Joy in the Stench (or Toss Out the Bagna Cauda – Here Comes the Corned Beef and Cabbage)


Photo: Sunrise at CuaLo by Handyhuy

 22  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

New Year’s Day.  A beautiful clean slate of a whole new year ahead of us.  Time to clear away the old year and start fresh.  Goodbye to last night’s Bagna Cauda.  Hello to the Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Wait a minute…  I thought New Year’s Day was a day for the newness, the sweetness, the freshness of an unblemished year.  Bagna Cauda is a northern Italian dip often served on New Year’s Eve (although it’s roots are more firmly planted in Christmas Eve dinners, when meat is not a meal option).  Translated, the name literally means “hot bath” because that’s what it is: a hot, greasy bath of olive oil, butter, loads of garlic, and anchovies that serves as a dip for crusty bread and fresh vegetables.

The stuff is salty.  And pungent.  Good idea to air out the house after serving.

Then on New Year’s Day comes my mom’s tradition: corned beef and cabbage.  Most folks save this Irish delicacy for St. Patrick’s Day (no doubt it played a role in the patron saint of Eire’s ability to drive the snakes out of Ireland).  But some like to ring in the new year with a huge pot of this traditional fare.

The stuff is salty.  And pungent. Good idea to air out the house after serving.

Now that I have properly offended every Italian and Irish friend and loved one in my life, please know that I have my smelly edible faves as well (i.e.: braunschweiger and Limburger cheese spread – which I haven’t been able to find in years!).  My point is very simply this: we are really good at stinking up our houses, airing them out to start afresh, then stinking them right up again.

This is why we love New Year’s so much.  It is a natural point of demarcation.  This is the point where end the old year with resolutions and plans and great hopes for the year to soon dawn (“and this year I will keep the weight off while I get that new six-figure job that let’s me work from home or the beach and gives me the time to write that book, which I will publish in the coming year and will outsell anything Oprah has to offer…”).

The new year dawns.  The bagna cauda is gone.  And we whip up a batch of corned beef and cooked cabbage and wonder, “How did I manage to stink the house up again so fast?!”

If only we were perfect.

Sometimes we spend so much effort and time and resources on dreaming up something new and shining and wonderful that we miss the blessings we already have.  I’m not saying don’t dream.  Thank God for dreamers!  But be happy where you are.  Be content where the Lord has you.  Enjoy the stinky bagna cauda and / or corned beef.

Drop your delusions of perfection.  Life is salty.  And pungent.  Good idea to air out the house after serving.  But understand that what New Year’s Day really brings – along with the perfect opportunity to dream and hope and prayerfully plan – is a chance to sit back, ponder on what’s really important in life, and gratefully embrace the very real fact that Jesus is enough for each of us.  God is with you. His mercies are new every day, not just on New Year’s Day.

By the way… I will publish that book this year.  I’m not so sure about outselling Oprah…

Happy New Year dear friends!

Please take a few minutes to visit Chris Courtney at  Here you will find articles (recent and archived) and other things to help you find peace and joy and strength for life through Jesus Christ.  It’s not about religion.  It’s far more joyously personal than that.  Please feel free to share this – or any other Bouville Diarist article – with a friend, family member, neighbor, postman, grocer, restauranteur, third cousin on your mom’s side (or your dad’s, or both), anyone named Ted or Fred or Ed or Eddie.

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