Friday, September 23, 2011


A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.        Ecclesiastes 1:4 

Today is a special day.  One year ago today, I started a blog.  I continue to write and it continues to be a lot of fun.  In the past twelve months, I have written 66 blog posts and tried, by my count, 121 recipes.  I have enjoyed every recipe attempted– even the indigestible ones – and every minute spent writing about the cooking experience and the lessons learned.  More than that, I have relished the chance to reflect on all that food means to us, both physically and spiritually.

What do I wish were different?  Well, I am still nowhere near the end of the Bass Family and Friends cookbook.  Even if I consolidate the many recipes for meatloaf or porcupine meatballs, I still have a long way to go.  Also, I’m about 5 recipes into Food To Live By, the book I started in June with the hopes of enjoying the fresh products of the growing season.  The problem . . . well . . . it’s September.   Just a few more weeks before our Farmer’s Market packs it in for the colder months.

So not everything goes as planned.  But there are benefits even to the detours.  My still unfinished journey through the Bass cookbook has helped me to engage my family and my history in a completely new way, one which I am still exploring.  My slow pace through my cookbooks has compelled me to be flexible.  It has caused me to remember why I am following this project in the first place, and to think carefully about how I spend my time.  My judiciously arranged schedule, with particular recipes slated for specific calendar dates, has long since gone out the window.  But the project hasn’t, and that’s good enough for me.

My time spent at the farmer’s market has also lent a special dimension to this writing.  While I am still learning which foods will come into season at which times, I am learning to deeply appreciate the cyclical nature of things.  There can be good years and bad years, but the seasons remain the same.  The corn won’t be here early in June, but when the peaches are ready, they will be overflowing.

I think of the tomato growers following the same pattern each year as they do the labor involved with bringing a seed to fruit-bearing plant.  Much of life happens in cycles.  The same things happen again and again, but different each time.  And each time with profound purpose.  This matters to me when I am experiencing, say, writer’s block.  When I feel like I have said everything that is in me to say – probably more than once – and I couldn’t come up with a new idea if my life depended on it.  When my tomatoes are eaten up with blight and my words start to all sound the same.

It is then that I appreciate the work of the farmer.  To simply be here.  To show up.  To keep planting seed, keep watering.  To wait until something grows in its own good time.  Until that time, trust what has gone before.  And above all, trust God.

Happy anniversary, everyone.   If you are reading this then you have been part of the journey and I am grateful for your company.  In celebration of this special day, and in the interest of inviting even more camaraderie, we are doing something new.  I am starting a Facebook page for this blog.  I’m not quite sure what might be accomplished by doing this, but it seems like a groovy thing to do.  All the other cool blogs are doing it.  We might as well join in the fun.

If anyone has any ideas about how to do this well – how to link blog and FB page, for example – feel free to share your wisdom.  This is new territory for me.

I made the Hamburger Pie, several weeks ago.  We liked it.  I hope you do.

Blessed eating!

Hamburger Pie
1 lb. ground beef             1 t. salt
½ onion, chopped            1 can cond. tomato soup
½ c. water                          1 can wh. kernel corn
1 can English peas            6 potatoes, creamed
Brown the ground beef.  Drain well.  Add onion, salt and water.  Simmer about 20 minutes.  Cook the corn and peas separately.  Put the meat mixture in the bottom of a large baking dish.  Layer the soup, peas, and corn.  The potatoes should be placed on top of all of this.  Bake at 350o until the potatoes are golden brown. – Learvene T. Bass

Friday, September 16, 2011


 . . . let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
 Seek the Lord and his strength;
   seek his presence continually.                 
         Psalm 105:3-4

I waited a long time for that first strawberry.  This was the first year I have tried growing them.  Several different varieties appealed to me at the garden center, so I took four of them home.  They have become large, green and lovely, sending off shoots into the world, increasing before my eyes.  As I watched them develop, I began to imagine the taste of fresh strawberries.  I wondered what it would be like to eat a salad or a muffin with strawberries I had raised from my own garden.  Now, a few months later, I am still waiting for that information.  I have been the proud grower (and consumer) of one strawberry.  Few other strawberries have grown, and those that have were fated to be lunch for birds and bugs long before I found them.

I am not sad about this.  The experience was an enjoyable and educational one, and I still have the pleasure derived from my garden and the work of tending it.  I am in the process of learning to rejoice in the seeking.

On this theme, one of my favorite blogs, RevGalBlogPals, has asked readers to list five things we are seeking.   This follows the scripture above – the lectionary text – and the idea that rejoicing comes from the seeking, not only from the finding or the arriving.  Here are my five.

1. I am seeking to know God better.
2. I am seeking to know and accept myself as the person God has made.
3. I am seeking to grow strong children and build a strong family.
4. I am seeking good health for myself, my community and world through good food, good stories and good relationships.
5. I am seeking to lead others to the Way that leads to life.

I realize as I write that my “seekings” are hardly original, and yet they are deeply mine.  They are the things I yearn for.  The active practice of them fills not only my time, but my heart in each moment.

