Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finding the Golden Ratio of Faith and Bartending, Part III

Cocktail at Meat, Lousiville, KY
Well, well, well, it's finally the last call in this little trilogy known by some as "The Chronicles of Barnia" (a title I was discouraged from using by a good friend who was tipsy enough to tell me it was stupid.). It's finally here. I've procrastinated long enough. Here's your Part III.


Now, just to clarify, I'm not trying to be the Tim Tebow of the bar industry or anything. All I've tried to do thus far is simply offer the simple idea that being a bartender doesn't dilute any deep convictions of personal holiness (if you missed those discussions be sure to hit up part 1 and part 2). In my previous posts, I tried to engage some common ideas I think might keep some fellow believers from accepting that a Christian can indeed flourish in the bar industry and remain "above reproach," faithfully upholding the Christian  morals concerning drunkenness and debauchery. Hopefully it has been flavorful and well-balanced discussion.


Yet, in the crafting of any argument and to make any concoction palatable, this discussion calls for a final garnish, if you will, and a good positive response for why bar tending can be an acceptable means of employment as it relates to the Lordship of Jesus. Essentially, I don't want to argue my case by only responding to objections. I want you to play defense and try to keep me out of your territory. Only fair. Whether folks pass on the chance to explore the fascinating history or craft of alcohol (which is an admirable decision, no question), I simply want all who love Christ and the Bible to acknowledge that the crafting of wine, beer, spirits, and cocktails is an area where the creativity, wisdom, and skill of man is a wonderful manifestation of a creative, wise, skillful Creator God who can reign and be glorified in this midst of an industry that's too often run amok. Again, as I've wanted to make clear in this whole discussion, I don't think it's profitable for every Christian to work at a bar. Nor am I suggesting that every bar is acceptable to work at. There are indeed only a few contexts that can allow for both the "lawful and profitable" (1 Cor. 6.12) learning experience that I've received. I also want to acknowledge the long list of heartbreaking examples from my own life and those close to me of the devastating consequences of alcohol abuse. Please hear my effort to offer a balanced perspective that allows for a deep appreciation for a fine, well-made, hand-crafted beverage, while still giving full credence that booze can be a life-enslaving substance that can bring out the worst in our savior-seeking hearts. We good?

Okay. Cheers. Let's do this.

Let's start with a quote from a notable work on the history of cocktails:

"Now, admittedly, mixed drinks are not paintings, sculptures, novels, or poems. They are disposable and, frankly, not a little bit disreputable, standing roughly in the same relation to the culinary arts that American motor sports do to automotive engineering or hot jazz to musical composition: they smack of improvisation and cheap effects and even the most august [i.e., respectable] of them lack the cachet [i.e., state of being respected] accorded to fine wines, old whiskies, and cognac brandies. The are easily abused: they can degrade lives and even destroy them. Even if appreciated in moderation, they are appreciated in surroundings that rarely lead to detached meditation on truth and beauty (if those are not the same thing) or constructive engagement with the great moral and social questions of the age. And yet neither are they contemptible. A proper drink at the right time--one mixed with care and skill and served in a true spirit of hospitality--is better than any other made thing at giving us the illusion, at least, that we're getting what we want from life. A cat can gaze upon a king, as the proverb goes, and after a Dry Martini or a Sazerac Cocktail or two, we're all cats."
                                                                                             --David Wondrich, Imbibe!, 10. 

So, the thing my friend here is getting at is that cocktails, in particular, naturally have an uphill battle to climb on two fronts. First, as he says, "they are easily abused: they can degrade lives and even destroy them." No question there. But, secondly, "Even if appreciated in moderation, they are appreciated in surroundings that rarely lead to detached meditation on truth and beauty (if those are not the same thing) or constructive engagement with the great moral and social questions of the age." So, not only do folks get hammered, but even if they drink in moderation, the context in which they do rarely has the ambiance of thought or intentionality. When people occasionally stand on the tables at my bar, it often isn't to find better footing for reciting Shakespeare. So, if you want to snuggle up to your favorite book with a cocktail in hand, you should probably invest in a home bar. However, "a proper drink at the right time--one mixed with care and skill and served in a true spirit of hospitality (now there's an idea)--is better than any other made thing at giving us the illusion, at least, that we're getting what we want from life." Smells like a whiff from Psalm 104:15.

A Craft Cocktail Appreciation Dinner a friend of mine and I hosted in Oct.

Hospitality, creativity, and context are all key to the Golden Ration of appreciation for the mixed drink. 

Now, infuse this idea with the following from one of my favorite spiritual leaders:
“He created the flavors! He created the colors. He created it all, and he did it all out of the overflow of his perfections. It’s not like he was thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got some fajita flavoring over here. I know: let’s put it on the cow and the chicken.’ He created the avocado to have a certain flavor; he created the skirt steak, the fillet, and the tenderloin to have certain flavors. That was God’s doing. So every aspect of creation, from the largest galaxy to the tiniest burst of flavor in food or drink or seasoning, radiates the goodness of God.” 

Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, 102.


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. All of it. "The earth is the Lord's, and all the fullness thereof" (Psalm 24:1). God, in His infinite wisdom and creativity, designed fermentation--not man in his limited foolishness and fallen ingenuity. God, because He's a genius, gets biological fermentation and how yeast converts sugar into ethanol. That process brings Him glory and He took pleasure in gifting humanity with such a discovery. God is a master chef and understands the culinary science of flavor. He gets dry-shaking and the emulsification of an egg white in a Pisco Sour...aaaand why consuming it can increase the risk of food borne illness (that was for free). In His great generosity and kindness, God gifted humanity with a planet bursting with potential ingredients for us to enjoy with gratitude (1 Tim 6:17). He gave us taste buds because He knows that food and drink and dessert makes our hearts glad. Alcohol, though easily abused and turned into an object of worship, can be enjoyed in moderation as an act of worship. 

In one last word, let me say it this way. Even if Jesus never turned water into fantastic wine (John 2:1-11) or been falsely accused of over-consumption (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34), and even if Paul would've never allowed Timothy to use wine as a 1st century version of Pepto (1 Tim. 5:23), and even if Psalm 104 didn't rejoice in the way our majestic God tenderly cares for His creation by, of all ways, causing wine to "maketh glad the heart of man" (v.15), and even if 1st century wine was of lesser alcohol content than today, and even if we weren't explicitly told that we would drink wine in heaven with Jesus (Mark 4:25), there's still enough revealed in Genesis 1 and 2 to at least allow non-drinking Christians to give props to God for what is now culinary art found in the crafting of cocktails, beer brewing, and wine making. The freedom or restriction to participate in that art is determined by your conscience.
My Homemade Eggnog

Hospitality, creativity, context, and conscience. Golden Ratio. 


If you decline the opportunity to explore the craft of alcoholic beverages, hopefully I've provided enough of a framework for you to apply this to every other venue of life and culture. Don't be afraid to enjoy God's good creation. Give thanks to God for creating the resources necessary to enjoy that cup of coffee you're drinking as you read this. Go back to your favorite restaurant with a new appreciation for God's genius and the skill imparted by Him to your chefs. Go enjoy some art or a play or live jazz or some other form of human culture that has God's creativity stamped all over it. And, if you're ever in Louisville, stop by Meat. I'll be there and I'll make you the best Shirley Temple that your Prohibitionist, tee-totalin' britches will be pleading for a repeal of conscience!


Cheers!

The end. Now go call a cab.

1 comment:

Chance and Amber said...

Thanks Eron. Worth the wait.