Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where Will You Spend Christmas?

Where will you spend Christmas?  I have been asking myself this question, though there is no doubt about my location on the big day.  On Christmas Eve, I will be right here in town leading two worship services.  (I invite you to join us.)  On Christmas morning, my husband and I will join our children in opening presents, singing carols (I hope), and enjoying a nice leisurely breakfast before visiting extended family in the afternoon.  If you are looking for me, I will be easy to find.

I still ask where I will be, but the question isn’t about geography.  It occurred to me a few weeks ago on a perfect fall day.  The sky was blue while beautiful autumn leaves drifted onto the trampoline where my children and I bounced them, and ourselves, around.  If I tried to imagine a more heavenly day or a more perfect moment spent with family, I couldn’t do it.  Days like this are what I dream of.

So it was with some annoyance that I found myself having to pull my brain back from thoughts of work, worries about schedule, all that there was to do, the many conversations to be had.  Why was my mind elsewhere when I was enjoying the perfect day?

I have a feeling I am not alone in this problem.  The maxim “Be where you are” is harder to follow than it sounds.  Being present is tricky, especially in today’s over-producing, multi-tasking, attention-deficit world.  It is no wonder that so many of us find it challenging to keep mind and body in the same place.

I wish there was an easy answer.  Hopefully, our brains respond to practice like our bodies do.  If so, then giving our attention might be like riding a bicycle.  If we can’t remain upright, we can at least become experts at getting back on.

To be where we are is a choice, if a hard one.  The demons that pull at our concentration can’t be exorcised completely, but they can be rendered ineffective by our dogged insistence on being present.  In the end, we will find that the effort is worth it.

Blessed eating!

I’m thrilled to announce that a devotional I have written appears in The Upper Room magazine today, December 11.  You can view it at this link, read a follow up blog post, and comment.  I hope you will.  Devotional.upperroom.org

I often find that cooking, especially with family, holds my attention extremely well.  May you enjoy this recipe with yours.

Macaroni Casserole
1  8oz. pkg. macaroni, cooked     1 can mushroom soup
½ c. grated cheese                          3 T. margarine
¼ c. ch bell pepper                          ¼ c. pimiento

Mix. Put in baking dish.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Cook 20 minutes at 375o.  Then uncover and cook 10 more minutes. – Fay Bass

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Christmas Wish

My Christmas wish is for everything holy, but I keep getting stuck in the everyday.  Each year, when Advent rolls around, I long to celebrate it with those sacred, awe-filled moments, but my schedule instead contains endless lists of planning and busyness.  Holiday banquets and fast food seem to be the seasonal fare.  A quiet dinner made with family and eaten together seems too great a thing to hope for.
Don’t we all have this wish at Christmas?  We want things to be different, but can’t quite seem to make them.  We resolve that this year we will follow a new path, but never quite have the will to change course.  Every year, we preachers preach about preparing our hearts for Advent, about the meaning of the season, about waiting for the miraculous rather than rushing to retail outlets.  But the truth is that we, along with every one of our parishioners are drawn in by the tempting lights of big box stores and their sales.  We are pressured into those perfect sounding gifts.  We consecrate the cardboard and choose the plastic over the pure.
Some grace is necessary here.  On Christmas, we celebrate a God who stepped from heaven; who came to be with us, to be one of us.  Surely this God will also reach beyond our hallowed and ornamented church walls to walk with us through the aisles of Home Depot.  May we, in this Advent and Christmas seasons, find the holy in the humdrum.  May we see with new eyes the tasks of the season and find within them true reason to celebrate.  Finally, may the Spirit gently lead us back to the quiet places where we can worship a baby in a manger.  The divine isn’t confined to this wooden stable, but we will surely find it there.
Blessed Eating!
Here is a great cake for a family dinner or a dinner party!
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
8oz. cream cheese, softened      3 sticks margarine
3 c. sugar                                          6 eggs, room temperature
3 c. sifted plain flour                     2 t. vanilla
Blend cream cheese and margarine together.  Add sugar beating slowly.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add flour, a small amount at a time, beating after each addition.  Add vanilla and beat well.  Pour into a well greased and floured tube pan.  Bake at 300o for 1 hour and 30 minutes. – Faye Bass
Note:  I used butter, not margarine.  Just because.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Really Helps

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Proverbs 12:18

Sometimes help is better shown than said. 

When we try to help with our voice, it can be a good thing.  It can also be the opposite.  Because of my profession, I spend a lot of time in committee meetings, gatherings and other conversations.  I have noticed that we spend a lot of time trading divergent opinions, poking holes in others’ ideas and decisions, trying to make everything right, but doing it by pointing out the wrong.

