During my years as a Ford model in New York City, I met many celebrities but none as memorable as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the American Diocese of the Episcopal Church.
On May 19 he captured the attention of 2 billion people via worldwide satellite at the Royal wedding. However, he captured my heart and imagination much earlier as my passionate culinary student. We prepared an ancient Mediterranean meal together for a filming and interview for the N.C. Episcopalian Diocese magazine.
Bishop Curry “took me to church” the first time I heard him preach at the rural St. Mary’s Chapel in Hillsborough where I grew up. I knew right away that he was not a traditional Episcopal priest. His delivery reminded me more of an evangelical preacher. Flashing his engaging smile, he confessed to me that his grandmother had been a Baptist! His joyous demeanor and contagious enthusiasm were harbingers of more divine appointments to come.
His next calling would take the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina to New York City, temporarily away from his family and Raleigh home. After our first meeting, I encountered Bishop Curry again at a St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church luncheon in Hillsborough. I learned that he liked chicken wings and that most churches served him his favorite food.
As my “wing man” for an ancient Mediterranean feast at St. Michael’s Episcopal church in Raleigh, he learned how to properly open a pomegranate, make hummus with toasted pita bread and prepare a mezze plate with Biblical herbs.
We discussed the nuances of chicken wings, and he was curious if Jesus ate buffalo chicken wings. Since there were no hot peppers, such as jalapenos, in Israel 2,000 years ago, we took creative license and prepared the BBQ sauce using pomegranate molasses with balsamic vinegar, garlic, honey and olive oil.
In some portions of the Bible, there is a list of many foods not allowed to be eaten because they were considered unclean. Notably “Thou shall not eat of the screech owl, the stork, the heron, the winged bat.” We concluded chicken wings were accepted!
Bishop Curry seemed to enjoy the fruits of his culinary labor. We gave a blessing, made a toast, broke pita bread and “shared the love” of an ancient meal from the time of Jesus. Bishop Curry even helped with the dishes!
A man for all seasons, Presiding Bishop Curry embodies a gospel of love and redemption. Whether serving as a civil rights activist, a defender of human justice, a Royal wedding “Bishop of the people” or my “sous chef” for a Biblical feast, this humble descendant of Alabama slaves does it all with loving kindness and amazing grace. Bon appetit!
Zacki Murphy of Zacki’s Culinary Creations is a personal chef and culinary instructor. Reach her at email@example.com and www. zackisculinarycreations.com
Ancient Mediterranean Chicken Wings with Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Sauce
1/2 T salt
1/2 T black pepper
16 chicken wings cut in half
4 cloves garlic, mashed
½ small, sweet onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
½ cup pomegranate molasses*
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
6 T brown sugar
2 T raisins
1/2 T sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
Directions: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash wings, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Mix first 3 ingredients in large bowl. Add the chicken and shake well until covered. Line a baking pan with foil. Spray with olive oil. Place chicken on top and bake about 25 minutes. Sauté garlic and onions in plain olive oil. Put mixture and the rest of the ingredients into a food processor and blend well. Pour into saucepan and heat until the mixture is well incorporated. Dip chicken into mixture and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce.
*Pomegranate molasses can be found at most Indian stores. Little India, on University Drive in Durham regularly stocks it.