About Week 3
The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica states in its article on “sin eaters”:
“A symbolic survival of it (sin eating) was witnessed as recently as 1893 at Market Drayton, Shropshire. After a preliminary service had been held over the coffin in the house, a woman poured out a glass of wine for each bearer and handed it to him across the coffin with a ‘funeral biscuit.’ In Upper Bavaria sin-eating still survives: a corpse cake is placed on the breast of the dead and then eaten by the nearest relative, while in the Balkan peninsula a small bread image of the deceased is made and eaten by the survivors of the family. The Dutch doed-koecks or ‘dead-cakes‘, marked with the initials of the deceased, introduced into America in the 17th century, were long given to the attendants at funerals in oldNew York. The ‘burial-cakes’ which are still made in parts of rural England, for example Lincolnshire and Cumberland, are almost certainly a relic of sin-eating”
As an exercise this week we each baked bread, something none of us have ever done before, we then split it into thirds and mailed it to each other while musing on sin, regret, & death. This Sunday we reconvene to share bread, beer, and sin. Each of us literally eating the sins of another for the next week. We will then transcribe the sins of those we eat and embody them in performance we will upload after.
Sin Eating: How to make Naan (Moe)
Sin Eating Reflection: Beer-and-Cheese Bread and Kellen’s Focaccia
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle lager-style beer (such as High Life)
- Cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons melted butter, divided
- 1. Preheat oven to 375°.
- 2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in pepper and garlic; cook 1 minute.
- 3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Add onion mixture, cheese, and beer to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
- 4. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon butter over batter. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon butter over batter. Bake an additional 25 minutes or until deep golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
So, this recipe has no significant meaning other than allowing me to bake bread for the first time. It is a quick bread, in the family of pancakes and Irish soda bread, where I circumvent the tricky business of yeast and rising dough and all. This is a mix-it-up-slap-it-in-a-pan concoction, which is indicative of my lifestyle–an economical tree fort mentality of whatever’s in the cupboards goes in the food.
I cut the bread into thirds and thought of the Bible story of King Solomon doing it. Or the illusion where the magician cuts his assistant into so many pieces. Either way, I took two of the thirds and whispered my sins into them like a lover.
What did I say?
Wouldn’t you like to know?
My apologies, but this time I can’t share my secrets. These little sins were for my fellow eaters. The ones I whispered into the bread were variations of the ones I spoke to them at our Sin Eating meeting…or completely new ones. I don’t recall.
This ambiguity or calculated nonchalance toward sin reflects my areligious upbringing. What is the definition of sin? Jaywalking? Masturbating? Murder? How can those three all be held in the same container with a straight face? Belt of Fat has been a spontaneous process of finding moments and then the pivot points to set new parameters to find the next moment. The sins I feel I have in my body at the moment are more important than THE ULTIMATE SINS I believe I should be carrying with me forever and always. Like food, the diet of sins change depending on the day. The bread carried sins of the moment after it came out of the oven. The sins I expounded on at rehearsal were their own beasts in that moment too.
This is Kellen’s Focaccia bread. As soon as I opened the space-age tinfoil package, the aroma of olive oil and onion wafted into my face. It was a sizable chunk of the pitted bread–I admired it from my bone-white dish. Then Kellen let her sins come from her mouth, across the wonder (and terror) of the Google Hangout, and into my empty bedroom.
The bread seemed to inflate with every one of her words. I cracked open a beer and started munching.
I could imagine how those beggars felt when eating the bread and ale over the corpse of a higher class. They took on the sins of the dead for the benefit of the superstitious bastards comprising the next of kin. These lepers of society grew even more vile in the eyes of everyone…but at least the lepers had food that day.
This social contract (or excuse) for interaction is reduced to a very humble scale for our trio. We fill the roles of dispenser and carrier of sins. Like animal cells, the semi-permeable membrane between us allows the sin to flow around in a little vicious carousel. These are the sins of no one. These are the sins of everyone. The sins lose ownership and simply are in the ether of our process. They are fallout from a faraway blast. We bathe in the ashes and eat the dust–for dust we are and dust we shall return.
It’s an absurd ritual that makes our fears tangible…and for that, it can never be absurd. Like the best fictions, it’s finding truth within the lie.
I think we’re getting closer to why the hell we’re doing this whole thing.