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  Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Doyenne of the Comice

Comice are among the sweetest and juiciest of all varieties of pears, and are a favorite in holiday gift boxes and baskets. Their flesh is silky soft, and can best be described as creamy in texture, abundantly full of juice, and very sweet. For many pear lovers, Comice is the pinnacle variety of pears.

Comice pears are not recommended for cooking because they are too juicy.

To determine when a Comice pear is ripe, press gently into the neck of the pear. Once it gives slightly to pressure, it’s ready to eat.

This variety was obtained in the Fruit Garden of the Horticultural Comice of Angers by Hilaire Dhommé and Pierre-Aimé Millet of the Turtaudière. In 1848, a young tree planted in the 1840s began to produce fruit. The quality of these made the Comice decide to keep the tree under surveillance: “a new pear coming from the seedlings made by the Comice, monitored especially by Mr. Millet, is sent back to a next harvest, to decide what will be the constant qualities.” The following year, the quality of the fruit remained similar and considered to be fixed.

André Leroy, an Angevin nurseryman, decided to add the variety to his catalog. Having just opened a branch in Rochester, the United States, it is rapidly marketed and operated. Charles Mason Hovey made a description of it as early as 1852 in The Magazine of Horticulture. The tree also passes successfully in England and Germany.

At the first and second sessions of the Pomological Congress of France in 1856 and 1857, it was adjourned with favorable opinion. It was finally adopted only at the third session in 1858. In 1894, it was designated by the Journal d’Horticulture of London as “the best pear of the world.”

Its dissemination to the general consumer remained marginal in the nineteenth century. We have to wait for the rise of production in the 20th century so that this is the case.


  Monday, February 6th, 2017

The Future of Animals

Animals share not only in God’s grace but also in the sufferings of the world. That animals are morally innocent does not mean they do not need redemption, if redemption means deliverance from suffering. Only if the afterlife is imagined solely as a place of judgment does moral capability play such a determining role. What if heaven is not about reward and punishment but rather redemption and consolation? What if heaven allows for the completion of what is left incomplete in this life? This would connect the afterlife to the notion of justice, not the psychology of the fear of death and the desire for more living and infinite pleasure. Keith Ward has spoken eloquently about animal afterlife. “If there is any sentient being which suffers pain, that being — whatever it is and however is is manifested — must find that pain transfigured by a greater joy.” Indeed, that justice demands an afterlife for those unable to make the best of their situation in this life is the best reason to believe in an afterlife for humans as well.


If there is a resurrection of the human dead, then it is accomplished by a purely graceful act of God in order to right what was wrong and complete what was not completed. Such a resurrection is not based on anything humans have or are. Nothing in us predisposes us to the afterlife, no biological trait or characteristic. We do not consist of something immaterial (say, a soul) that God needs in order to work the miracle of resurrection. Neither is the soul a bit of matter that only humans have; the soul is just a sign of what matters, and everything matters to God. Nothing we possess enables God to give us more life, because all life in its entirety is a gift from God. Only if the afterlife is selective and thus something we merit through our efforts at moral self-improvement or our ability to believe in certain doctrinal formulations can animals be preemptively excluded from the future that God has prepared for what God loves.

If there is a resurrection, it is an act of love and power that need not be limited to humans alone. If humans arise at the end time, there is no reason to think that animals do not also. James Herriot expresses this sentiment in his reply to an elderly woman who had been told that animals have no souls and thus was worried about the destiny of her pets: “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” When pressed by the woman, he finally says all that can be said: “Wherever you are going, they are going too.” Both animals and humans share the same fate and draw the same breath. “All go to the same place.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19–21, NEB).

—Stephen H. Webb, On God and Dogs

  Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Affection is not the opposite of dominance; rather, it is dominance’s anodyne — it is dominance with a human face. Dominance may be cruel and exploitive, with no hint of affection in it. What it produces is the victim. On the other hand, dominance may be combined with affection, and what it produces is the pet.

