Biscuits can be a lot like buses – after a dearth of specimens to sample I suddenly got three through at once. The first is from a new friend of mine called Dāvis, a fan of the bestiary in Latvia. I posted him some biscuits a few months ago to help him through his medical exams and he kindly returned the favour with these Grisbi Extreme Chocolate cookies from Matilde Vicenzi. These chunky flat Italian creations certainly live up to their name as they really are very chocolatey. The weather was so hot when I opened the packet I opted to try them out on the terrace with tea and ice cream…
While I don’t like ranking biscuits any more than people, I have to say this is chocolate of a high order and so rich it makes for the perfect dessert biscuit (more on that elusive genre at a later date). The gooeyness of the centre was an unexpected surprise, especially for an Italian biscuit as these tend to be dryer than the British sort. Anyone eyeing it from the outside could be forgiven for imagining it was the same texture all the way through and I must say I’m intrigued by the combination of outer crumbliness and inner creaminess its makers have managed to pull off.
For the moral I couldn’t help but think of the prophet Samuel’s words when choosing a new king for Israel: ‘People judge by outward appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Leaving aside the fact that the Lord’s choice, David, was apparently good-looking as well as goodhearted (some kings get all the luck), Samuel’s words are a sober reminder that what impresses on the surface does not necessarily make the best criteria for judging an individual’s worthiness or fitness for office.
I expect it’s almost as rare for a people to find a true leader as it is for God to find a man after his own heart, yet that is the astonishing epithet applied to David in the Bible. And as far as we can tell the forging of this extraordinary heart came about long before anyone but God knew who David was, in the long conversations they had together with no-one but the sheep to overhear them. We can eavesdrop a little on some of those conversations in the Book of Psalms, many of which are believed to have been written by the king over the course of his lifetime. Here’s an image of him in the throes of composition from an early 15th century Italian manuscript:
What’s refreshing about the David of the Psalms is his no-holds-barred abandon in expressing himself to God: every joy and confidence, every doubt and fear and angry thought let out into the wild and starry open. ‘Slap all my enemies in the face!’ he prays in Psalm 3, something we don’t sing in churches very much. We can admire a great soul like Gandhi for his commitment to non-violence, but David’s radical honesty about the state of his soul shows us something of what it means to have a great heart. Despite all his faults and failures, it’s hard not to love the David who mourned and the David who danced, the David who argued and pleaded and repented without caring what anybody thought of him. The David, above all, whose heart God saw and loved, and the David to whom he gave an everlasting kingdom.
A lovely setting of one of David’s Psalms by John Michael Talbot.
Some beautiful medieval Psalters from the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum.
In need of a vaguely medieval laugh this week? Nothing to do with kings or biscuits, but here’s my favourite post from The Toast‘s Two Monks series on medieval bestiaries…
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