Thursday, June 30, 2011


‘The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’   John 3:8-9

I am in a new place.  Following the United Methodist itinerant system, I have been appointed to a new congregation.  I couldn’t be happier.

Christ United Methodist Church is a lovely congregation in Roswell, Georgia.  I had preached here once before, filling in on a Sunday, and loved it.  But I really lost my heart when I learned they had just begun a community garden.  Any church that prioritizes growing things and feeding people is alright in my book.  I feel very blessed to be here and grateful to be a part of our UM system in which our leaders thoughtfully try to make matches between gifts and needs, churches and pastors.  Together, we all pray that God will be at work – in the moving and the staying – and that these new partnerships will bear fruit.

Newness can be both exciting and painful.  Change can never come without at least some combination of both things.  There is always loss.  There is always growth.  In the process, we begin to realize just how much less control we have than we like to imagine.  We are used to putting our lives in order in the way we want; creating as much comfort as we can while still meeting our obligations to the world around us.  When we put our beliefs and expectations in place, our world is rocked when they are forced to shift.

Change, however, offers more than just occasional benefits.  It is essential to our presence among the living.  I have watched my garden this summer as seeds have become seedlings then fully grown plants that bear fruit, offering back seeds of their own.  Such changes are needed for our survival.  Were we never to experience the momentous turn of events that brings us into the world, or the transformations that come from leaving infancy and moving through many further stages, then we would never have a life.  Growing up, we experience the pain of our bones stretching, but we gain the benefits that come with maturity and the ability to reach tall shelves.

In my plants, as in my life, change is how I know God is at work.  If we want to get technical about it, I suppose there is never a moment in our lives when God is not up to something.  There isn’t an instant when we are not growing, when nothing is coming around the bend.  I admit, however, that I love sensing the excitement of God’s presence when it can almost be felt in the air, in the breeze that whispers of something new coming.   If we have given our lives to God, there is nothing to do but stand on our toes and let the wind take us.

I am making another, smaller change.  Though I am not yet finished with the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook, it is time to start something new.  I’m going to begin making recipes from Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook by Myra Goodman with Linda Holland and Pamela McKinstry.  I’ll keep writing – and printing - the recipes from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook until I have exhausted it, but I wanted to start this new book while lots of fresh produce was becoming available.  Veggies and fruit are now starting to flow across the tables of farmers markets and roadside stands.  I want to take advantage.

Recently we had a marvelous meal of Carrot and Ginger Soup and Cornbread Salad, with Basil-Blackberry Crumble for dessert.  The crumble comes from Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and can be found online here.  The recipe for Cornbread Salad is below.

Blessed eating!

Cornbread Salad
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix           9-12 strips bacon
½ c. sweet pickles, chopped        1 bell pepper, chopped fine
4 med. tomatoes, chopped         1 med. onion, chopped
1 c. mayonnaise                                                ¼ c. sweet pickle juice
Prepare corn muffin mix as directed on box.  Fry bacon until crisp; crumble.  Lightly toss chopped vegetables and bacon together.  Set aside. Combine the mayonnaise and sweet pickle juice.  Layer cornbread with vegetable mixture.  Drizzle half the mayonnaise mixture on top of the vegetables.  Repeat the layers.  Chill before serving. – Rhonda Bass

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
   I will seek your prosperity.
                                                Psalm 122:7-9

There are events in each of our lives that call to mind the importance of family.  Mine come along each year in early June.  I wrote about The Singing in an earlier post. It is a long-standing tradition with me and my kin.  When the time rolls around, we pack the car head for the beautiful LA (Lower Alabama).  Ahead of (or sometimes after) that, our family will gather for a few days at the beach for general visiting and catching up.  This week-long ritual has also become time-honored tradition.

Eating traditions are also a part of this visit.  Most involve local restaurants and lots of seafood.  But one of the most significant ones is our family shrimp boil.  We find the night of the week that we can all get together – out-of-towners have all arrived, locals are off work – and gather at the beach for a low country boil.  We have been doing this for more years than I can count.

This year, I decided to add to the mix of family customs.  I invited the family to the condo where we were staying in to cook a dinner from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook.  The menu was rather different from our low country boil, but it came from all family recipes which made it special.  I made Aggie Caviar, Tamale Casserole, Tasty Pasta Salad, Praline Cookies and – because it just seemed right – Hot Dog Bun Pie.  I also made an unsuccessful attempt at shrimp and grits from our low country leftovers.  I won’t trouble you with that recipe.

Cooking this meal was not without its complications.  There the usual number of spills, burns, and gaffes.  I asked my cousin to pick up a few ingredients on her way over, not realizing she was still an hour away.  I have a tanless spot on my wrist where an oven burn was healing during my week in the sun.  Still, by the time it was all over, we had had a pretty good meal and a good time together.  We had gathered around a metaphorical table – some of us balanced plates on our laps while sitting in recliners and love seats – and were fed with both cuisine and company

I didn’t need to cook again until I prepared my offering for The Singing.  In past years, I have simply added my name to the buckets of chicken, baked beans, potato salad and cole slaw my parents brought.  But recently, I have wanted to bring a dish of my own, rather than mooch the credit off Mom and Dad.

