Gary Stevenson wants you to eat Lucifer’s Hands. They will taste like chicken – devilishly delicious Korean-spiced chicken – but he’s hoping they send you on a journey from mouth to head to heart. You’ll start with Cedarwood Road. Along the way he’ll offer you a McPhisto Hot Lemon Tonic. You’ll end, sweetly, with Streets. It’s called Theo’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Feast: A Celebration of the Music & Spiritual Journey of U2.
Stevenson created Theo’s Feasts for “sharing the story of humanity through edible metaphors.” He was inspired by Jesus’ example of sharing His kingdom truths over meals, and Stevenson hopes his dinner parties will also inspire Gospel-centered conversations with friends and family. An example of his main (non-U2) Theo’s Feast menu is here and a video trailer for the concept is here.
Stevenson, a self-trained chef and university chaplain at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, has been a U2 fan since high school, but only recently has he thought about the Biblical themes in the songs. “Over the past few years, I’ve grown to really appreciate their messages of faith, hope and justice in many of their most popular songs,” Stevenson said, “and that there is an emphasis in many of those songs on the need for redemption or salvation.”
For his six-course U2-themed gourmet meal, he translated the metaphors in the songs for the plate. When Stevenson and his creative team presents each course to his guests, they share a brief story of how the song inspired the dish and what he sees as the Gospel elements found within that song. “The vision of our rock ‘n’ roll feast is to guide our dinner guests on a Gospel-led journey of discovery over the course of the dinner,” Stevenson said.
The first U2 Feast was on December 3. Stevenson said he has ideas for more than 20 dishes inspired by U2 songs, and he is developing and refining his U2 menu for more rock ‘n’ roll feasts in 2017.
See below for Stevenson’s detailed descriptions of his inspiration for each dish from his December 3 menu, and for the messages he shared with them. Click on each image for a larger view.
1. Cedarwood Road
Dublin Coddle, Roasted Beets, Irish Whiskey Glazed Carrots, Honey Glazed Turnips, Kale Chips, Cherry Chutney
The inspiration behind this dish comes from a combination of two things, Bono’s childhood on Cedarwood Road and the band’s earliest jam sessions in Larry’s kitchen. As I pondered how best to communicate these two ideas, I thought about classic Irish comfort food and what Larry’s mom might have made the boys for their Wednesday night jam sessions. After reading as many Irish cookbooks that I could find, I found a number of recipes for Dublin Coddle.
Irish Coddle is simply a slow cooked stew with sausage. We have a British deli just down the street from my kitchen where we got imported authentic Irish sausage, Irish bacon and ham hocks for the base of our coddle. I was also inspired by Bono’s reference to the cherry blossom tree on his street, so I included some homemade cherry chutney served as a condiment to brighten up the dish.
For the narrative I simply share the story of the beginnings of the band and what it was like growing up in Dublin in 1976. I include some reflections about their Lipton Village Gang and the Shalom Community, who deeply influenced their early spiritual formation.
2. Lucifer’s Hands
Gochujang Claws/Korean Spiced Chicken Wings, Blue Cheese Ice Cream, Asian Pear Salad
Korean-spiced chicken wings are plated to represent demon claws upon a bed of bitter greens with sweet Asian pears. The blue cheese ice cream is designed to bring a complimentary contrast to the spicy wings. There is also some inspiration with the blue cheese towards the rottenness of sin. I love the story behind the song “Lucifer’s Hands” and it’s filled with many spiritual references. It is very much a continuation of the Cedarwood Road story and the vibrant spiritual renewal that was sweeping through U2’s high school that had a lasting impact on the Christian worldview that helped form the view of the band.
3. McPhisto’s Hot Lemon Tonic
If Mr. McPhisto was to make a drink, this would be it! A hot lemon and Thai chicken coconut soup that has a nice complexity with flavors of cilantro, lemon grass and ginger. It also has an unexpected spicy surprise of some Thai red chili.
The inspirations for this dish are many: Mr. McPhisto, the song “Lemon,” and the many references U2’s uses in regards to the contrasts between darkness and light. It is also inspired by the references to the lightbulb in Bono’s childhood room as it is served warm in a lightbulb-shaped glass.
For the narrative, we talk about the band’s use of themes of hope within their lyrics, including themes of darkness and light.
Grape & Lavender Granita, with Carbonated Grapes and Edible Flowers.
This simple palette cleanser wasn’t listed on our original menu, as it was meant to be a surprise for our guests. The inspiration is simply U2’s song “Ultraviolet.” Building off the theme of darkness and light, our narrative briefly talks about the significance of the use of ultraviolet light as a metaphor for the supernatural and the unseen spiritual influences within U2’s music.
5. Love Comes To Town
Crown Rib of Pork, Memphis-Style Sweet Potato Medley, Apple Fennel Salad
This dish is inspired by three items connected to the song: Bono wrote this as a Gospel song; Bono wrote it for BB King, who is the King of the Blues; and, I take the song to really be about Jesus, who is the King of Kings. The dish is a crowned pork rib roast with a golden pineapple and mango glaze symbolizing a king’s crown, and inspired by the references to BB King and Jesus. The song was originally written and recorded with a longer Gospel inspired lyric at Sun Studious in Memphis, so I included Memphis-style sweet potatoes.
Avocado & Passion Fruit Mousse, Pomegranate Sorbet. Caramel, Pineapple Glass
This dish is inspired, of course, by “Where The Streets Have No Name.” Bono wrote it while on his first humanitarian trip to famine stricken Ethiopia in 1985. He was wrestling with a comment from a friend in Dublin who said he could tell your religious affiliation by the street you lived on. This bothered Bono, and eventually inspired him to put in the song the idea that there’s a place where everyone is free and equal. Many believe the song is a metaphor for heaven, so I used caramel to represent the streets of gold, and I played with the line “high above a desert” to make it a “dessert plain.” It’s also a song about unity and grace, so I included the contrasting flavors of passion fruit mousse and pomegranate sorbet with a pineapple glass flame. I also use a miracle berry and lemon as a powerful edible metaphor for the taste of grace that spiritually transforms the heart. (The miracle berry transforms the sour lemon into the sweetest lemon candy you have ever had.) I think this dish profoundly communicates U2’s recurring theme of God’s grace and the coming of His kingdom.
Stevenson ends the meal by reading Bono’s words about karma and grace from Michka Assayas’ Bono: In Conversation:
It’s clear to me that karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff … I’d be in big trouble if karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep (trouble). It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.