Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray

Brooklyn Museum: Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier)

Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier)

from The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (La Vie de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ)

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 11 3/8 x 6 1/4 in. (28.9 x 15.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.137

Last night my father-in-law took us down to the BYU Museum of Art for the final night of an exhibition of paintings by James Tissot.  I was unfamiliar with Tissot and did not know what to expect other than a reference to religious art, but I’m always willing to go to museums and galleries and look at art, so I gladly went.  We descended to a downstairs gallery filled with over one hundred small, meticulous watercolors that took the viewer through the life of Christ, from Annunciation to Resurrection.  They were all from Tissot’s massive undertaking The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, on loan from the Brooklyn Museum.  There was a particularly reverent, church-like atmosphere to the gallery; Tissot was so interested in depicting events directly from scripture that looking at each painting and reading the captions became almost like reading the scriptural accounts.  As I embark on teaching a church primary class on the New Testament to 10-11 year old boys this year, it was a nice way to overview these sacred events.

Tissot was apparently a society painter in London and then Paris, until at some point while painting in a church he had a mystical, revelatory experience in which he saw Christ in vision. As a result he became a reformed Catholic and he devoted his artistic work to painting the life of Christ and the events of the New Testament.  He traveled extensively in the Middle East to study  and sketch the cities, landscapes, and people.  His goal was to make more culturally, geographically, and scripturally accurate representations of the subject of Jesus Christ than many artists had undertaken up to that point.  He described his artistic process as something that bordered on revelation, but nevertheless each picture is studied and meticulous, with incredible attention to craft and detail.  The painting above is just one of over 350 images of the New Testament that Tissot rendered, and I particularly liked it.  These paintings are all held by the Brooklyn Museum, and digital images and information can be found in their archives.

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This post commences a new feature here, the Froz-T-Freez Art Gallery, in which I will simply post pieces of art I like.  In some instances, as in this post, I will also take the opportunity to speak ignorantly about art or whatever else I want for a paragraph or two.

Thai Burrito

The last experience I had with Guru’s was eight or nine years ago. I had just returned to Salt Lake City after having spent two years in Ohio, and everywhere I looked there was this new restaurant; it seemed to have proliferated the entire Salt Lake Valley, popping up particularly in hip neighborhoods like 9th and 9th and the Avenues. It appeared very much the cool place to go, almost as cool as Cafe Rio at the time, and their menu looked like Noodles & Company, Cafe Rio and Rumbi all fused together (this was back when there was only the Skyline Cafe Rio in Salt Lake, and Rumbi was only one tiny place called Rumbi’s in a strip mall on 400 South). If I remember correctly Guru’s had metal covered tables, concrete floors, and open rafters exposing the building guts above you, much like Chipotle (a favorite establishment of mine that had been flourishing as the only decent Mexican food place in Ohio, but that had at that point not yet made the jump into the Utah market). Besides everything being so of the moment, Guru’s had a great gimmick: these cheesy faux-Eastern inspirational quotes about being at one with the universe because you ate some tofu or vegetables or something were revealed on the bottom of your plate as you finished your meal.

Guru’s wanted to be everything to everyone, and I really wanted to like them, but there was one little problem: their food sucked. I gave them several tries (their menu was so promising and diverse), but when they gave me a bad fish burrito that made me sick, that was the end of my long-suffering. I never went back. Within six months or so, all the locations of Guru’s had closed, and I felt quite vindicated. Feel good sayings and promising menus couldn’t compensate for lousy food forever.

Imagine my surprise when, eight years later, I discover there is a fully alive and operating Guru’s Cafe right on Center Street in downtown Provo, Utah. Imagine my further surprise when the menu looks similar to and even expanded upon that of the ghastly Guru’s of old, and when I see that it is a popular and thriving establishment, alive to the point of advertising of poetry readings and live music nights. So strange. I lived for a year and a half in the general Provo area, but I never brought myself to the place, although I readily admit that if not for my knowledge of their former franchise empire in Salt Lake it would have been high on my list of local places to try.

But last week, while at the BYU Books for Young Readers conference at the Provo City Library a few blocks away, I was convinced by a friend to go to Guru’s for lunch. I consoled myself, thinking that if this Guru’s was still alive and bustling eight years after the demise of all their other locations, there must be something different about it, something good. I decided to trust the good people of Provo for keeping the business alive.

We walked in; there was a significant ordering line, and the girl at the cashier was chatty with everyone and taking her time. As we slowly approached the counter, there, written in chalk on their specials board, was one of the most mythical of foods on the mythical menu of the mythical Froz-T-Freez Drive-In Diner: the THAI BURRITO. I was filled with wonder, horror, all-around shock. It was not without trepidation that I ordered this mystical burrito of my dreams from the very restaurant that long ago had become my nemesis.

So, what was it? Grilled tofu, green beans, squash, edamame, tomatoes, onions, brown rice, and peanut sauce all rolled in a whole wheat tortilla.

How was it? Not bad. Not bad at all. I maybe would have preferred some chicken to the tofu, and it could have used more of the peanut sauce, but it was quite edible.

A long-maligned business establishment had been redeemed in my eyes, but far more importantly, another Froz-T-Freez menu item has become a reality. At the ‘Freez of course we would experiment with various currys, sauces and other ingredients, but a workable prototype is in place. My dream of the burrito as a food vehicle that crosses all cultural and culinary boundaries can and will indeed become a reality.

How’s that for inspiration? I was so distracted I didn’t even read the saying displayed on the bottom of my plate, but know that I forgive you, Guru’s Cafe, and I am at one with you. Oh, and your sweet potato fries with spicy fry sauce are pretty good, too. But everybody’s doing the sweet potato fry thing now.