I think I just secured my spot in heaven, friends. Last month, my good drinking buddy Henry Redman had a wild idea: “What do you think about cooking dinner for some Jesuits?”
Halfway through another beer I half-heartedly said, “I’m down!” I laughed under my breath thinking how far-fetched this idea was. What priests would go to a random student’s house for dinner and an interview?
Fast forward three weeks and I had three Jesuits knocking at my door, eagerly awaiting dinner.
Fr. Michael, Fr. Henry and David (a seminarian at the time) gathered in my tiny dining room and took their seats. Introductions were made in a friendly yet awkward manner since this was most definitely the first time any of us had been in this situation. What better way to break the ice than to pop open some wine.
A nine-year-old bottle of Brunello di Montalcino I had brought back from Italy would not only impress these guests but also lighten the mood. A pale and translucent plum color flowed from the bottle as it poured into each of the four glasses. Aromas of raisins, leather, tobacco and dark cocoa filled the dining room. As we cheered, I pressed the glass to my lips and tasted a robust yet inviting wine. Woody notes were almost dancing off my tongue with a delicate touch of sweetness and a whisper of dark berries.
I excused myself for a moment and briskly make my way to the kitchen. The base for the vegan demi-glace was caramelizing in the oven, the gnocchi had been shaped and rested and the vinaigrette for the salad was ready.
I prepared a small salad to open up the dinner. A mix of red and green cabbage tossed with baby spinach and arugula is served with a simple vinaigrette: truffle oil, balsamic, apple cider vinegar, salt and cracked pepper — simple and clean.
As we ate the salad, we all began to open up to one another. David was a nice man, spoke in a bubbly manner but was reserved for most of the night. He began to open up later however, speaking of how he has celiac disease and can’t tolerate meat. His ailment forced him to be limited in his diet so I wanted to make him a dinner that he could not only enjoy but expand his horizons.
Fr. Michael was an interesting man to say the least. From what I gathered, he was affiliated with a gang in Arizona before becoming a priest. He was not only polite but charismatic. Fr. Michael and I compared tattoos and talked about their meanings. He had a shoulder piece dedicated to his cousin who died because of gang violence. Fr. Michael told me his tattoos helped him connect with the youth in Arizona and helped their trusting him. I asked him if his tattoos caused any problems with the Jesuits, and surely enough they did. He said some priests asked him to have them removed but said his past life was the reason he became a priest.
Fr. Henry has a past life I connected with. He used to work for Jamie Oliver, a world-renowned chef, before pursuing the priesthood. He and I were comparing notes when it came to the wine and salad, adding things that may improve a future innovation of such. We began to fill the air with food talk, muting out with food talk.
The aroma from the kitchen seeped into the dining room. I rushed over and finished preparing the main dish — gnocchi tossed in a vegan demi-glace with vegan parmesan cheese. I eagerly awaited my guests reaction as they took their first bites. Their faces said it all. David was pleasantly surprised at the flavor, Michael was silent as he inhaled the dish and Henry gave me a nod of approval after his first bite.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to heaven.
As the wine dwindled away, small talk turned to deep conversation, the topics became increasingly personal.
I spoke about my conversation into the Catholic church. I explained I was drawn by the beauty of the scriptures, the openness in the community and the poetic homilies I heard echo within church walls. These men were all Catholic at birth, so to them this was a new point of view. I spoke of how in my darkest moments I turned to introspection and found God and religion when I needed it the most.
I had not prepared a dessert but instead opted for a liquid one — whiskey and sake.
David sipped his sake quietly as Fr. Michael, Fr. Henry and I filled the room with our laughter and stories. After three glasses of whiskey, we called it a night.
This trio of Jesuits was a fantastic one to say the least. Life stories filled with the perfect mix of humor and personability made for an unforgettable night. Next time you see a Jesuit, make sure you let them know Jacob has a spot at the table for them.