Before I introduce our special water issue, I want to tell a pope joke.
You see, I’m printing these pages amid a blitz of Papal Conclave coverage, and the media have reminded me of the only pope joke I know that was told by a pope himself. Pull up a pew and I’ll tell it unto you.
When I was about 5, I was the second-smartest kid in Sunday school, always bested by a precocious little redhead named JohnPaul. I knew it was wrong to resent him, especially because he was, as the Bible would have put it, crippled. He needed braces to walk—but he could run circles around the rest of us when it came to reciting the 23rd Psalm or remembering whether Ephesians came before Galatians. And despite those useless legs, I was bitterly jealous of JohnPaul.
So you can guess my reaction when I heard his parents were taking him to see the pope. And wouldn’t you know it, he was picked from the crowd and brought up to personally meet the Holy Father. To my mind, it was as if he’d been invited to chat with God Himself. The jerk.
So when he came to face the Supreme Pontiff, little JohnPaul stuck out his pale hand and said, with characteristic poise, “I’m JohnPaul.”
And the pope smiled beatifically and replied, “I’m John Paul too.” (Cue uproarious laughter.)
My mother, face radiant as she relayed the exchange, had to explain the joke to me. “Do you get it, Gabrielle?” she said. “He’s John Paul too, but he’s Pope John Paul II. That kind of joke is called a pun.”
I was literally sick with envy, but yes, I got it. The pope’s miraculous double entendre reinforced my resentment of JohnPaul, but at the same time, it was as if the skies parted and a ray of light shone down: for lo, it was my first pun, and at that moment I accepted wordplay into my heart as my personal savior. (Shortly thereafter I became obsessed with the lyrics to “Ebony and Ivory,” but that’s another story.)
You’ll find plenty of puns in Edible Brooklyn—mostly inserted by me, to my writers’ chagrin. But this issue also includes some miracles, at least by my definition. Like a little fig farm sprouting in the deserts of Flatbush. A sibling-run shellfish startup whose oysters are sweet as manna from heaven. A writer who’s penned dozens of cookbooks and hundreds of Times articles but whose well of ideas never runs dry. A husband and wife whose fresh filets have made them fishers of men. The mystery of squid, a species that daily feeds far more people than Jesus’s loaves and fishes. And some East River businesses that suffered biblical rains, and somehow still walk on water.
Cover photo: A fig tree grows in Brooklyn, by Nelson Ryland.