Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Art of the Fugue

The Kingdom of God is like a fugue. Seriously. In fact, most of the major concepts of the Bible are like a fugue. In my experience, it's one of the most useful ways of thinking about the Biblical narrative.

A fugue is a compositional technique (in classical music) in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition. Thanks, Wikipedia!

No idea what that means? Watch this. I recommend full-screen. Focus, don't multi-task. It's worth it.

Get it?

The piece starts off with a small and simple melodic line. Easy to follow, easy to distinguish, easy to remember. That melody then gains ornamentation (it's done made fancy) which demonstrates the skill of both the composer and performer while increasing the enjoyment of the listener. It's not amusement only, though: the ornamentation actually brings out more of the melody line and makes it more distinctive.

Then, just when you think you're beginning to understand the melody line, it shuts off and appears again somewhere else. Exact same basic melody, but with a twist. From one perspective, there's no direct musical connection between the first and second occurrence. It's usually played by a different hand on a different part of the piano (or organ, or whatever). But it's unmistakably the same melody. Then that familiar melody stops, only to start again somewhere else. The enjoyment and appreciation of the fugue comes from recognizing the common melody and its ornamentation, and the way the melody can be stacked against itself in different ways.

Ok, enough of the pretension. I like fugues cause they sounds good. After being in a choir for 15 years, you learn to appreciate the complexity.

This is what the Bible is like. I'm preaching this weekend on Habakkuk 3, and briefly mentioning what I consider the major narrative thread of the Bible: "God wants to dwell with his people." You see an echo of this thread on almost every page of the Bible, if you know how to look (or, perhaps, how to listen).
It starts in the Garden of Eden, where God walks with Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve are tainted by their sin, and become unable to bear the presence of a Holy God. But God doesn’t stop loving them, and throughout the rest of the Bible we continue to see that God’s primary desire is to dwell with his people. We see the tent of meeting, and the Tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple. But these are just a stopgap solution; a physical metaphor for a people that didn’t yet understand what it means for God to dwell with us. That we are the temple of a holy God.

In the New Testament, Jesus refers to himself as the temple, the place where God dwells. Ok, his disciples say, we get that. Good. Then it’s the church that is the temple of God; the place where he dwells. And finally this reaches its fullness in the writing of Paul, where he says “Your body is the temple of God.” YOU are the place where God dwells. Our God is the God who dwells with us.
You see this "fugue" methodology all through the text, "Temple" and "Kindgom" are just the most obvious melodies. See also "Covenant," "Sacrifice," "Family," "Law," "Salvation," and so on. Once you learn the art of the fugue, what otherwise seems like a solid wall of noise begins to resolve into discernible patterns, written and performed by a Master Musician.

It's worth spending some time learning the fugue, for your enjoyment of music if nothing else. Once you think you've got it, try this on for size.

Or, if that's too much, start with this:

Don't even get me started on grace notes.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Grill a Pizza

We've been in Wilmore for almost two years now, and we've been blessed to have been surrounded by some absolutely fantastic people. To maximize that, we instituted a "Sunday Night is For Friends" policy whenever it's warm enough to be in the backyard. It's strictly a backyard gig, because our tiny cinder-block duplex gets pretty cramped when we try having fifteen people around the dinner table.

For a while we tried doing burgers and dogs, which is incredibly tasty but hard on the budget. Midway through last summer, we discovered the joy of grilled pizza. The greatest thing about grilled pizza is that you can put just about anything on a crust and call it a pizza. Our friends also bring whatever they happen to have on hand, and we have a fantastic dinner without anybody having to go shopping.

I made four pizzas tonight, and every piece was eaten. It took the first two to remember all of the tricks, but by the third one the system was rocking and the pizza was delicious. So I'm writing it down here, partly because I promised Kara I would and partly because otherwise I'll forget it. If I was a real foodie writer, I'd have taken awesome pictures of the process. But between the four-foot rat snake that came to visit Jenna while she was sitting in the grass and the bee that stung my the sole of Judi's foot, I was a little distracted with getting the food on.

Now, to the cooking!

First off, get your dough going. You'll want to do this about an hour before starting the grill. We use our standard flatbread recipe:
- 1 cup warm (not hot) water
- 2 teaspoons of yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar

Let sit for 10 minutes (to proof the yeast), then add and mix:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon oregano
The spices are negotiable; we use a slightly different mix when making flatbread. This recipe makes two pizza crusts; the double recipe (4 crusts) was about right for eight adults and seven kids. After mixing, you'll want to leave the dough alone for an hour to rise (it should double in size). This will give you plenty of time to prep your ingredients. You'll be making the pizzas on a hot grill, so having ingredients prepped and ready to go is a big deal.

Once your ingredients are ready and your dough has doubled in size, prep the grill. Put your pizza stone right on the grill. We have two stones we bought at Trader Joe's a decade ago, but I'm told quarry stone works just as well. Turn on all the burners and close the lid; you'll want it nice and hot. A wood-fired pizza oven cooks at roughly 500 degrees, and that's about how hot my gas grill is with all burners on and the lid closed.

Separate your big batch of dough into two (or four, in my case) pieces. You'll want another cup of all-purpose flour handy; the dough will likely be sticky and wet. A drier dough is easier to work with, so don't be afraid to add plenty more flour as you roll it out. Once it's rolled, you've got to transfer it to a hot pizza stone in the grill. I've had the most success with this method, but whatever works for you. I don't recommend adding the cold pizza stone into the oven, because: (1) the cold stone will absorb all the heat and cook the pizza more slowly, and (2) you don't want to take a hot pizza stone out of the grill. Trust me. Throw some cornmeal on the hot stone, transfer your dough, let it cook for 3-5 minutes, then flip it with a grill spatula and immediately start building your pizza on the surface that had been against the stone.

Your pizza can be whatever you want. The first two (you know, for kids) were standard pizza sauce/pepperoni/cheese, but the last two were a lot nicer.
1. Cover the dough with olive oil, black pepper, and diced garlic.
2. Add your meat(s). On the first pizza, it was shredded leftovers from crockpotted whole chicken. On the second pizza, it was half chicken, half black forest ham.
3. Add your veggies. On the first pizza, it was sliced onions and leftover chopped spinach. On the second, it was sliced onions and jalapenos.
4. Add your cheese. We used some leftover colby, but mostly mozzarella.
5. Sprinkle a little oregano on top (I forgot this tonight but I didn't miss it much).
And that's pretty much it. A cheap, clean-out-the-fridge meal that you can make in the back while watching your children run scream and chase each other around the yard. It's no more work to cook for 15 than to cook for 2, so why not hang out with friends while you cook and eat?