Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


The Great Divorce

“I seemed to be standing in a bus queue by the side of a long, mean street. Evening was just closing in and it was raining. I had been wandering for hours in similar mean streets, always in the rain and always in evening twilight.” So C.S. Lewis begins his narrative of “The Great Divorce.”

No, the book is not an argument against marriage, at least not in the way we first think of it. It’s a sort of fantasy/theology novel which underscores the insurmountable division between good and evil.  In his preface Lewis explains that his goal is to counter William Blake’s concept of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” – to refute the idea that somehow good and evil, or right and wrong can be brought together;  that eventually, with enough skill and patience, evil will be turned to good.

Evil is evil and good is good. They are opposites. They are forever going in two different directions – divorced from one another.

Lewis says, “We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after few miles forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at every fork you must make a decision…I do not think that all who choose the wrong road perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.”

This is a lot to consider in a culture where it’s rude – almost criminal – to say that there is actually a standard of right or wrong behavior.

Let me just say that, even though it deals with such deep and heavy subject matter, this is a really good story!  It’s written in first person, and begins with the narrator (C.S. Lewis, himself) waiting in the line on the dismal street of the grey town.  The grey town is Hell, and the people in line are waiting for a bus which will take them on an excursion to the borderlands of Heaven. There, they will have an opportunity to reconsider the choices they made on earth and they might choose to stay in Heaven.  (The original, working title of the book was, “Who Goes Home?”)

Far from the common stereotype of angels sitting on clouds playing harps, Lewis’s description of Heaven shows it to be more colorful, solid and real than anything he ever imagined.  He says when he got off the bus “The light and coolness that drenched me were like those of a summer morning, early morning a minute or two before the sunrise, only that there was a certain difference. I had the sense of being in a larger space, perhaps even a larger sort of space, than I had ever known before: as if the sky were further off and the extent of the green plain wider than they could be on this little ball of earth. I had got “out” in some sense which made the Solar System itself seem an indoor affair.”

He wanders around observing and listening as the bright solid residents of Heaven meet with ghostlike friends and relatives from Hell.  They have serious and loving conversations, but although most of the people from the grey town are fairly ambivalent about it, for one reason or another they reject the offer of Heaven and choose to go back down to what they know.

Lewis is not saying there will actually be an opportunity for people to change their minds and leave Hell after they die. The story is an illustration of choices made, seen through the lens of eternity.

He says, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”

I’ve probably read this book six times, and every time I read it I come away with some new gem of understanding.  It leaves me feeling stronger and richer, and closer to God. This morning was no exception. I closed the book and sat there in bemused awe. My very world and future and all of its prospects seemed larger and more full of promise.

Check out these links for more study and information about “The Great Divorce



Dim Sum

The chicken feet took me by surprise.  I didn’t expect them to look so much like…well…chicken feet.  But there they were, resting in their little dish of sauce, just waiting to jump onto a chopstick!

Otherwise the restaurant was lovely.  Elegant hangings and crisp white table cloths. Dan and Karen were waiting for us, and had already ordered a pot of good strong Chinese tea and a pot of hibiscus brew.  Karen had explained to me a couple of weeks ago that dim sum is kind of synonymous with the ceremony of taking tea.

She was right. An article on dim sum said “Who hasn’t spent a lazy afternoon in their favorite Chinese restaurant, sipping tea and feasting on the innumerable assortment of delicacies that make up Chinese dim sum? Literally meaning ‘to touch your heart’, dim sum consists of a variety of dumplings, steamed dishes and other goodies.”

Well it sure touched my heart! One of John and my favorite things to do when we go out to eat anywhere is to order a bunch of appetizers instead of a regular meal.  So this was right up our alley.

We sat at the table and servers walked by pushing carts loaded with small dishes of savory goodies in little bamboo baskets. You are supposed to look at the cart and make choices, or  wait for the next cart that might have other choices.  I can tell you it was a sensory overload for me! Everything looked delicious although I couldn’t exactly tell what anything was. Karen was a whiz though. She has obviously done this hundreds of times.

She explained that you don’t eat the lotus leaves which are wrapped around the sweet rice. She told us the shark fin is not usually real shark fin these days. And thankfully she didn’t recommend the beef tripe with ginger sauce.

The server puts a tally sheet at the edge of the table and each time you choose a dish from the cart they mark it on the sheet, so they can tally the bill at the end of the meal.  Karen told us when she was a little girl they left the empty dishes piled on the edge of the table and they would tally the bill by counting the dishes.  Different shaped dishes had different prices.

We had turnip cake, pork buns, lotus leaf sweet rice, sharks fin and shrimp dumpling, stuffed mushroom with shrimp, and more things I can’t even remember. We laughed as we tried to figure out how to cut things into smaller pieces with chopsticks, and how to use our chopsticks to gracefully eat those little chicken feet one knuckle at a time.

A Wikipedia article explains the history of dim sum like this. “Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, would go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. People later discovered that tea can aid in digestion, so teahouse owners began adding various snacks.

The unique culinary art of dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience.”

And that’s exactly what we had – a delicious, loud and happy dining experience! Thank you Dan and Karen.


Tearless Fearless Onion Dicing

When I think about the movie “Julie & Julia” – which I love! – the image that first come to mind is Meryl Streep standing beside a mountain of diced onions. Fifty pounds of them piled on her counter. Julia Child had successfully learned to use her French knife to dice an onion.  I can do that. And when I do it the onions are lovely small even pieces…with more than a few scattered on the floor and flung to the far reaches of my counter.  Alas.

So I have a way that works better for me.

(David says he thinks Grandpa Frank does it this way too, and he is the one who pointed out that this method keeps the tears away because the onion fumes are confined.)

You can use your french knife, or a paring knife or whatever blade you are most comfortable with. Peel the onion and cut it in half. Place the cut side down on the counter, and hold it firmly in place. Now cut it into thin slices.

Turn the onion, still holding it firmly against the counter, and cut across the slices you have just made.

Voilá!  You have a little pile of perfectly diced onions and nothing to cry about. And your floor is clean.

Now about those smelly hands…

I bought a magic stainless steel “soap bar” in a kitchen store a few years ago and it really works.  Just rub your hands with this stainless steel oval under running water and the onion smell is gone – really like magic!Or, as I have recently found out, you don’t even need the magic stainless steel soap. You can rub a stainless steel spoon on your hands under running water and it does the same thing.