I grew up on a sterile communion ritual: Jesus’ flesh was never mentioned. There were neatly cubed pieces of white bread and silver thimblefuls of grape juice, but we did not talk about the blood. On Christmas and Easter the deacons wore tuxedos as if they were distributing hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party.
As an heir of the Methodist tee-totaling commitment, I grew up with a clear sense that alcohol is dangerous and to be avoided. I heard stories of John Wesley’s critique of drunkenness in 18th-century England, of how Welch’s grape juice was introduced by a Methodist layman as an alternative to wine for communion, and of the links between drunkenness and other sinful behavior.
When my daughter was in grade school, her teacher included a unit on table manners. The rule that amused me was, “When served food, you should never ask, ‘What is this?’” I don’t think I’ve asked that question aloud, but I’ve certainly thought it, especially at potlucks.