For much of my life, I expected happiness to occur as soon as . . .  There was always some goal, some status, some attainment that I thought would make me the person that I wanted to be.  It has taken me nearly to midlife to learn that this isn’t so.  The only time happiness can be felt is now.  We experience it in the present or not at all.

There is much to be said for hope and for memory.  We look back and celebrate God’s faithfulness as we have witnessed it over and over in our lives.  We look ahead believing – however unwelcoming our circumstances – that God will continue to shelter us and hold our lives as dear and priceless items.

But we find happiness and satisfaction only by acknowledging the profound worth of this present instant.  We find contentment believing that the path we are on is exactly where we need to be; accepting the breathtaking quality of our current scenery, no matter how mundane it may seem at a glance.

Celebrate where you are now.  God is celebrating with you.

The recipe below doesn’t have strawberries, but it is from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook.  I hope you enjoy it.

Marcia Dotson’s Pineapple Dish
1 can apple pie mix                          ½ c. sugar
1 can pineapple tidbits                   1 stick margarine
2 T. flour
Mix and pour into baking dish.  Top with pkg. crushed Ritz crackers and 1 stick melted margarine.  Brown at 350o until brown. – Eunice Henderson

Note: I used less butter and sugar which worked fine.  I used pineapple chunks which didn’t.  I recommend the tidbits.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Joshua said to them, ‘Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?” then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial for ever.’                     Joshua 4:5-7

Tonight we had Mexican Meal Dip for dinner.  Given the date and the importance of this anniversary we will remember on Sunday, I am challenged to connect the meal to the tragedy of ten years ago.  This dish is a festive one.  It is a dish that can be served at parties, though it also contains most of the food groups (if not in their healthiest forms).  Its light-hearted feel doesn’t really do justice to the solemnity of our remembrance, unless you consider its source.

Mexican Meal Dip is from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook.  I have written before, in several places (Food is Love, and Family) about the importance not only of this cookbook and my family, but of our traditions, our history and all that they mean to me.  More than just good memories, each recipe and each recollection create another piece to my story.  Each one has formed me and, for good or ill, made me who I am.

The events of September 11 will affect everyone living today in our country and well beyond.  It will be a large piece to all our stories.  Neither of my children were born by this date, but their lives will bear the impact of its happening, even if they do not know it.  They will live in a changed world, amid people who know suffering on a level that most of us did not before.

I am one of the least affected.  Of the many lives claimed by that day, I knew no one personally.  I was living safe in Tucker, Georgia at that time, where I felt no threat that terrorism might invade my life.  I was in seminary – just out from class when I learned the news – and had many friends and fellow students with whom I could share the shock.

The greatest difficulty I had was in my appointment, my church.  I had been a pastor for less than a year, with no experience to draw from, no accumulated wisdom.  Now I was called to lead my tiny congregation through grief and mourning, to help them process it and find God after the horror.  I was young, shocked and numb myself.  I didn’t want to lead a congregation.  I wanted to do nothing more than sit in my living room and watch the television coverage.  I could hardly take my eyes away from it, let alone feel ready to help anyone else.

But I did what I could.  I called my parishioners.  We set up a special Wednesday night service.  We sang mostly.  My preaching was probably no better than it was at any other time in those early years.  It couldn’t have begun to capture the gravity of its subject anyway. No words could.  But I spoke about Joshua.

In the book of Joshua, the people of Israel are preparing to enter the land that God had promised to them.  This is a momentous occasion.  The Israelites have wandered in the wilderness for 40 grueling years.  A generation has gone and a new one is now stepping forward.  But Joshua will not forget.  He commands stones to be piled up in worship to God, and as a reminder for the generations to come.  They are to remember and teach their children all that has happened, lest they forget the fire in which they were forged – the wilderness that shaped them and bound them as God’s people.  In the centuries to come, the Israelites will remember.  They will learn to identify themselves by these years of hardship and sorrow, far from civilization but near to God.

The times of challenge and distress built the character of the Israelites.  They remembered the punishing wilderness wanderings.  They remembered their time of settlement in the promised land.  They later remembered their exile in Babylon, and they remembered their restoration.  Each event, each hardship became another stone on their altar of memory – their worship of the God who had created them, formed them and called them God’s own.

We will never forget the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  They cannot be undone, nor will they heal without considerable scarring.  But our wounds, if we treat them right, will mend stronger.  The marks that remain will be a sign of our belief that our God is stronger than evil, and that good and love will ultimately prevail.

May you spend this day in the company of friends and loved ones.  May you celebrate life over Mexican Meal Dip, Fried Chicken or whatever food reminds you of who you are and what ground you have traveled.  May you allow yourself be shaped by the sorrows of the past, and by undying hope, into a person of God’s own making.

Blessed eating.