—Yi-Fu Tuan

  Thursday, January 26th, 2017

What Are Dogs For?

Beck and Katcher end their book with a chapter on “being a pet.” “The gifts that pets give us are too important to be exchanged only between animals and people. People can learn how to substitute for pets in certain emergency situations and take over their functions in others, as pets sometimes substitute for people.” In other words, the category “pet” does not apply to animals alone. Being a pet involves listening without speaking, talking through touching, finding joy in ceremonial greetings and submissive behavior, as well as allowing oneself to be touched. It consists of a certain kind of giving as well as receiving, an economy of generosity that transgresses the usual and expected. It also provides an opportunity for feelings of devotion that border on the sacred. “A loving worship of God should be fulfilling for people who want to have have comfort from submissive, obedient love. Perhaps the dog is fulfilling a religious vacuum.” In the dog not only do we experience the obedience that we ourselves can know before God on occasion, but also we give to dogs as we want God to give to us. We enter into a relationship that is unbounded, intense, and all-encompassing. It is also a relationship that changes us, and we can imagine moving outward into other relationships with the same dynamic of giving and taking.

—Stephen H. Webb

  Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

—Wendell Berry

  Saturday, January 21st, 2017

John 14:1–3

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.


  Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Barley

Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia as early as 13,000 years ago. Barley has been used as animal fodder, as a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. It is used in soups and stews, and in barley bread of various cultures. Barley grains are commonly made into malt in a traditional and ancient method of preparation.

In 2014, barley was ranked fourth among grains in quantity produced (144 million tons) behind corn, rice and wheat.


  Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

But the fire has a flame which the wind quickens, so that the flame becomes a blazing fire. Thus the word is in the voice and the word is heard, and the fire has a flame and it is praise to God, and the wind moves the flame and it is praise to God, and the word is in the voice and it is praise to God, and the word is heard and it is praise to God. Therefore, all of creation is praise to God.

—Hildegard of Bingen

  Monday, January 9th, 2017

It is not a question of palate, of custom, of expediency, but of right. As a mere Christian Minister, I have had to make my decision. My palate was on the side of custom; my intellect argued for the expedient; but my higher reason and conscience left me no alternative. Our Lord came to give life, and we do not follow Him by taking life needlessly. So, I was compelled, against myself, to eschew carnivorism.

—Reverend J. Tyssul-Davies

  Monday, January 9th, 2017

Creatures of the Same God

How we explain the fact that animals, who have no free will, live in a state of fallenness subject to the evil of predation is no easy matter. Elsewhere I have given an account of the problem and, with the assistance of C. S. Lewis, explored some possible answers. Some Christians have difficulty in believing in cosmic disorder, let alone a source of cosmic evil, present in the world before the arrival of dinosaurs and human beings. That view certainly has its problems, but it is theologically essential if we are to believe that predation is not willed by the Creator. The alternative is dire beyond words, for it involves accepting that the “natural world” is actually God’s creation as first intended and, as a corollary, that death, disease, decay, and predation are actually God’s will for all living beings. Is this compatible with the God revealed in Jesus Christ? I shall try, humorously (and therefore very seriously), to indicate what the “anti-Gospel of Jesus our predator” might actually look like:

Jesus, according to the Predator Gospel, would be the butcher par excellence. He would be the one who, far from desisting from animal sacrifice, actually encouraged his disciples to excel in it. Instead of driving out the sacrificial animals from the Temple, the Jesus of the Predator Gospel would drive them in. The line that most characterises his ministry would not be “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” but rather “the good shepherd slaughters—with gratitude—as many sheep as he can.” Far from beginning his ministry, according to Mark (1: 13), “with the wild beasts” and thereby symbolising reconciliation with nature, the Predator Jesus would be “with the wild beasts” with bow and arrow. Instead of commending the rescuing of a fallen animal from the pit, Predator Jesus would point to the inevitability of God’s far-reaching plan of death, disease, and decay.

