Have you discovered panko yet? Panko is Japanese bread crumbs, an extra light variety that cooks up super-crunchy on things like crab cakes and shrimp. They also cost more than regular bread crumbs, but in certain applications they are worth it. On the other hand a chicken or veal Milanese needs a sturdier crumb to stand up to the lemony butter sauce, an oven fried pork chop needs melba toast crumbs that will cook to a crunch without burning in a high heat oven, and my favorite broccoli casserole needs the faint sweetness of a butter cracker crumb to really set it off.
Although none of these dishes are the food of poverty, using the crumbs and crusts of food rather than tossing them out certainly grew out of the necessity of using whatever was at hand to feed hungry bellies for thousands of years, and now we all do it, even when there is plenty in the pantry. Pies and cheesecakes with graham cracker crumb crusts, anyone? Dressing to stuff your poultry? Bread pudding on a cold winter night? Streusel on that warm coffee cake in the morning? Bread-infused peasant food has even shown up on gourmet cooking shows in the form of panzanella (salad) and ribolita (soup), both of which use chunks of stale bread to bolster their ability to satisfy appetites.
That reminds me of a woman 2000 years ago who understood the value of leftovers. Her little daughter was demon-possessed, so ill she could not travel, but her mother had heard of someone who might be able to help, who even then was in hiding from the crowds on the border of her country. It took a lot for her to seek him out, first leaving her sick child in someone else’s care, then approaching this Jewish rabbi, a type who had either reviled or ignored her all her life; but a desperate mother will make any sacrifice to save her child.
Sure enough, even though she addressed him by the Messianic title, “Son of David,” he answered her not a word, Matt 15:22,23. Still she persisted, and this time she was insulted—he called her a dog. Oh, he was nicer about it than most, using the Greek word for “little pet dog,” kunarion, rather than the epithet she usually heard from his kind--kuno, ownerless scavenging dogs that run wild in the streets, but still he made her inequality in his eyes obvious.
This woman, though, was ready to accept his judgment of her, Even the dogs get the crumbs, sir. Moreover, she understood that was all she needed. This man, whose abilities she had heard of from afar, was more than just a man, and even the tiniest morsel of his power was enough to heal her child, even from a distance.
Do we understand that? Do we realize that one drop of God’s power can fix any problem we have, and more, do we have the humility to accept our place in His plan, even if it is not what we have planned? Yes, every day I ask for more—more grace, more faith, more of His power to change me and use me, but do I really comprehend His strength? I would say it was impossible to do so, except for the example of this desperate Gentile mother who, like a widow of her nation hundreds of years before her, had more faith, trust, and humility than the religious men of God’s chosen people (I Kgs 17, Luke 4:25,26).
And for this, perhaps, God chose her to foreshadow in the Son’s life the crumbling of the barrier between Jew and Gentile, and the inclusive nature of the gospel which had been foretold from the beginning: in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed, Gen 22:17.
Do I have the faith and humility to accept God’s plan for me? One thing is certain—this Gentile mother knew she had nowhere else to turn, and neither do we.
Even God’s crumbs are enough to satisfy our every need.
For this cause I bow my knees to the Father…that you…may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God…him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…Eph 3:14, 17-20.