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May 9, 2006
When is the cookbook coming out? somebody emails. I think it was the person who sent the peach pie recipe, but it could have been the butternut squash. My memory is so poor.

Soon, I write back. In time for General Convention. The publisher hopes to sell large numbers of the new Geranium Farm Cookbook at convention, a captive audience of motivated book-buyers. Convention begins on June 13th and runs to the 21st; if I don't get corrections to them by May 12th, they warn me sternly, it won't happen. At that time, the Episcopal Church either will or will not break apart, splintering along the fault lines of confessional disagreement in a way new to us, and bringing years of internecine threats and name-calling to a pathetic end. I hope it does not; adults ought to be able to handle disagreement better than that.

As is the case every three years when this meeting occurs, we are very focussed on it, and imagine that other people are, too. We completely forget how unlovely religious folk look to outside observers when we are horrible to one another, and we forget how far from the institutional
church most modern people are. Why we would think the spectacle of our behaving in this way would make any sane person want to affiliate with us is beyond me.

And yet we still think people want to join us. And we still want them to. This is because we love our old Church, every exasperating inch of her. We love the way we encounter God within her. We love the culture of her -- I mean, the cultures of her, and all the arenas she provides in which to love the world God has made. We love her music and her brocade, her voluntary societies, her candles and her spires and her down-at-the-heels auditoriums, her red doors and the weary green of her parish halls, the intoxicating smells of her incense, her Easter lilies, her potluck suppers. We love her language, her special quirky words: her purificators and corporals, her burses and veils, her aumbries and pyxes, the nave and narthex of her. Like children in a large family, each with a different experience of their mother, each of us has a different experience of her, and each is convinced our own experience is authoritative.

Whoever said she had to be without error? In order for us all to stay? In order for us all to love her?

Purificator: The white napkin used to wipe the rim of the cup after each communicant takes a sip for it.

Corporal: The white cloth upon which the vessels containing the bread and the wine are set during their consecration as the body and blood of Christ.

Burse: The flat, cloth-covered cardboard cover placed atop the veiled chalice (cup) and paten (plate). It is hinged, like a book, and you can put extra purificators and the corporal in it.

Veil: A square of heavy cloth, matching the burse, that covers the chalice and paten when they are waiting to be used. The burse perches on top of it the whole ensemble.

Aumbry: A box or compartment, usually set into a wall but sometimes on a shelf, in which consecrated bread and wine is reserved for use in visits to the sick. An oil aumbry is the same, only smaller, and contains holy oils.

Pyx: A container for consecrated bread. Some are very small, for use in visiting the sick, and others hang from a chain, for storing larger quantities of the bread.

Nave: The largest part of a church, where the congregation sits.

Narthex: The entrance of a church's interior -- its "lobby."

The Geranium Farm Cookbook can be ordered at the Farm's bookstore, The Farm's book sales are handled by Viva Books of San Antonio, Texas.

Braised Chicken with Butternut Squash, Walnuts and Sage
from Gordon Boals, Somerset, NJ

2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
One 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or purchased broth, simmering in a pot
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons chopped sage, plus more for serving

serves 4

1. Heat the oil and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a high-sided
sauté pan over medium heat. Season the chicken parts generously with
salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the pan, skin side down, without crowding and cook slowly until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Turn the pieces over and brown the other side, about 8 more minutes.

2. Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and cover loosely with foil to
keep warm. Set aside.

3. Add the onion, carrots, and squash to the pan and sauté until
softened but still holding their shape, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the
cinnamon, clove, and ginger. Pour in the stock, return the chicken to the pan, raise the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer until the chicken shows no pink when pierced at the joint, about 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and season it with salt and pepper.

4. Remove the chicken from the pan and arrange the pieces on a serving
platter. Add the walnuts and sage leaves to the pan and cook for 2
minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, stirring it in to give the sauce a smooth finish.

5. Spoon the vegetables around the chicken and pour any extra sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle more sage and walnuts over the dish and serve.
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