Monday, November 29, 2010

Eating and Advent

Thanksgiving is over, along with Black Friday – which always sounded rather sinister to me – and (nearly) Cyber Monday.  Radio stations are playing Christmas music some 24 hours a day.  The stores have long since put up their decorations and marked down their prices.  The Christmas season has arrived.

Christians, however, have a different take on this short month leading up to the big day.  For me, this is the fun part.  We call this season Advent, from the word that means “coming.”  From the fourth Sunday before Christmas till Christmas Eve itself, we are celebrating the Christ whose birth we observe at the end of these few short weeks.  During this time, we Christians will play a game with our own memory.  Although we live daily the reality of the birth (and death and resurrection) of Christ – and though we know it happened 2,000 years ago – for four short weeks, we choose to live as though we are waiting for it all over again.  A visitor from another planet would wonder at this strange behavior; all of us Christians gathering in home and church to worship and wait together as we look forward to an event that we already know like the back of our hand.

I love it that we give this season a particular name and meaning.  To me it is one of the few – and ever decreasing – ways that we Christians do things a little differently from the world around us.  It is a brief reminder of our intended non-conformity, and a challenge to truly follow our calling.  We may experience this season much like the world around us, rushing around in anticipation and preparation, but we are called to prepare for something much more than simply having the family over or getting the gifts wrapped.  We are called to prepare our hearts.  So for us, it isn’t simply the Season before Christmas, the Shopping Season, or the first 24 days of December.  For Christians, these days have special meaning.  It is the Season of Getting Ready, the Season of Anticipation, the Season of Almost Here!

Yesterday was the official beginning, the first Sunday in Advent.  Our family, not surprisingly, decided to celebrate by eating.

This brings me to the pact I have made.  As I wrote only couple of posts ago, I am planning to do something new during Advent.  This season, I will give up something that I usually feel pressured to do but that doesn’t truly help me celebrate the season, and I will use the time gained for something that does.  Here is what I have decided on:  I will save both time, paper and petroleum by going electronic in my Christmas cards this year.  This will reduce the use of paper and ink as well as the time to shop, purchase, stuff, stamp and mail more cards than I can immediately count.  Instead I’m going to write one letter and use e-mail, Facebook and blog to send it out along with our Christmas blessings.  Between the card-shopping, stamp-buying and all the other steps involved, this will erase several hours work and no small amount of stress.

I’m also counting on less shopping now that I’ve completed my cheese marathon.  At this moment more than 30 rounds of cheddar are aging in my basement (where it stays around 50 degrees).  I’m looking forward to giving them away as Christmas draws near. 

How will I spend the time saved?  By finally doing something I have wanted to do for years.  My family and I will have Advent meals together.  Each Sunday night, we will have a special dinner – eaten in the dining room, not the kitchen.  At the center of the table will be our own set of Advent candles.  Before the meal, we will read the words that correspond to the week then we will light the candle together.  This has been my dream for a long time, for our family to share in Advent worship together in the warmth of our home, reminding us that faith is not just practiced in a church, and that sharing a meal can be among the most sacred things we can do.

Our first family Advent dinner was last night.  We had Atlanta Pork Chops and Rice, Fried Cornbread Patties, some oranges and dressed up apple sauce and Chow Mein Noodle Candy for dessert.  I’m not sure how the pork chops received the designation of our city, but they were good and pretty easy to prepare.  I burned the bottom of the rice, which meant either that I cooked it for too long, or didn’t stir when I should.  The fried cornbread also tasted good, but tended to be crumbly until I added enough water to get the right texture. The candy . . . well, how can you go wrong with Chow Mein Noodle Candy?  It has been a favorite of mine since childhood Sunday School.

