Tuesday, November 23, 2004

You Want Fries With That, Reverend?

From the Sun-Sentinel:

The grilled cheese sandwich that launched a thousand and more eBay hits was sold to the highest bidder Monday for $28,000.

The sandwich, said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary, was first offered for sale in early November on the Internet auction site by Dania Beach resident Diana Duyser.

The sandwich was made 10 years ago, Duyser claims, and might have wound up eaten had she not noticed the famous image peering back.

Duyser placed the sandwich in a plastic box and kept it on a shelf — until now.

The new owner of the sandwich, Antigua-based online casino GoldenPalace.com, promises to use the sandwich to raise money for charity.

A few years ago the image of the Virgin Mary showed up in a tortilla that some woman was baking in New Mexico. Her house became an instant shrine.

It occurs to me that religion and food are inexorably tied together. The calendars of all the major religions revolve around feasts and fasting. The most important ritual in the Catholic church – as well as its Protestant offspring – is the re-creation of a meal (actually, it’s more a cocktail and a nosh). And that meal, the Last Supper, was a seder, the foundation of the celebration of Passover. A lot of people say Grace before eating and there are religious rites used in the slaughter of animals to ensure that they are dispatched in a kosher manner. And of course the Bible is full of food – Eve and the apple, the loaves and the fishes, turning water into wine, manna from heaven, the unleavened bread, even Jonah and the “great fish.” The Galloping Gourmet gives way to the Crusading Caterer.

I’m not a theologian, but it occurs to me that one reason organized religion is so pervasive is that it has seized upon the basic human instincts as control mechanisms. They’ve certainly done it with sex, and if you attach religious symbolism and signifigance to something as basic as eating, you have control over the very life-giving process. The fact that a grilled cheese sandwich with a random scorch mark can become an icon is a little more than disturbing. It makes me wonder what else people will fall for.