Since predation is [according to ecotheologians] God’s blessing, the predator Jesus would offer a singular example in the human realm too. Far from consorting with sinners or excusing prostitutes, the Predator Jesus would be the first to cast the stone. Instead of healing the sick, the Predator Jesus could only approve of the efficacy of God-given ecological systems. Instead of raising Lazarus from the dead, the Predator Jesus could only comment that death is God’s blessing. Instead of preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God, the proclamation would run [in the words of Matthew Fox]: “Eat and be eaten.”

As a sideline, Bishop John A. T. Robinson, on learning that he had cancer, told newspaper reporters that “God is in the cancer as he is in everything else.” A thousand times “no,” I say. How could a New Testament scholar have lived so long with the Gospel stories of Jesus and simply failed to grasp the existential reality of the demonic? If biblical scholars cannot see the evil of cancer (an organism that lives only by causing its own death, and that of its host), then we should not be surprised if they do not also respond to the innocent, even Christ-like, suffering of animals.

—Andrew Linzey

  Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Garam Masala

Garam masala (Hindi: गरम मसाला, Punjabi: ਗਰਮ ਮਸਾਲਾ,Urdu: گرم مصالحہ‎, Bengali: গরম মসলা garam (“hot”) and masala (a mixture of spices)) is a blend of ground spices common in India, Pakistan, and other South Asian cuisines. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to “heating the body” in the Ayurvedic sense of the word, as these spices are believed to elevate body temperature in Ayurvedic medicine.

Once you taste the difference that this simple powder makes in your cooking, you will find it worth the investment of cupboard space. As a rule (one that certainly gets broken at times), Garam Masala is only added at the last step of cooking, almost like a fresh herb, because it tends to become bitter if cooked too long.


  Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Isaiah 11

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.


  Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Honourable men may honourably disagree about some details of human treatment of the non-human, but vegetarianism is now as necessary a pledge of moral devotion as was the refusal of emperor-worship in the early Church…Those who still eat flesh when they could do otherwise have no claim to be serious moralists.

—Stephen R. L. Clark

  Friday, December 30th, 2016

Thoughts from Dad

9/1/05: The circle symbolizes what God is in fact: perfection—an inadvertent suggestion, perhaps, that God, like two points on a circle, is actually closest when seemingly farthest away.

It you can’t be indispensable, at least strive to be missed.

4/13/06: Yet another instance of God’s mercy: only a few can achieve artistic greatness (like Shakespeare or Beethoven), but all can achieve moral greatness—the most important of all. That’s because the former requires genius, which only a few possess, whereas the latter requires will, which all possess. That’s why, in the words of a writer whose name I’ve forgotten, the only disappointment in life’s not to have become a saint.

3/24/04: Some scoff at the human propensity to ask unanswerable questions. “An exercise in futility!” they sneer. But getting nowhere can be diverting (consider merry-go-rounds) and invigorating (consider treadmills). Well, asking the unanswerable is both diverting and invigorating to the mind. Also the fact that we thus ask not because we choose but because we must suggests that we are meant to do so, in turn suggesting that we ask not in vain, that the triply-locked door to ultimate knowledge on which we persistently pound will eventually open. Exercise in futility? Say, rather, an exercise in utility!


  Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Healing Our Hearts

The hard part of emotional and compulsive eating is that in trying to avoid big heartbreaks, we break our own hearts every day. We eat more than our bodies want, we binge on foods that make us sick, we carry weight that makes it hard to move around. We tell ourselves mean stories about our thighs, our arms, our bellies. The cost of having the “when I am thin, everything will be fine” fantasy is that we end up trading the heartbreak of being alive for the heartbreak we cause ourselves.

Hearts are made to be resilient. Think about it: Is there one thing that’s happened to you that you haven’t survived? Here you are, right now, reading this article despite all the heartache you’ve had in your life. Something in you is still awake, alive, eager to learn, ready to be moved. And once you know that your heart is resilient, once you accept that part of being here on earth is, as a friend of mine says, living among the brokenhearted, then you can take in the huge streaks of delight, joy, and happiness as well.

—Geneen Roth