The evening didn’t exactly go off without a hitch.  As an addition to my pact, at each family meal I intend to find at least one piece of the preparation that the kids can be involved in.  Last night was no exception.  I asked Roland to help me make the cornbread patties, thinking that a 5 year old boy would love the chance to sink his fingers into something squishy.  Not so much.  He was far more interested in Thomas the train.  I had hoped that Vivian would help me spoon out the candy onto the waxed paper.  She couldn’t have been less interested.  In fact, she had a bad night all around, melting down through the cooking and most of dinner.  Todd had set the table beautifully, the lights were low, Christmas carols playing, but our dinner was only marginally well attended.  When the kids were at the table, they kept trying to blow out the Advent candle like it was on a birthday cake.

It wasn’t exactly the family dinner I had envisioned, but here’s the thing:  I’m not giving up!  I believe there is something really good and important to be had here, and I am going to keep at it for better or worse.  Like the magi and the shepherds – who must have wandered bewildered along the path until they stumbled upon the incarnate God in a rickety stable – I am going to have faith that somehow in the mess of cooking and corralling, our family will be blessed by the time spent together in celebration.  Besides, I imagine that giving birth to her first child – who just happened to be the son of God – in a grimy stable with cattle for company wasn’t exactly what Mary had in mind either.

I can only hold on to the hope that great love can be built during such imperfect moments as these.  All that any of us can do is to wait and watch and believe.

The pact I am keeping this Advent I have made primarily with myself, but also – through my writing – with you.  Will you join me in it?  Choose to give up something unnecessary in order to free up your time, then fill up that time with something worshipful.  What will you choose?  Leave your response here or on Facebook.  Put the challenge in your status and see who responds.  Enjoy a more meaningful Advent, and help your community to do the same.  Let’s wait and watch and celebrate together!

Blessed eating!

Atlanta Pork Chops and Rice
4 chops                                                              1 ½ c. water
Spray oil                                                            2 T. brown sugar
¼ c. diced celery                                              1 T. salt
2  8 oz. cans tomato sauce with onions   ½ t. basil
1 c. uncooked rice                           
Brown chops in nonstick skillet sprayed with oil.  Remove chops.  Cook celery.  Stir in remaining ingredients and place pork chops on top.  Simmer covered for 30 minutes or until rice is tender.  Serves 4. – Marilyn Johnson

Note: I couldn’t find tomato sauce with onions so I used regular.

Fried Cornbread Patties
1 c. cornmeal                                                               ¾ c. s.r. flour
Enough water to make a workable dough             salt to taste
Mix thoroughly.  Put some oil into a skillet (about ¼” deep) and heat till hot.  Make cornbread into patties.  Put patties into skillet, cook brown on both sides.  Take up and serve.  Hazel Trawick

Chow Mein Noodle Candy
1 big can of Chow Mein Noodles            2 bags butterscotch morsels
1 can of salted peanuts (small size)
In top of double boiler, with water not too hot, melt morsels and then add the noodles and peanuts.  Then spoon onto waxed paper.  (If kitchen is hot, you might have to place candy in refrigerator for it to harden.) – Learvene T. Bass

Note:  I used honey roasted peanuts because I bought them by mistake.  They worked fine.  I could only find a bag of the noodles, so I was uncertain of the exact amount.  I guessed the amounts for both peanuts and noodles and they turned out great.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Taste of Thanksgiving

It is no news that Thanksgiving has a taste.  It has lots of them, actually.  First in line, of course, would be the Thanksgiving turkey; whether roasted, baked or deep fried.  After that will likely come the dressing or the stuffing, whatever your recipe card says.  Then there is a parade of traditional holiday food, from green bean casserole to salad to some kind of concoction involving sweet potatoes.  We know all of these.  But chances are there are some other items – some different tastes – that are unique to your holiday and your family.  They will convey Thanksgiving only to you and your nearest and dearest. One of those tastes for me is Coca Cola Salad.

A couple of weeks ago, as our family was preparing for our holiday in Florence, Alabama, I asked my mother what I could bring to our Thanksgiving dinner.  She suggested Coca Cola Salad.  I was confused.  “Have I ever had that?” I asked.  The name was completely unfamiliar, but the taste it turned out was not.  Mom e-mailed me the recipe, and although the dish is extremely easy to make, I tried a practice round and served it at dinner one night.

