Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cleaning Out

This week’s recipe is Quick Chicken a la King.  The quick was an important part of its choice since this week has been a busy one what with Halloween to prepare for and all.  But I made it and we ate it and it was very good.

You’ll notice below, that I’ve made a lot of substitutions.  This wasn’t for the sake of taste or creativity.  I didn’t look at this recipe and think about what alterations might make for better taste or texture, greater ease of preparation.  I cleaned out my refrigerator.  No celery?  No matter.  I have plenty of carrots.  And I happen to have this half of a tomato that we didn’t finish the night before, that’ll look a lot like pimento, if the taste isn’t exactly the same.  There’s a lot to be said for soups, stews and meals that can become our place to toss everything.

There is also a lot to be said for cleaning out.  Our family’s refrigerator – probably like most Americans’ – gets overfull, crowded, messy.  We empty it way too seldom.  Sometimes things will get pushed to the back and take up residence for way too long.  But this seems to be the trend in our society, not just in our fridge, but in our life.  We seem to be all too good at accumulating, poor at using well.  We manage to pile up both the stuff and the debt that comes from buying it, and neither thing does us much good.

Still, we have such a hard time letting go of our things – either the things themselves, or at least the notion of having them.  We suffer from the mirror image problems of wanting too much and not wanting to let go.  If we are great at acquiring, we are poor at divesting.  Have you noticed that one of the top features when buying or selling a house is now storage space?  When Todd and I were first married, we lived in the housed inherited from his grandmother.  It was built in 1930.  It had maybe ten square feet of closet space.  Today we have a full basement of things we have good room or good use for.   It seems only in recent decades that we have taken our collecting to whole new levels.

But space is highly sought after and prized, and organization is now an industry all for the things that we own but do not use.  Do we ever ask ourselves why we own things we do not use?  

The amount of stuff in our homes is amazing, and yet this issue raises even larger questions.  Whenever I throw away a biology experiment from the fridge or nearly fall over while navigating through my piles of accumulated things, I am reminded of how much I have.  In fact, it comes to mind how outrageously much more I have than the majority of people around the world.  My husband and I are hardly the people described when politicians refer to “the wealthiest Americans.”  We’re not even the richest on our block.  But when I make coffee in the morning, and realize I haven’t poured enough water in the carafe so I add some, and then there’s a little too much so I pour some out – I remember the many, many individuals around the world for whom clean water is more precious than diamonds, and harder to come by.  While bemoaning a food spill on the new(ish) carpet or a pencil mark on the paint, my mind turns to the people who consider themselves to be blessed by the heavens above for having a roof of any kind over their heads, let alone walls or floor.

When I think of our need to accumulate and consume, I wonder what kind of weird mania convinces us that we need SOOO outrageously much more than we actually do.  And how do we fail to see it as outrageous?  How did we create this self-generating and constantly increasing need for more and more and more?  And how, at the same time, can we be so blind to it?  At this point, the better question may be how do we break this addiction?  How do we get off this train that is almost certainly headed toward a Hollywood-style broken bridge?

I would like to suggest church, though that is often the place where we show off our newest stuff.  But wouldn’t it be marvelous if a church could actually be a hub where people meet who are truly bent on living differently?  Imagine a community in which we can truly be the people we are called to be?  What a vision of church!

So here is the question: Since I have emptied my overfull fridge, now what?  Will I just fill it up again with more edibles than I need?  Will I continue to think myself poor while living in a house of more than plenty?  Or will I decide to follow my calling?  Will I decide to live differently; at the very least, a little less acquisitively?  And what will I contribute to help even things out a little in our world, so that at least one less family may go hungry while I throw away uneaten vegetables?  What will I do now?  What will you do?

Blessed eating!

Quick Chicken A La King

2 T. margarine                                  1 Can cr. Chicken soup
½ c. thin sliced celery                      1 T. flour
¼ c. sliced bell pepper                     salt & pepper to taste
2 c. chopped chicken cooked       2/3c. skim milk
2 T. chopped pimiento                   1/3 c. chopped onion

Melt margarine in heavy 10” skillet.  Add veggies.  Cook until tender.  Add soup, flour, salt and pepper.  Stir.  Add chicken, milk and pimiento.  Cook and stir on low until steaming.  Serve over toast or biscuits.  Serves 4.

Note:  I substituted carrots for the celery, tomato for the pimento, and additional onion for the bell pepper.

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