My choice has always been cookies or some similar item because they travel well, they’re pretty easy to make and don’t require pre-heating (not that heating is usually an issue on a June afternoon in the church yard).  This year, I made Cornflake Candy.  They were like cookies in size and shape, while being made of the delicious combination of peanut butter and corn syrup.  After mixing it all together, I carefully separated out each individual piece to dry and harden.  It did neither.  By the time I opened my Tupperware at the church, the pieces of candy were all one again.  Still they received good reviews and I was happy to be a contributor to the feast.

I have been going to the Singing since I can remember, beginning long before I was old enough to grasp its significance.  For years, it was simply the day when I ran around in the grass and dirt behind the church where people were singing.  I would play with cousins I barely knew, wave sticks, climb on logs, and watch the cement tables fill up with food brought from kitchens near and far.  And at around noon – heaven! – we would eat.

The Singing – known to most as Homecoming at Shady Hill Baptist Church – has been going on long before I was in attendance in the world.  In the foyer of the church are pictures of the different buildings that have been Shady Hill Church.  The oldest picture was taken in the 19th century of a log building which served as both school and worship space.  In the photo, a vibrant congregation sits with books open, ready to sing.  This community of faith has been housed in several different structures over its years, each sitting serenely along an unpaved road.  Each new building had a picture on the foyer table; a tribute to a church with a long and ongoing story.

Inside the church, I struggled to follow unfamiliar hymns written with shape notes, and to make meaningful the language of “Fa Sol La.”  Outside the church, I struggled to remember the names of relatives, and to repel bugs while welcoming familiar faces.  We placed flowers on the graves of departed family; some had lived to be elderly and others had celebrated only one birthday.  In the informal rituals of hugs, mosquito slapping, and calling the children not to jump on the graves, I was profoundly grateful to have family.

Being family is not always easy, but ours will tell us who we are and where we have come from.  Whether or not we always get along, family helps us find solid ground in a world that is far bigger than we are.  In the process of being family, we will try things that don’t work.  We will have unrealistic expectations.  We will make messes and get burned.  Still, through it all, we will be family.  If we play our cards right, family will mean we are not alone in the world.  If we stick with it, the result will be something delightful, something worth relishing, or at the very least something that feeds us.

The recipes I used on this trip were all great, so I’m printing every one of them here – with the exception of Hot Dog Bun Pie which is printed in this post.

Blessed eating!

Aggie Caviar
3 cans pintos, rinsed                       1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cans whole kernel corn              1 c. chopped parsley
1 can Rotel                                          1 can diced tomatoes
½ bunch green onions,chopped                1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 large bottle of FF Italian dressing
Chili powder, cumin, and cilantro to taste (I use about 2-3 t. each)
Drain all canned vegetables.  Mix all ingredients and refrigerate overnight.  This keeps well for several days.  Serve with tortilla chips. – Diane Taylor

Tamale Casserole
1½ lbs. hamburger                           1 can Mexicorn
1 pkg. taco seasonings                   1-2 cups grated cheese
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce               1 pkg. Martha White Mexican Cornbread
Crumble and brown hamburger, drain when cooked.  Add the taco seasoning, Mexicorn, tomato sauce and a little water (1/3 cup?) and bring to a boil while stirring.  Spray an 8x8 baking pan or round baking dish with cooking spray, add the hamburger mixture and sprinkle with the grated cheese.  In a small bowl combine the Mexican Cornbread Mix with about ¾ cup of water, stir until mixed.  Spread over the meat and cheese in the pan and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes. – Donna Russell

Tasty Pasta Salad
2 c. small shell pasta (cooked and cooled)             1 c. whole kernel corn
1 c. frozen green peas                                                   1 c. raw spinach, chopped
1 lg. or 2 reg. Size tomatoes, chopped
2 T. yellow mustard         1 c. mayonnaise
¼ c. vegetable oil             ¼ c. sugar
4 T vinegar                          ½ onions, grated very finely
Mix and pour over pasta mixture.  Chill. – Ann Bass

Praline Cookies
Place graham crackers on foil on a cookie sheet.  Cook 2 sticks butter or margarine with 1 c. brown sugar for 2-3 minutes, until sugar is dissolved – no more than 3 minutes.  Sprinkle 1 c. chopped pecans over graham crackers and pour sugar mixture over this.  Bake in 350 oven 10 minutes. – Laura Taylor

Cornflake Candy
1 qt. corn syrup                 1 qt. sugar
1 qt. peanut butter         2 large boxes cornflakes
Bring syrup and sugar to boil.  Remove from heat.  Stir in peanut butter, then pour over cornflakes.  Press into buttered pan.  Makes 2-3 dozen bars. – Diane Taylor