The taste took me back years and years – to my grandmother’s kitchen, to dining rooms of relatives near and far, to pot-lucks and to picnics.  Yes, I had eaten Coca Cola Salad before, numerous times.  Not all of these were Thanksgiving memories, but all were occasions important enough to be tucked away in some fond if forgotten corner of my mind, waiting to be called forth again by a jello salad.

They say that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory.  But taste has to be a close second.  The important occasions of our lives, and the gatherings of our most significant friends and kin will nearly always have a food memory attached.  Our taste buds can be the channel between past and present, calling near all those precious recollections.

I wish you this kind of eating for Thanksgiving.   (Because I know you’ll be eating!)  Each Thanksgiving we express our heartfelt gratitude to our Creator for the gift of being creation and for all the perks that come with it.  We thank God for the food that sustains us, and also for all that the food evokes, for the many people, places and events that have shaped us.

So if you find yourself running dry on the list of things to be thankful for, ask your neighbor to pass the potatoes, or the macaroni and cheese, or the green beans, or the cranberry relish.  Try a dish you think you’ve never tried before because you might just find out that it grew up with you.

This Thanksgiving, I wish you a Coca Cola Salad moment.  I wish you many.  May your day be filled with memories, happy and bittersweet, of all that has brought you here.  And may we continually give thanks for the many ways we are nourished by the God whose hand feeds us.

Blessed Thanksgiving!

Coca-Cola Salad
1 (small) pkg. black cherry gelatin
1 (small) pkg. strawberry gelatin
1 can bing [or dark] cherries, pitted & drained
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese
13-oz. Coca-Cola

Heat juice drained from fruit.  Add gelatin & dissolve.  Add cream cheese & melt.  Cool.
Add remaining ingredients.  Chill till firm.  Makes 10  servings.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


A few nights ago, I made Easy Crockpot Enchiladas and Piña Colada Cake.  I decided that my cooking will no longer take a haphazard approach that I have been using, trying a dessert one day, a side dish the next.  At that rate, I might take years just to get through just this first cookbook!  I decided that if I wanted to finish anytime soon, I would need to work a little more deliberately.  So twice a week now, I make a full meal.  I pick out three different recipes; an entrée, a side and a dessert.  Monday was the first.

I made this meal while also making another round of cheddar.  It was quite a juggling act.  Add an unexpected trip to the grocery store to the schedule and you can imagine how extremely rushed and stressed I was.  The cheddar turned out horribly!  Even now, as it sits on the drying board, it is falling apart.  I am not sure I will be able to use it at all.  Without question, it is the product of a time crunch and too little attention. 

The enchiladas, however, were great.  The side dish was the corn pudding I printed earlier – delicious! Even my daughter liked it. The cake, which I cooked in a bundt pan, fell apart upon removal.  Once it was covered with the Piña Colada mix and the milk, however, it was still pretty darn good (and we did not hesitate a second in consuming it).  Although the day was maddeningly rushed, it was nice to end it with a dessert whose name seems to imply a party.  Piña Colada, anyone?

Sometimes I think that our rushing around is about the craziest thing we do.  There never seems to be enough time, enough of ourselves to go around.  The truth is, however, we are not lacking for anything.  We have too much.  Too much opportunity.  Too many temptations to fill our time with more and more. Too many possibilities of things we can – and therefore we think, should – do. 

The truth is that we already have enough of what we need.  We have enough food.  We have adequate shelter.  Most of us have enough money for the necessities (though I’m sure none of us take lightly the fact that many are unemployed and suffering).  We even have enough time for the things that are important.  We have enough, though we seem to struggle so hard to live this truth.  Making use of what we have, however, simply boils down to choice.

