Jerusalem’s Old City: Food and Drink

Seemingly an eternity ago, but in actuality only this past February, I went on pilgrimage/retreat by myself to Jerusalem. I try to take pictures of everything I see, including what I had to eat and drink.

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Typical Breakfast at the Retreat House

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Hummus, bread

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Grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, a “tomato sauce”

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A bread vendor near the Church of the Dormition

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At a restaurant near the Mount of Olives

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Old City

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Produce in the Old City

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In the Muslim Quarter, a number of shops sell this “famous” dessert, which is a bit like a sweet “deep dish pizza”; a sweet crust likely made with some corn meal, cheese, flavored with rose water, and dusted with crushed pistachios

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Closer inspection

 

 

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A falafel stand

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These looped breads covered in sesame seeds are seen everywhere in the Old City

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Peeking inside an ancient bakery

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A local beer I had never tried before

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At the Pontifical Institute of the Notre Dame Center just outside the Old City walls 

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A little cloying, over the top, and disjointed at the “Vatican in Jerusalem”

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A sweets vendor

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Halal meat

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The Old City has a sizable Armenian community; local ingredients are combined with techniques from home

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A second Armenian restaurant

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I was encouraged to try the “Armenian cognac”, to which I, the pedant, told the waiter was good but should not be called “cognac”

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More cookies and sweets

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At the Austrian Hospice, around the time a call to prayer was emanating at a most uncomfortable volume from a nearby minaret

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Fresh squeezed orange and pomegranate juices are found everywhere in the Old City

 

 

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Easter

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“They were still puzzling over this, when two men came and stood by them, in shining garments. These said to them, as they bowed their faces to the earth in fear, Why are you seeking one who is alive, here among the dead? He is not here, he has risen again; remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, The Son of Man is to be given up into the hands of sinners, and to be crucified, and to rise again the third day. Then they remembered what he had said, and returned from the tomb bringing news of all this to the eleven apostles and to all the rest.” (Luke 24:4-9 [Knox]).

Holy Saturday

Limbo

The ancient greyness shiftedIMG_0601
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls.
they wondered if they dreamed-
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.

And Moses standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed

Or apple trees
All blossom-boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
With water
Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home.

And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that He wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung.
None toned a psalm, or raising a greeting song,
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue-
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is your Mother,
How is your Mother, Son?”

-Sister Mary Ada
The Reign Of Mary -Vol. XXV, No 76

Good Friday

IMG_0883Golgotha. Rock, or Place, of the Skull.

Skull because it might have been a site of public execution, thus, skulls and bones strewn about the area.

Skull because a cemetery may have stood nearby. We know that they took Him to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, only a short distance away.

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There may have been other tombs in proximity.

Skull because the contours of the rocky hill itself may have resembled a skull.

Skull because Jews of the time held to a tradition that it was the ultimate burial place of the skull of Adam.

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In all cases, the evocation is death. Not, the immediate gore and blood of the moment of the death, the final gasp or last struggle. But rather, what remains to posterity once the vultures have cleaned all the carrion, and the sun has dried away all else that remains, leaving nothing but dusty rocks studded with bones, soon to dust themselves.

Death, the eternal moment. The forever, a sun-baked, air-soaked dust cloud of nothing.

At least, until this Man named Jesus.

As Darkness gives way to Light, so too does the Old give way to New

Whether folks were directly affected by the great tragedies of year 2017 or not, this year was unsettling. It is as if the whole world is addled by new anxieties, uncertainties, fears about the future, which continue to accelerate. Whether we know and understand all the etiologies of this phenomena or not, we might at least pause to survey and consider where we are and where we are going.

From a spiritual vantage, there was the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions, the miraculous appearances of Our Lady in Portugal. We may have expected a bit more from this, perhaps even a sort of a symmetry of completion of those warnings as well as the purpose behind the Virgin’s messages. To the disappointment of some, that did not occur.

What remains is that many people seem to be suffering, losing sight of spiritual realities, occluded by the effects of sin, falling deeper into the pit. Catholicism isn’t exactly dying the way the Protestantism is, but the Church isn’t exactly at the peak of health either.

Intersecting the spiritual were the celestial occurrences: the total solar eclipse that crossed the North American continent; the succession of “blood moons” that punctuated the lunar calendar; the uptick of asteroids and solar flares. Even — I don’t know if I was the only one who noticed it — what seemed to be an increase of news items about UFOs and the like.

Then there was the natural. We heard about a quickening of the melting of polar ice. An enormous ice shelf broke off of Antarctica, the ultimate effects of which are not known. Coral reefs are declining, the reasons are far from fully understood. Honey bees and pollinators appear threatened. There were more earthquakes and hurricanes and other strange weather patterns than before.

Culturally, the West is in decline. Even the empty promises of the Enlightenment and all the strife driven by class warfare have been laid bare with catastrophic effect. No more is art meant to be edifying. No more is virtue part of the social fabric.

