God’s Hors D’Oeuvres

Do-It-Yourself Communion Wafers – Gluten-Free

(Thanks to the Washington Celiac Support Group)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together:

  • 2 Tblsp. potato starch
  • 1 Cup minus 2 Tblsp. (7/8 cup) cornstarch
  • 3 Cups brown or white rice flour
  • 1 Tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 2 Tblsp. Xanthum Gum

Cut 1/2 Cup margarine into ingredients

Add 1 Cup buttermilk, and mix with fingers until workable.

Roll with rolling pin on a rice floured surface as thin as possible.

Use bottle caps to cut in small circles.

Place in oven for 6 minutes.

Serves several hundred.

To non-Christians, the Eucharist is probably the sexiest ritual in a religion already suffused with the seductive — incense, chants, colorful robes and suggestive headgear, a “virgin,” a prostitute prominent in the pantheon, even confession. But nothing beats the Eucharist for pure sensuality: a row of kneeling supplicants, eyes closed, mouths open, awaiting the body of Christ…

It wasn’t always so racy. Christian tradition holds that the custom dates back to the Last Supper, when Jesus put a new twist on an old Jewish prayer by interpreting that the bread he shared was his body, “given for you,” and the wine his blood. An actual meal followed.

So it went for a few years, but by the second century the party was over: No more meal, just bread and wine, and thanks for the memories, Jesus. Back then, scholars believe, it was more of a memorial service than a miracle.

As time went on, Christians began drifting back toward the decidedly pre-Christian notion of sacrifice. Some bright fellow picked up on an idea popular with cannibals world-wide: No better way to know your god than to eat Him. Combined with the belief that Christ had volunteered for such duty in order to redeem His followers, an ingenious and enduring ritual was born. By the fourth century, Christ died for Christian sins every Sunday — the proof was on the tip of your tongue.

It took until the year 1215 for the Church to make it official, with the nifty notion of transubstantiation, a complete change of substances — bread and wine — into other substances — flesh and blood. Such a doctrine had been brewing for some time, but it probably wasn’t coincidence that it was made final then.

The 13th century saw a radical shift in notions of how things change. Before that, theologians had been inclined to see change as, literally, evolutionary: one thing grows, slowly, into another. But under the influence of the Arab science of alchemy, new discoveries in natural science, and a medieval resurgence in werewolf and vampire tales, Christian theologians felt the heat to put the stamp of the divine on bread and wine.

The transformation of bread and wine wasn’t easily swallowed by all. Martin Luther argued for “consubstantion” — the idea that the bread and wine co-existed with the flesh and blood. Calvin, foreseeing techno-jargon of the future, opted instead for a “virtual” body and blood — present only in spirit.

In the 20th century, non-Christians have also been able to enjoy a virtual Eucharist, via celluloid, in movies such as The Matrix, Priest, and that classic tale of lusty Catholic school kids, Heaven Help Us.

But if you haven’t experienced the miracle yourself, it can be hard to understand what all the fuss is about. Film representations invariably make the sacrament seem a little over-rated — good for cheap thrills and erotic hi-jinks perhaps, but a little hard to — no, not that line again. See what I mean? Absent the taste of actual flesh and blood, the Eucharist lends itself too easily to camp and bad puns.

Of course, it’d be deeply disrespectful to take a taste test in a church. But that shouldn’t stop non-Christians from enjoying fresh baked Jesus. With this recipe (see sidebar), you can make your own communion wafers right at home. It’s offered here as public service. In a time when it seems every church on the block holds its own seder to get in touch with its Jewish roots, why should Christians have all the interfaith fun?

Added bonus: this recipe is gluten-free. In 1995, the Vatican declared that candidates for the priesthood who can’t digest gluten would no longer be accepted. There is one recipe for official salvation, it seems, and Rome isn’t about to change it because a few priestly hopefuls happen to be allergic to the protein found in wheat.