The holiday season is about to begin; the lovely time in which we thank God for our blessings and prepare again for the birth of Christ.  It is a time of celebration and joy as we gather with friends and family to wait for the miracle that is to come.  All too often, however, we are foolish enough to spend this season in a hurry.  We are stressed out by too much, too many things on our lists to buy and to do.  We think we need to buy the perfect presents, host the perfect party, have perfect attendance at everyone else’s – then we miss out on the season that most deserves to be enjoyed and relished.  Every year we know we shouldn’t, but every year we do.

The difference between a harried season and a joyful one is simply a set of hard choices.

There are enough days in November and December to do the things that matter; those small but genuine celebrations that mark the real meaning of the season.  They are there like children waiting for our attention, calling us to spend the holiday season worshipfully and mindfully.

Let’s make a pact.  This season, I will choose one of the less meaningful things that I feel pressured into doing, and then I will not do it.  I will instead spend the time in quiet reflection, being thankful, listing to music and drinking cider with friends, driving my kids around to see Christmas lights, maybe even using that Advent wreath with my family as I intend to do every year, then don’t.  Will you join me?  What will you change this year?  Let’s do it together.

Blessed celebrating!

Easy Crockpot Enchiladas
1 box Cheesy Enchilada Hamburger Helper                          1 onion, chopped
1 lb. ground meat, cooked drained                         
1 can diced tomatoes                                                                     1 can pintos, rinsed (opt.)
Grated cheese                                                                                  1 pack flour tortillas
Place tomatoes, pintos, meat and onion in crockpot.  Mix well.  Add seasoning packet from Hamburger Helper and stir.  Sprinkle topping mix across the top, and stir in.  Add one can of water.  Stir.  Cook on medium for an hour or two.  Stir occasionally.  About an hour before serving add t he rice and another cup of water.  Cook on med. Until ready to eat.  Serve with warm tortillas and grated cheese.  Put a generous spoonful of the enchilada mixture down the center of a flour tortilla.  Top with cheese and wrap up.  Eat while warm.

Note:  I used ground beef for the meat, and black beans instead of pintos.

Piña Colada Cake
1 yellow cake mix, cooked according to directions
When done punch holes in warm cake.  Pour 1 can Piña Colada coconut over the top (this can be found in the mixed drink section of your supermarket).  Pour 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk over the top.  Top with one small Cool Whip.  Best served cold. – Ann Bass

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cheese Marathon

I’m giving cheese away for Christmas.  A lot of it.  I make it myself which is probably one of the few really interesting things I do.  I became interested in cheese making, when I read about it in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book I highly recommend.  I was very inspired to learn that making cheese is more than doable in my own home.  So I decided to give it a try.  I am no expert.  Fortunately, that is not a requirement.  But after a few years and several kinds of cheeses under my belt, I am a very happy amateur.

So this Christmas, I am giving cheese away as presents; small (1/2 lb) rounds of cheddar cheese, maybe with sage or caraway seeds.  If you are a friend, family or any acquaintance who might expect a gift from me, the cat is out of the bag. This is what you’re getting.

I love the process of cheese making.  It gives me a weird satisfaction to watch the transformation as milk become firm and the curds and whey separate.  Cooking the sage to use in the cheddar makes me almost stupidly happy.  I love smelling its wood-like aroma.  It makes me feel something like a matron living off the land in colonial times, stirring a cauldron over an open fire; though I am as likely to be burned at the stake since the fragrant herb concoction feels for all the world like a mysterious witch’s brew.

It is a lot of work, this making cheese.  Each type (of hard cheese at least) is a multi-step process to begin with, taking up to several hours and using rarely heard of ingredients such as rennet, citric acid, mesophilic starter.  Not the stuff you find in most grocery stores.  Then comes the pressing, the waxing and the aging.  After much work, and several months of waiting, I might have a pound of Gouda.  You really have to love doing this to make it worthwhile.