People are not merely titillated by sin — especially sex and violence — they are immersed in it and fascinated by it. Many are no longer frightened by Satan and the occult, rather, they are near-autonomic moths to these flames of destruction.

Geopolitics are the obverse side of the cultural coin. As the West no longer stands for much besides its own libertinism, it defends Western “values” not because they are good, but because of the gaping chasm beyond which there are other ideologies the West does not share and cannot integrate properly. That is, even as it gasps for breath the West does not want to be something else, never mind why not. 

All of this sounds terribly unhopeful, such that there is little promise for anyone to survive the upcoming year, much less to grow and flourish. But I hope you haven’t come to this point with me expecting that I might conclude that surrender is the only option…

As the prophet Isaiah says, those who were in darkness have seen a great light, and it is this wonderful light that shines on the path and guides us to Him. To be faithful in this moment is to resolve to “double down” on our reliance in the promise that has been given — that the weight of a sinful condition does not triumph in the end, that redemption is possible, that we are indeed free to experience great joy and peace which surpasses all understanding.

To know Jesus Christ is to be serene in a tumultuous world, and to be moved to share ourselves with others in the same way that Jesus shares Himself with us, so that all the world might have and know His love.

So, above all your other worthy resolutions, I encourage you to resolve to cultivate your relationship with Jesus this year. Join Him on the altar at Mass. Seek Him out behind the screen in the Sacrament of Penance. Invite Him into your home and the hearts of your family at prayer time. Visit His Mother along the rosary.

Please keep me in your prayers, and I will keep you in mine. And may you have a blessed New Year.

St. Thomas More’s Prison Cell in the Tower of London

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For a pilgrimage earlier this year, I made arrangements to visit the cell in the Tower of London where St. Thomas More was imprisoned as he underwent trial for refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy imposed by King IMG_0560Henry VIII.

St. Thomas is my patron saint in Confirmation, and today (June 22) is his optional memorial.

Although the Tower of London was used to detain the King’s prisoners from time to time, it is not a prison per se. Rather, it was (and is) a secure location belonging to the Monarch, which, in addition to quarters for guards and officers, also provides cells for certain “special” prisoners. Usually, such prisoners would be brought in upon a boat from the Thames through the “Prisoner’s Gate”, and then marched from there to their cell within the Tower complex.

St. Thomas, due to his status and rank, qualified to be imprisoned there, in relative “comfort” compared to the prison of the time for commoners of the realm.

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The ancient (original) door to St. Thomas’ cell

As he first arrived at the Tower in April 1534, he had some privileges which his guards and examiners slowly stripped away. For example, he was permitted a writing table and chair, sufficient light and supplies for writing, books (in particular his breviary), as well as reasonably warm clothing.

Within the cell itself, not atop a “tower” IMG_0548but actually quite close to ground level, which had open windows overlooking a moat ringing the Tower, there was a  cavernous arched roof, and lack of heat and exposure to the elements would have been a tremendous discomfort, particularly in the damp London winter.

The rest of the time, if it were more temperate, the open cistern the served as the cell’s “bathroom” would emit noxious fumes and gases back into the cell from the collecting sewage below.

Over time, as St. IMG_0551Thomas remained obstinate and his handlers grew impatient and frustrated, “privileges” were removed; no more books for reading, no more paper and ink for writing, the spartan furnishings were taken away, food become less frequent and plentiful, and finally, the very clothes warming his body were stripped from him.

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The “privy”

Meanwhile, St. Thomas would sometimes catch a glimpse of his daughter Margaret from outside the window. No doubt, he was aware that he was not the only one of his family sacrificing to defend what was true. Positions for sons and sons-in-law evaporated as St. Thomas had lost the king’s favor, his “friends”, and became a political pariah. No more prestige for anyone connected to the More family, but rather the opposite — infamy. The

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Steps to the cell door, from within

Crown would take possession of his land holdings and turn his wife Alice out of their home. All of St. Thomas’ income was lost as well.

Despite his rhetorical prowess, St. Thomas is most impressive (to me) because he withheld from making any public statements about the situation of the King’s marriage. He avoided the controversy, and deftly navigated — deflected — from taking a position. IMG_0535Ultimately, even his silence caught up with him, until his silence became a source of condemnation.

 

St. Thomas is perhaps too frequently cited as the outspoken herald for religious liberty, when the opposite was really true. He was inchoate prudence and restraint when it came to stating his convictions. How often do we (somewhat impetuously) “jump the gun” in “taking a stand”? Here, in our particularly troubled times where freedom of religion is assailed, St. Thomas serves as a fitting guide and witness. He managed to do more for much longer because he let himself be guided in prayer to the Lord regarding when and how to act and speak.

