles. The pungent smell of Holy Ghost stew (manish watah) will lure them in. Most won’t buy dinner tickets, but request juice instead of ginger ale. I’ll serve them. That’s my job—church waitress.

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