Fortunately, I do.  My Christmas cheese making marathon is happening now, because the cheese needs about a month to age (a short span in cheese years) before its flavor will be full.  I wrote my schedule down ahead of time, and it’s a good thing I did!  It will take a full two and a half weeks to complete the process of making, pressing and waxing the cheese.  I am waxing them in different colors according to type and so I have to plan to make several batches of one kind in a row.  Since I only have one press and each batch needs it for between 12 and 24 hours, things can move slowly sometimes.

But I love this gift idea.  These homemade gifts are truly ones from my heart rather than any store shelf.  More than that, these gifts are born out of my gifts.  I don’t know that I have any special talent for cooking.  I don’t even know that this cheese will be all that marvelous.  But in a sense, it is a return on the gift that was given to me.  In making cheddar, drying and waxing it, I am offering back to God – through offering food to those I love – something that has been made from what God has made in me; in this case a desire to create, to feed and to love.

This is what all of our gifts are really.  A return.  We exchange and give to each other.  But in doing so – in sharing love and hope for the very best for those we care about - we are giving to God.  We are using what was given us to use, and we are sharing God’s love in the process.  In doing so, we – like the angels – can offer God’s love to a hurting world.

What could be a more perfect gift?

Blessed eating!

I used some previously made cheddar tonight in the recipe below.

Corn Pudding
1 can cream style corn                   2 T.  S.R. flour
1 t. sugar                                              1 c. grated cheddar cheese
½ stick margarine, melted            2 well beaten eggs
Stir eggs and cream corn together.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour in greased baking dish.  Cover with bread crumbs.  Bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. – Hazel Trawick

Note:  I used butter instead of margarine.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Plight of the Honey Bee

Last night I made Pecan Salmon Fillets.  It turned out probably better than I deserve given how little experience I have cooking fish.  My husband picked up our salmon (and trout, which worked with this recipe too).  It looked somewhat different from what I usually buy.  The fish I purchase and cook most often comes from the freezer section of the grocery.  In large bags, I find chunks of meat about the size of my hand and rather solid.  I have heard people say that these fish have some relation to the animal of the same name that swims around in lakes and rivers, but I have always assumed this to be fanciful stuff, along the lines of Santa Claus and fairies.  I am pretty sure the water animals have bones in them and not crab stuffing, so they couldn’t be the same.  Case closed.

I’m actually not writing about fish today, but a different animal entirely; a flying one rather than swimming.  Today I’m writing about bees.  I chose the two recipes below because they both utilize honey.  My plan was to try out some honey given to me by my beekeeper friend, Bryan.  We recently traded, honey for cheddar cheese (which will be the subject of my next blog post), and so I decided to use it on some of the recipes in my current cookbook (thank you, Diane, for helping me find them).  Since then, I have learned quite a bit about bees.  They are pretty amazing.

An extremely large percentage of the food we consume is provided for us by bees, and not just in the form of honey.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about one third of the food we consume relies on bees for pollination.  Bees pollinate more than 90 of our flowering crops including apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash and cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons.  Without it, some experts say that our diet would be limited nearly to bread and water, as corn and grains are among the few food plants that rely on wind rather than living creatures for pollination.

In recent years, our pollinated food source has become threatened.  Since 2006, a problem known as Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been killing off bees in dangerously large numbers.  Nearly 32% of honeybees in America died that first winter, and those numbers have been increasing.  Until recently, scientists were unable to find a cause for this problem.  They studied various illnesses and bacteria, even pesticides and chemicals trying to pinpoint a cause.  Only recently, have they narrowed the field to a combination of fungus and virus.  More studies are being done and no word yet (that I could find) on a cure.

All of this came as news to me.  I had no idea of the role that bees played in our existence – a secret life, indeed.  But then this is not so unusual.  In our culture, we tend to live far removed from the natural world, insulated by grocery stores, electric blankets and HVAC.  The activity of bees is probably just one of the many natural systems in creation that keep us alive and running while we are completely unaware.

