Thursday, October 03, 2013

Offending Catholic Palates

The communion wafer that Catholics consume as part of their religious practices has no taste. It is a piece of unleavened bread, and is based on the matzah that Jews eat at Passover.

It is now part of the Kuma's Corner burger menu, and some Chicago-area Catholics are up in arms.

Watch enough of the Food Network and you'll realize that chefs are aware that many of their customers are watching a lot of the Food Network and developing some high expectations. Food isn't just for eating. It's circus. Diners have to be entertained, to have their minds tweaked as much as their palates. So it should come as no surprise that the foodies at Kuma's Corner have cooked up a new burger to freshen up the menu. It's just that some think they've gone a little too far.

The latest offering at the heavy-metal themed restaurant pays tribute to a heavy metal band from Sweden that Catholics find offensive, in that the band wears costumes implying a mockery of the Catholic clergy. Other monthly specials at Kuma's have been named for other heavy metal bands, so it's not as if Kuma's has never done this sort of thing before. The chef then selects certain elements associated with the band, and whips up a burger to fit, and the burger of the month goes on sale.

What comes out of the kitchen is usually just a sandwich with a creative collection of cheese, meat, sauce and garnish that doesn't really spell out the band being honored. It's more marketing and culinary wizardry than slavish copying.

Until someone hit on the idea that the Swedish band Ghost does this Offend-The-Catholics-themed thing and what better way to express the band's image in food than with a communion wafer and a wine reduction sauce. Oh, and a little aioli made with ghost chilis as a nod to the band's name.

And so you have the Ghost.

It's a goat burger with cheese, served on a pretzel bun. You can ask the kitchen to hold the communion wafer, if you like. It doesn't add a thing to the flavor of the burger. Sort of like the parsley or sprig of rosemary that some restaurants dump on your plate before serving, under the theory that you eat with your eyes first.

Some Catholic eaters are taking offense at the restaurant's use of something they see as a powerful symbol of their faith, turning it into a garnish. They wouldn't be fans of Ghost if they knew of the band for which the burger was named, and they aren't accepting the excuse that this particular burger is just another of Kuma's monthly specials following a familiar pattern of homage to heavy metal.

You would think they would be more deeply offended by the $17 price tag on a goat patty with a thin slice of cheese and a drizzle of sauce.

Seventeen dollars? For a sandwich? Now that's offensive.

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