How to throw a book release party: Part four

The Biblical parable of loaves and fish stuck with me long after I transitioned from Christian to agnostic around the age of 16. Of Pinterest-Blog Photos_4course, the Bible is rife with powerful visual images that were fairly easy to incorporate into Scourge of the Righteous Haddock. So when it came time to choose what food I was going to serve at my book release party, I didn’t have to travel far from my Christian roots.

We’re talking about a book with a religious brotherhood named after a fish (that would be the haddock, for those of you who aren’t up on your fish terms or are new to this blog). So what better (and, from a fiscal perspective, (PHOTO BY COLIN RIGLEY)

which must be taken into account when you’re an “independent publisher” aka self-published) cheaper meal than loaves and fish?

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Christian mythology, Jesus took five barley loaves and two fish and multiplied them to feed either 4,000 or 5,000 people–depending on which of the apostles’ accounts you believe. I think part of the reason this stuck with me is because the notion of a religious leader taking the time to feed hungry people is inspiring. Actually, the notion of anyone taking the time to feed hungry people–not for a photo op, but because they’re human and they know what it is to be hungry, thirsty, scared, vulnerable–is incredible. I would have a higher opinion of religious institutions if they stuck to feeding the hungry and spent a little less time condemning people to hell. (Basically if they were a little more like the character of Jesus, who by all accounts, was actually a pretty cool guy.)

So, loaves and haddock, it was. But I needed to make it personal. So, I drew inspiration from one of my favorite aspects of the book: the condiment baptisms. The idea is that a religious prophet named Damacias asks his followers to demonstrate their commitment to god by being baptized in condiments–the more painful the condiment, the higher the acolyte’s standing with god. It’s a ludicrous notion that “god” is sufficiently petty that (s)he demands that people douse themselves in honey or wasabi or mustard or anything else to convey their loyalty and commitment to him/ her.

But I don’t find it any more or less ridiculous than the idea that being dunked in water accomplishes anything more than getting yourself wet. If there was an all-knowing being, I would prefer to think that they’d have better things to do with their time than sitting around coming up with arbitrary hoops for humans to jump through.

You know who really likes to create hoops?

People.

“Say these words, and put a band of metal on your left hand and you’re joined for life.”

“Recite these words with your right hand over your heart to prove you love your country.”

“Move the tassel on your hat from the left side to the right side to show you’ve graduated.”

It’s all for show. It doesn’t actually demonstrate anything, except that you’re buying into something.

That was the point I wanted to make. And that’s why, at my book release party, there was a row of Dollar Store martini glasses, each of which contained a different condiment for guests to use as a dip for their loaves and fish. Admittedly, people were much less interested in the loaves and fish than they were in the free drinks, but that was to be expected. My primary point was that wine and cheese are lovely, but not necessarily for every occasion. The art reception staple felt too serious for my book release party–insufficiently playful and absurd.

If you’re curious about the condiment baptisms, here’s a passage from the book describing Simon, the tax collector, as he embarks on his flirtation with the Brotherhood of the Righteous Haddock:

 

“How must I do that? Written testimony? Or an induction fee?”

“An induction fee doesn’t hurt,” assured his friend. “The cost of converting so many is a burden we all must share, and happily. But God seeks a religious demonstration as proof of your conversion. A baptism.”

“What does that mean?” Never in any of his business dealings had Simon been asked to participate in a baptism, and he was beginning to feel uncomfortable and imposed upon.

“You need to immerse your body in a foreign substance, in much the same manner as you need to allow God’s holy being to drown out your secular thoughts and being. Now, Damacias is very reasonable. You get to choose the substance. But your standing with God depends on the quality of the substance you choose, whether it’s a flesh or financial sacrifice.”

“I don’t suppose God would consider assessing my commitment by simply looking inside my heart?” Simon’s voice was wry. He knew the baptism was a token of subservience to Damacias. Simply put, no divine being would care whether he put on a show by swimming in an ocean of pickles. This was man’s edict, but where there were enough men to enforce his will, he could fart and call it the wind of god.

The tax collector considered walking away. His eyes were on the door. He could simply say he had a previous engagement and leave. They’d both know it was a lie, but he wasn’t sufficiently attached to his friend to care whether he saw him again or not. But cold pragmatism kept him in his seat. He could rattle off a long list of rich and powerful men and women who had made the mistake of insulting politicians just before they came to power. Darcy was still a servant in her rival’s manor, her fingers mangled from sewing hundreds of glass shards into an elaborate gown that her mistress ultimately decided not to wear out of concern that it made her look thickset. The fortunate ones wound up in an asylum, too mentally shattered to be cognizant of the depths of their fall from grace. If this Damacias wanted to dunk his followers in mustard, what would he do to his detractors?

Simon leaned forward, ready to get serious about what this was going to cost him: “What would you advise?”

“A lot of people choose ketchup or syrup, sort of middle of the road. Horseradish is a good option for followers wanting to communicate that they’re taking their commitment a little more seriously. The apostles used soy sauce and lemon juice. A man from Pichca chose garlic chutney, which greatly pleased Damacias. Kadmus was baptized in chili oil.”

“What were you baptized in?”

“Sweet and sour sauce. I was the first.” Sitting in a wooden tub and feeling the gelatinous flow of the sauce oozing down his forehead, knowing he was the first to express his faith in this manner, was the proudest moment of his life. It far outshone his wedding day, the birth of his daughter, the year his carriage team defeated his neighbors’ in the annual Capital Scuttle.

“How soon can I do this?”

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