We live in a world that looks to chemicals and technology for the solutions to most problems, though they are also known to come with hazards.  While it seems that chemicals were not the culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder, I can understand why it would have been seen as a plausible explanation.  I worry about the number of chemicals in our world.  As a mother of children – especially children with autism, a disorder for which theories abound – I worry about the number of artificial things in our environment and the fact that we surely can’t begin to know the full effects of all of them.

This is not to disclaim all modern knowledge and invention.  I am not suggesting that we dispense with, say, all of medical science and return to herbal potions and remedies grown straight from the ground.  I simply suggest we pause and realize how man-made much our world has become, and how far removed we are from God’s creation of which we are a part.  Our technology allows us to overlook the fact that we are made up of the same messy stuff we try to close outside our doors.  We can forget that much of this messiness is the stuff of life.

I don’t have a proposed solution except maybe to just to stop and think, to be a little more aware.  We could try a little harder to acknowledge that we are a part of this beautiful and grimy world, to be grateful for it and maybe to work a little harder at sustaining it.  For whatever strange reason, God did not plunk us down in a neat and sanitary room, but in an enormous garden full of color and song and life, as well as virus and bacteria – all lovely and dangerous. This is the life we are given.  May it be blessed.

I’d like to say a word of congratulations to my friends, Lynn and Chuck Pugh.  The product of their hard work, Cane Creek Farm, was recognized as the Conservation Farm Family of the Year for the Upper Chattahoochee Soil and Water Conservation District supported by USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service.  Well done!

Blessed eating!

Pecan Salmon Fillets
1 ½ lbs Atlantic Salmon fillets, cut into serving size pieces
Nonstick foil or spray oil & regular foil
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. coarse grained Dijon mustard (or any kind of Dijon)
1/3 c. butter, melted
Pour in a Ziploc and place the fillets inside.  Marinate a day or two in the fridge until ready to cook.  Discard marinade.  Spread 1 T. honey over each fillet.  Follow with 1 T. mustard, and finally one T. melted butter.  Place 1/3 c. bread crumbs on top of each and pat down. Follow with 2 T. chopped parsley and end with 1/3 c. finely chopped pecans.  Bake in preheated 350 oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish flakes in the thickest portions and is done through.  Serve hot! – Jerry Taylor

Fruit Salsa
2 kiwi, peeled & diced
2 c. fresh strawberries, diced
11 oz. mandarin oranges, drained & diced
Blend well and serve with cream cheese dip and tortilla chips

Cream Cheese Dip
8 oz. cream cheese, softened    ½ c. orange juice
3 T. honey
Combine ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over low heat stirring until smooth, about 3 minutes. – Eunice Henderson

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tomato Pie and Politics

Tomato Pie is tasty and beautiful.  Contrast the red tomato, green basil, and the white mozzarella and you have a dish that is lovely to look at and fantastic to consume.  It tasted close enough to spaghetti sauce that my daughter even tried it.

Something else I liked about Tomato Pie is that it’s a dish for do-it-yourselfers.  Self-reliant cooks could make this dish from scratch.  Growing your own tomatoes and basil is easy.  Basil is almost edible kudzu, developing with little attention or care.   It is limited by the seasons, though.  It grows only when the weather is warm.  Still I harvested the last of mine very recently for this recipe.

If you have a mind to make your own pie crust (which I admittedly don’t) and to make your own mozzarella (which I do), then the entire pie can be your creation.  Even if you join the ranks of many of us supplied by the grocer, you can still make this entrée.  But proud and independent cooks will enjoy this opportunity to flex their culinary muscles on some really good food.

“Independent” is popular word with us Americans.  And it has been thrown around a lot lately, along with plenty of other politically charged lingo designed to make us vote for one candidate over another.  I know I am not alone in lamenting the terrible negative climate that has pervaded the political life of our country.  Regardless of our political views, in the last few months we all got used to changing the TV channel when our program paused and vicious attack ads started running.  Frankly, cooking made for a great escape.

