19 November 2008

Hurtado > Halal

A few weeks ago I decided that I am on a one-woman mission to eat through the Biblical and Theological Studies Department, one professor at a time.  No, I am not turning to cannibalism.  I am, however, aware of the fact that our department has an unusually rich array of ethnic professors--Brad Nassif is Lebanese, Boaz is Indian, Joel and Scot have both spent a fair amount of time in England, and Mary...well, I'll figure out something culinarily exciting about her.  

Okay maybe it's more like "we have two ethnic professors out of five" but that's still huge for a Scandanavian university.  

My progress so far is limited to Indian food with Boaz after a World Religions field trip and Lebanese food at the Nassif residence with my Senior Seminar class.  Conclusions:  Lebanese food, yes.  Halal, no.  At some point in this mission, Katie Kuehn and I wondered what culinary category Scot would fit best in.  After exploring several options (including Scottish...we're terrible), in the end we decided that proper "white man food" consists of a good casserole.  

Then I remembered that he loves Italy.  
Like, spends a significant amount of time there every year.  
So maybe I'll save the casserole for Joel; Scot food is Italian.  

And I got to check that off my list tonight.  In. Style.  

You see, it is that most magical of weeks in the BTS department.  Not only is everyone getting ready to fly out of town for the Society of Biblical Literature conference, they are also all a-buzz over the department's annual Kermit Zarley lectures.  This year's speaker is Dr. Larry Hurtado from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, perhaps the world expert on God in the New Testament.  Talking about, um, God in the Bible sounds really general, but it's not, I promise. 
When I walked into the office this afternoon to meet with Joel about his paper for SBL, the buzz in the air was tangible: Kermit Zarley (the golfer-turned-theology-aficionado who puts on the lectures every year) sat in Scot's office talking about studying Hebrew, Boaz was strolling around the hall making sure everyone was heading over to the lectures soon, Brad was talking about the day with a student in his office.  It was academic magic.  As Joel and I headed to Starbucks to grab a hot beverage before the lecture, he mentioned that the entire department goes out to dinner with the speaker after the lecture every year.  "Hmm, free food? I think that's something the BTSO president should be involved in" I quipped, entirely joking. 

Cut to about two hours later when I, standing in a line to talk to Dr. Hurtado about postgraduate work at the University of Edinburgh, felt a tap on my shoulder.  Scot McKnight beckoned me away from the crowd, "Cindy, over here...come here.  We have an extra spot at dinner tonight, would you like to come with us?"  
I stood there, feeling like a little boy who'd just been asked by the fireman if he wanted to man the siren on the big red truck.  "Really?"  
He nodded, "Do you have anything tonight?"  
Only about 900 pages of reading to do for Joel, I thought, but do I want to put that off to go have dinner with all of my professors and a world authority in New Testament studies?  Um, is the Pope a Catholic?  "No!  I could do that!  I mean, I don't have anything on me...I don't have any money or my El card..."
"Oh don't worry, the department will take care of all that and Mary can drive you."
I announced that I needed a moment to geek out about the entire thing.  

After Scot walked away to talk to another professor, I stood in the aisle of Isaacson Chapel waiting for the students to file out from the lecture.  I texted Kip with something to the effect of "omg omg omg I'm going to dinner with the profs and the speaker".  He immediately called me and we gabbed like teenagers who'd just sighted a "High School Musical" star in the food court at the mall.  I leaned against one of the pews only to realize that the ink from a note I'd written earlier on my hand had formed a permanent, backwards "...meet tomorrow..." on the whitewashed surface.  I hastily licked my fingers, trying to rub it off.  I can't decide what was worse:  staining a pew or cleaning it with saliva.  As I pondered this, the professors all got ready to leave, turning to me, "Ready?"

Oh yes, professors, I was born ready, pew-staining hands and all.

When we arrived at Via Veneta I booked it to the bathroom, intent on washing any residual ink (and saliva) off my palm, visions of a disgusted guest lecturer-post shaking my hand in my head.  When I got back to the table, the rest of the professors had arrived.  Scot looked at me, "How old are you?"
"Good.  You can have a glass of wine then."
I raised my eyebrows.  "Is drinking with professors really a good idea?"
He looked around the table, "Is drinking with students a good idea?"

And that is how I came to not only share Italian food with Scot McKnight (next target: a casserole with Joel), but also how I got to do it facing Dr. Hurtado, surrounded by all of my professors and many glasses of wine.  

They talked about how Dr. Hurtado made it to Edinburgh, who they believe are good writers (Scot suggested reading three pages of C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" before writing; Joel opted for Dostoyevsky), the conservative values of Wheaton College, Franz Bibfeldt, names for God in the Bible (to which I added my major contribution for the night: "Where, then, does theos fit in?"), risotto, why Brad and Joel maybe shouldn't have ordered the steak according to Acts 15, and more.  At some points I just sat back, paying attention to the wonder of it all.  At some points, Scot leaned across the table with a self-satisfied glint in his eye and asked how I was doing.  I smiled back, wondering how I'd ended up the Cinderella invited to this ball of academic rock stars, reached for my wine glass with my still slightly-stained hand, and tried to hold back my grimace at the chianti's bitterness.  But hey, I didn't like halal either. 


Anonymous said...

Wow!! What an evening you had. I am sure you will remember it for ever. Good food, wine and clever conversation (in spite of the bitter wine)you must be on cloud 9. What an honor to be asked to join the group. How was the risotto? gilmore lady

hrobins said...

OH MY GOOOOOOOSH!!!!!!!!!! AHHH! I'm seriously sitting at my computer right now boiling in utter envy. THAT IS SO COOL!! Okay, I'm done yelling now...I think.

Anonymous said...

I'm jealous. Envy is a sin, but whatever. That is freakin rad...not gonna lie, I saw you heading off with them and thought that would be pretty cool. Ohhh, but I did "run into" Dr. Hurtado at SBL :)

Cindy said...

Um, I'm envying your being able to go to SBL mostly because it was SBL, but also cause it was in Boston. Did you totally rub shoulders with all the people who we reference in papers? Talk about rad.