THE SUN WAS SO HOT I could actually feel my head melting. I was about to lick an ice cream cone when my friend Lanie shouted: “Stop.” She grabbed my wrist and pulled it away from my mouth. “Your blob of ice cream looks like Buddha,” she said.
She was right. It DID look like a vanilla Buddha. The flattish blob at the bottom was his crossed legs, the middle blob was his body, and the small upper blob was his head. “What do we do with it?” I asked. “Can we sell it?”
This was a serious question. A massive influx of deities has arrived on planet earth.
Just last week, the Virgin Mary appeared in the form of a stain on a griddle at Las Palmas Restaurant in Calexico, California. More than 100 people have come to gaze upon it, manager Brenda Martinez told the Imperial Valley Press.
In Uttar Pradesh, India, the elephant-headed god Lord Ganesha appeared in the guise of a potato. The buyer, who had come extremely close to turning him into a quick snack of fried aloo gobi, instead transformed her home into a divine potato shrine, as one would.
There have been two recent appearances of Jesus, both in Florida. He appeared on a chest x-ray in the town of Homestead in December and on a pancake in Port St. Lucie in November.
For years, Muslims were left out of the whole “deity appears in gravy stain” tradition, since no images are allowed of founder Mohammed. However, that barrier seems to have been surmounted by people finding written words. Last year, a clever tree grew lines on its bark spelling Muhammad's name in Arabic, according to the man who found it in Skokie, Illinois. And in Orissa, India, a woman cut open an aubergine to find the seeds spelt the word Allah. The vegetable was installed in the mosque for people to pray to. (“O Most High Eggplant, hear the prayer of your humble servant.”)
What strikes me as odd is the choice of venues. For example, if you were a deity and you wanted to re-appear on earth, why choose a food stain? One Australian guy sold on e-Bay a frying pan bearing a likeness of Jesus in burned, leftover lemon mustard cream sauce. Jesus was a smart guy. Food stains are not his style. And DEFINITELY not leftovers.
But the amazing fact is that there’s big bucks in divine foods. In 1994, an American woman named Diane Duyser noticed that the Virgin Mary had appeared in her kitchen in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich. (I am not making this up.) She kept the sandwich in a transparent box and sold it ten years later for US$28,000.
But while grilled cheese sandwiches would normally be thought of as perishable items, cones bearing soft ice-cream are even more perishable. It was a hot day. I was hungry. I had queued a long time for that ice-cream. So I ate it.
“You just bit off Buddha’s head,” said Lanie, outraged. “You probably could have sold it on e-Bay for a fortune. AND you committed blasphemy.”
“Buddha was opposed to people craving riches,” I replied. “So I am just following his teaching.”
Then we noticed that all the ice creams being sold were Buddha-shaped. Hmm. A divine ice-cream machine. Now THAT has possibilities.