My deepest concern, however, is for the destructive political attitudes that go beyond the brutal advertising we see in election season.  This election was said to be a referendum from the people to those in Washington.  I believe there was also one two years ago.  I have never held a referendum in my hand – or a mandate, for that matter – but they seem to get handed out pretty frequently.  Maybe even arbitrarily.

A fact that seems to be missed is that in the vast majority of the races (in nearly any election), the candidates either won or lost with somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% to 50% of the votes.  In many cases, even the losing candidate received the support of nearly half the electorate.  This should tell us something.  It should tell us that our nation is diverse, with many different and even contrasting opinions.  More important, it should clue us in to the fact that at any given time, nearly half of the population will feel differently from those with the opinion that carries the day.  

Now, that’s okay.  That’s how democracy works.  What isn’t okay, though, is to pretend otherwise.  Our politicians often speak of “the American people” and refer all that we want.  But when they do this, they have to ignore nearly half of us, for we all want different things.  And yet, we willfully continue as if this game were all or nothing – as if the winning side made up the entire world.  As much as politicians like to reference “the American people,” there is a vast spectrum of the things we want and no single politician, administration or philosophy is going to fulfill them all.

Somewhere in our hearts, we must really know that our nation’s well-being and the solutions to our problems can only come from compromise, courtesy and a willingness to work together.  We teach our kindergartners this principle.  Sadly, as adults we seem to drive very intentionally in the opposite direction.  When we have the choice of fighting each other or working together, we most often choose to brawl.  Can you just imagine what this is doing to our souls?

There are some things that I think we know, but that get lost in the political clamor.  We know that all the “right” can’t exist on just one side of any issue, and all the “wrong” on the other.  Life rarely stacks up so neatly and obviously.  We know that with every election there is a cycle that brings elation on the part of the winners, then disappointment when we learn that our leaders are just as human as we are and must struggle with life’s intransigent problems – sometimes successfully, sometimes not. 

Some self-observation will show us that we are easily dissatisfied.  Now granted, we are readily helped toward that dissatisfaction by those who gleefully point out the shortcomings of elected officials – and they will usually do so with a generous helping of exaggerated language that misleads and confuses .  But the truth is we buy it.  We choose to believe the hype.  We happily learn to be unhappy, to be displeased with what we have, whatever that may be.  When we do that, we are taking the easy way out – blaming everything on officials, government, Washington and taking no responsibility ourselves.  When we do this, we throw our own independence out the window.

I think we would best claim our independence, our great Do-It-Yourself spirit, by reclaiming our responsibility to think and act for ourselves.  We are called to carefully and solemnly judge each issue, preferably as far away from the shouting as we can get.  When we do this, we may better see the true difficulty of our problems, the sparsity of easy answers and the reality that solutions require cooperation and a clear head.

If we are a people smart enough to grow tomatoes and to make cheese, we are smart enough at the very least to work together for the common good.  If we are loving enough to feed our own families, surely we can love – and not bash – those who find different solutions to common problems.  We have gone far down a rather frightening path, but we can turn around.  We can decide to reach out to our disagreeing brothers and sisters.  We can sit down at a common table, and prepare a feast together.

Blessed eating!

Tomato Pie
1 pie crust                           1/2 c. mozzarella
sliced tomatoes                  1 c. chopped basil

Prick pie crust all over with a fork.  Bake pie crust 10 minutes or until it just starts to brown.  Sprinkle mozzarella in the bottom of the crust.  Add sliced tomatoes.  (I slice them first and let them drain a little to keep the pie crust from sogging up.)  Add the basil.

Topping Mix:
1/2 c. mayo                       1/4 c. parmesan
1 c. mozarella                   
Top the pie with the topping and bake until golden. - Nancy Keating

Note: Even after draining the tomatoes, the pie was still a bit soupy.  Next time, I might squeeze them out a bit.