It was only once the jury (after just fifteenIMG_0564 minutes) found him guilty upon hearsay that he put to rest the question of his “guilt”. Only then did he once for all make known that the king could not become head of any “church of England” and that the king’s marriage to Queen Catherine was true and binding upon him.

Shortly thereafter he was taken from his cell to Tower Hill (nearby) and beheaded. He said to the crowd that he “died the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” Also, retaining his (sometimes ribald) sense of humor to the end, and having become rather hirsute from his time locked up in the Tower, St. Thomas swept his profuse beard away from the path of the ax — saying, “This [my beard] has not offended the king!” — lest it fall the way of his head.

Surprisingly, throughout his imprisonment, and despite his high station, St. Thomas’ enjoyed a popularity among the people. He was respected — perhaps he developed a reputation for fairness over a long and distinguished legal career, or shrewdness, or managed to avoid giving offense unnecessarily, but he was beloved. His bodily remains came to be venerated very shortly after his execution, though he was not canonized until 1935 by Pope Pius XI.

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St. Thomas’ Tomb in the Tower Chapel Crypt

In today’s Office of Readings, we find part of a letter written to St. Thomas’ daughter, Margaret, while he was imprisoned in the Tower (from the English Works of Sir Thomas More, London, 1557, p. 1454):

Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he had taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.

By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains  of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.

 

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Painting of St. John Fisher arriving at the “Prisoner’s Gate” at the Tower


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Monument on Tower Hill

 

Today’s Collect:

Father, you confirm the true faith
with the crown of martyrdom.
May the prayers of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
give us the courage to proclaim our faith
by the witness of our lives.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

In Quartermaster’s Domain, the words “Pellets”, “Electric” or “Gas” are Anathema

When it comes to true, honest barbecue, the surest sign (and only advertising required) that it is the “real deal” is the smoke that announces itself. In culinary terms, the white smoke of barbecue is the “Habemus papam” of carnivores. If you stand outside “Joe Bob’s World Famous Texabamalina BBQ” and do not smell delicious vapors wafting forth somewhere overhead, you have arrived at a den of thieves and house of liars and you should quickly run, run away. 

Since such places are few and far between, and since I live in a state that produces a passable tri-tip but pork not so much, I am my own pit master. But, let’s be fair. There’s the way it has always been done (TM) and then there’s the way to cheat and pretend. 

Exhibit A:


I’ve written of this beast before. I make pizza in it. It’s a mess. I bought it for $200 five years ago and can’t find another one. When it finally falls apart I’ll search for the rough equivalent or move on to a cut open metal barrel. 

There’s two sides for cooking. Doors on the front for adding fuel. No gas, no pellets, no electricity. You start a fire on one side, you tend it, you can fit 4 shoulders on the other side, or 6 racks of ribs. 


Yesterday (Saturday) I started it around 1pm and smoked three racks of ribs for 6 hours. At 8:00pm I put on four pork shoulders, an checked the coals and wood every 90 minutes through the night (well, I check it at three-hour intervals overnight). Twenty hours later (with temps on the meat side ranging 200-225) the shoulders are done. 


Meanwhile, I feel like I’m on vacation. Shortly we’ll eat like (medieval) kings. 

Cheers. 

Expansion

We are now a household of eight. Suddenly there are multiple coffee drinkers. As such, behold:


The Bialetti Moka Express 12-cup stovetop espresso machine. Still made in Italy. The Moka comes in an array of sizes. This largest size borders on absurd. It is massive. 

I have one big cup of coffee each morning. It’s about 4 shots of espresso with an equal volume of milk. With the 12-cup, it’s possible to make at least three of those. 
Usually the daily pot of coffee is gone or nearly gone the same day. But, I won’t deny that I sometimes allow a day to pass and then I drink what’s left the next morning. It’s not bad. 

Admittedly, I am not the sort of connoisseur of coffee as, say, Beer. Day old beer left on the counter isn’t good in Antarctica. 

So I drink the stale coffee from this thing and I don’t really wash it either, with soap or in the dishwasher. The water that passes through the machine is blistering hot and the aluminum takes up the heat from the stove. 

I rinse it really well between each use and I periodically wipe out the upper part of the pot with a damp cloth. I would be especially concerned about running it through the dishwasher, with the possibility of parts getting warped and the detergent anodizing and pitting the metal. 

A Moka is a great prepper item. With a few of these on hand, provided you have beans, water, and heat, you’ll make coffee for a decade or longer. Great for camping too. 

Speaking of stocking up, one can never have too much Juan Ana coffee on hand, particularly when buying in bulk is key to getting a great deal on shipping. 

Extra coffee from San Lucas Atitlan in your pantry supports a Catholic mission in Guatemala that helps families grow coffee on little one or two-acre plots. The mission supplies the plants to the families, buys the beans back at harvest time, roasts the beans and packages them for sale. The farmers receive more than fair trade prices.