Mexican Meal Dip
1 lb. ground beef                             1 large onion chopped
1 can black beans                            1 can whole kernel corn
1 can diced tomatoes                     1 can chopped green chilies
1 t. ground cumin                            2 t. chili powder
2 lbs. Velveeta Light, cubed          8 oz. sr. cream
Cook beef with onion in a large nonstick skillet until the beef has no more pink.  Pour into a colander.  Rinse in hot water to remove excess fat.  Place meat/onion mixture in a crockpot or cleaned nonstick skillet.  Drain black beans and rinse well.  Add the beans to the meat.  Drain the corn, tomatoes and chilies.  Add all the vegetables to the meat mixture and heat on low until thoroughly heated.  Add remaining ingredients and heat on low, stirring often until the cheese is melted.  Serve with tortilla chips.  This makes a meal for 4-6 or a dish for a party. – Diane Taylor

Note:  I used ½ lb Velveeta.  This dish still gave us plenty of leftovers, even after our family of four did our worst!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
          Psalm 116:7

We’ve been cleaning out the basement over a period of several weeks (though we are beginning to creep into the month category).  Our adventure has been unearthing lots of interesting finds; old pictures from our early married days, appliances and trinkets long forgotten, vinyl record albums.  But opening one box brought a most enjoyable and unexpected surprise.  Cookbooks!  Boxed up years ago, acquired probably years before that, these cookbooks go way back.  I even found one from the Aldersgate Retirement Community, where my grandmother once lived.  She served on the Resident Council in 1992, the year the cookbook was published, and had offered many of her wonderful recipes to the book.  I’m glad to have the record.

Some of these cookbooks came to my collection before I was fully grown up, long before I would have imagined that life would see me preaching, cooking or writing.  Some followed along in the years since.  They are all from another part of my life, and they are now all added to my cookbook project. 

Having given this a little thought, these extra cookbooks don’t bother me very much.  Yes, they add to my project list and certainly to my project timeline.  In fact, they add a lot.  At my current rate, this stack of books will keep me going for a decade or so.  I admit that their appearance, at first, gave me a bit of stress.

But it’s okay, actually.  If it is ten or twenty years down the line before I come to the end of my cookbook project that is something I can live with.  I have no deadline.  Frankly, the thought that I will still be around and cooking in a decade or two is more than acceptable, so I welcome this addition to the plan.

I don’t always welcome new items creeping onto my schedule, however.  I have been struggling lately with the more that has been regularly placed on my To Do list.  Serving a new church with familiarity to be gained, and new questions to be understood and addressed, quickly fill many of the hours of the day.  Then here comes fall with the beginning of activities and classes.  Add to that the ever-guilt-laden topic of being a reasonably good mom and a responsible member of my family.  To be honest, I have been feeling rather overwhelmed.

I have also been displaying all the attendant grumpiness and fret that come with feeling so inundated.  My guess is that you have felt this, too.  I am tempted to lock myself away, to bury my head in the laptop.  I stop myself from saying “Leave me alone!” when a friend or parishioner so foolishly wishes me a cheerful “good morning.”  When I begin to feel this way, I know it is time to re-evaluate.  (BTW, friends and parishioners, please never stop giving me cheerful greetings!)

In order to re-evaluate, I have to go back and consider my foundational beliefs.  One of these is that God provides us with enough.  Though it may not seem like it, we have enough time, enough resources, enough sanity to carry us through our challenges.  I believe this.  I preach this.  Now I am challenged to live it.

When I think about the fact that God has given me enough, I have to ask myself why I feel like I don’t have it.  How would I live differently if I believed I had enough?  What could make this reality perception?

This leads me to consider the decisions I make about the use of my time.  Do I order my time wisely?  Am I careful enough in choosing how much I can and can’t do?  Do I re-fuel regularly enough?  Am I willing to take in what is nourishing and strengthening? 

When I think about it hard, I find that the answer to many of these questions is “No.”  And in realizing this, I come to the conclusion that my being or not being overwhelmed is much more within my control than I had realized.  Rather than an inevitable drain, this reality is a decision; a choice that I can make to act in my own – and everyone’s – best interest.

Many of the things I have always heard, and even said, are beginning to grow feet and walk.  I have always heard that I can’t take care of others unless I take care of myself.  What do you know?  It’s true.  Unless I block off and guard the time and the resources that I need, I’m going to be a grumpy green monster to those who rely on me most.  I will become exhausted, disillusioned and angry (and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.)  But if I say No at the proper times, I will have a lot more Yeses to spread around.  If I allow myself what I need, with no apology or begrudging, then I can be who I need to be for myself and for everyone.

To be honest, it still comes as a surprise to hear the word “No” roll out of my mouth.  But I have found, with some surprise, that the universe doesn’t collapse and I am usually able to negotiate a different and happier “OK.”  God has given us enough.  In fact, God has given us abundance.  It is our task to be such stewards of God’s gifts as to benefit everyone.

I am including the recipe below because it is simple and might come in handy if you are feeling overwhelmed and short on time.  I have made it on many occasions.  It comes from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook, written by a cousin who shares the same disability as my kids.  This is what he was able to make so he shared it, and I am grateful.

Blessed eating!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
4 slices bread                     2 T fruit preserves or jelly
2 T peanut butter
Spread one side of each of two slices of bread with preserves or jelly.  Spread the other two slices of bread with peanut butter.  Form a sandwich with the peanut butter and jelly in the center.