The boodle fight

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The Urban Dictionary defines “boodle fight” as “a military style of eating,” in which food, piled on top of banana leaves laid out on long tables, is to be taken with bare hands washed with water from jugs prepared on the side, which “eating combat” begins when the signal is given.

The dictionary adds, rather jocularly, that this is “Philippine fine dining,” in which everyone has to eat fast and can have his fill.

On occasion, newspapers carry photographs of boodle fights, as when a high-ranking military official visits a military camp, or the soldiers celebrate a special event. Each time, I would look at the pictures with amusement, even as, being squeamish, I could not imagine myself joining such a combat, myself preferring to dine seated at a table, with proper utensils.

And yet, not too long ago, at the lunch meant to culminate a weekend camp, the wife and I, together with 50 or so other couples, were asked to stand alongside three long tables put end to end and lined with banana leaves loaded with food—noodles, fried chicken, blood pudding, slices of fruit (papaya, mango), dried anchovies, salted fish, and many others.  We were going to have a boodle fight. If not for my hunger and there being no other lunch available, I would have moved back, and passed up being a combatant.

As it turned out, it was fun. I dipped my hand into the rice and pulled out a fistful, and then reached for a clutch of noodles and a pinch of the anchovies. I mixed them up, together with tomato slices, their seeds oozing out of my squeezing fingers. Everyone marked his territory with a tower of food, and thereafter everything was hand to mouth, except when there was need to replenish a stockpile, and then hands would extend across or through, wherever there was available supply not yet manipulated.

After the boodle fight, we all felt like victors, having had our fill in such a rustic fashion, as we lined up before the faucets to remove the greasy evidence from our hands.

Because of their number, Jesus and the apostles could very well have decided to have a boodle fight for their Passover meal. Only a long table would have been big enough for them. But, of course, they were not free to improvise, the food being strictly prescribed. There had to be unleavened bread, bitter herbs, the roasted lamb, and four glasses of wine, aside from other items (fruits, nuts and vegetables).

As in the boodle fight, and as directed in Exodus, the Passover meal begins with the washing of hands, is eaten standing and in haste. But perhaps the resemblance ends there.

Mark writes that, during the meal, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to the apostles, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

In fact, if we look at it again, Jesus’ Passover meal with his apostles was a spiritual boodle fight. Jesus turned the food—the bread and wine—into his own body and blood (and this he repeats everyday at the Holy Mass). It was not just a meal of ordinary food, but of Jesus himself. And so, in the Eucharist, if one knows that the bread and wine one is partaking of are the body and blood of the Lord himself, one would help oneself to them until satiety, which, fortunately, never comes, because one can never have enough of the Lord, who gives of himself without limit. In effect, in the Eucharist, the Lord has offered himself as food for a never-ending boodle fight.

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