10 January 2012

Buying the Body of Christ

Buying the Body of Christ, by Rowan Moore Gerety (Killing The Buddha, 3 January 2012)

Nineteen clicks of the mouse, the electronic brandishing of a credit card, thirteen dollars of my savings. A box of communion wafers was on its way to my apartment. Five days later, it arrived: five hundred whole-wheat discs emblazoned with a cross, packed like bags of Lay’s into two puffed plastic sacks. The size of a half-dollar, an eighth of an inch thick. My roommate, a lapsed but confirmed Catholic, couldn’t get enough of them, inhaling one after the other as if to bring some junk-food jingle to life. Analogies to Styrofoam notwithstanding, they are a low-fat snack. (In Quebec, they have even been marketed that way; prior to consecration, the host is only bread.) I watched him toss the wafers back like popcorn—the unrealized body of Christ, purchased on the Internet.

The wafers I bought were manufactured by the Cavanagh Company of Greenville, Rhode Island, which now makes 80 percent of the “altar breads” consumed in the US. The automation in Cavanagh’s facility is on par with that of Pepperidge Farm or Frito-Lay: they use custom-converted versions of the wafer ovens that turn out cream-filled vanilla wafers, and bake according to a patent-protected process that gives their wafers a sealed edge—to avoid crumbs. Cavanagh’s engraving plates stamp crosses and Christian lambs in their dough, while other companies use the same equipment to emboss their wheaten products with trademarks and brand-unique tessellations. Their batter is tested with an electronic viscometer. Their flour blend is a trade secret.
Link: Buying the Body of Christ