It is easy to spend a lot more time focusing on what is negative, rather than positive; simpler to point out what is wrong rather than what is right.  I have found myself doing it.  What is good needs no fixing. So why mention it?  What is wrong does – in our mind, at least – need to be corrected.  By pointing out this fact we’re just helping, right?  The result of such reasoning, however, is an endless stream of criticism which, because of its own repetitiveness, becomes wearing and ineffective for any good purpose.

A better way to make things right when we think they are wrong?  Volunteer.  Sign up to help.  In far too many of our churches – though I’m sure this is true everywhere – I have heard good people say bad things about programs or groups in which they are not involved.  Rarely are the negative comments helpful.  Even more infrequently does the speaker plan to put in the sweat to make the situation better.

If you want a good dinner, then step into the kitchen.  A kind word goes a long way.  Supportive efforts go even further.  We all see things that need to be corrected.  If you want to see change happen, roll up your sleeves.

Blessed eating!

This recipe has never received a criticism.  Like volunteering, it is easy.

Blond Brownies
(quick and easy)
1 lb. brown sugar               4 eggs
2 c. Bisquick                         2 c. chopped pecans
Mix and bake at 350o for 20-25 minutes – Wyleen Bass Williams

Monday, September 24, 2012


In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
                        Psalm 139:16
I had a birthday last week.  I celebrated with friends and family by eating, singing and hiking.  My name was included on a yummy cake and I received more happy birthday wishes than I will probably ever deserve.  I still feel about birthdays the way I did when I was six.  A party is in order.

Our relationship to birthdays can sometimes change as we get older.  As children we celebrate them with party hats and bright colors.  When we get all “grown up,” we dress in facetious black, and decorate with tombstones and cards that say “Over the Hill.”  I have never understood exactly why we do this, but I suppose it is our way of laughing in the face of a reality about which we are none too happy.

We worry a great deal about getting older.  We have little appreciation for the wisdom of age – at least this is my assumption given the enormous industry we support that promises to make us look younger.  We bewail the passing time.  Having reached what some call “middle age” I can attest that the years do fly quickly.  I, myself, have no interest in them being over any time soon.  Still, the fear we have of adding the inevitable numbers onto our lives is bewildering.

All this was thrown into stark perspective for me this week.  I assisted in the funeral of a church member who should have been too young to need it, and I grieved with a dear friend over the loss of a loved one.   I have huddled with families who were not yet ready to lose a dear member, even when there had been enough days enjoyed by the beloved to have called theirs a full life. 

In light of these experiences, our worry over birthdays seems more than a little absurd.  We waste our energy on so many things.  Fretting over the passing time shouldn’t be one of them.  Each birthday represents the greatest gift we can possibly be given: breath for another day and the ability to look at the sky.  Every year, we receive from the hand of God the best birthday present of all.  I won’t wear black to celebrate it.


The recipe below is not a birthday cake, but one we shared with good friends recently.  I hope you enjoy it.


Blueberry Crunch Cake

¼ cup butter                        ½ cup sugar
1 large egg               1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder         ¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup milk                        ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

¼ cup butter                        ½ cup sugar
1/3 cup flour                       ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350oF.  Grease a 9x9 inch baking pan; set aside.  For the batter: In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar and egg together until light and fluffy.  Combine the dry ingredients together and stir by hand into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and vanilla.  Spread batter in prepared baking pan and top with blueberries.

For the topping: combine the topping ingredients using pastry blender, two knives or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle over the blueberries.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until tested done when wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool slightly before serving.  Makes 9 servings.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Food, Faithfulness, and Family Meals

Our Labor Day trip was to see the grandparents in Florence, Alabama.  It had been several months since we last saw them and, especially for the kids, it was a great reunion.  We cooked together while we were there.  We made a family dinner of Wanda’s Grilled Beef Steak with Sauteed Onions, roasted tomatoes, new potatoes and for dessert, Cream Cheese Pound Cake with the last of the Pumpkin Ice Cream.  We also enjoyed Sunday lunch with our extended family who live just down the road.  My cousin made Deviled Eggs to look like baby chicks peeping out of eggshells, along with some great homemade mac and cheese (a novelty in our lives – our m&c comes from cardboard), and fresh watermelon for dessert.  For a long weekend, we feasted on good food and good company.

Our most interesting adventure during our stay was to Ethridge, TN and visit a community of Amish.  The Amish are a faction of Mennonites who, for reasons of faith, reject modern technology.  Valuing humility, they travel by horse and buggy rather than automobiles and wear modest clothes of a 19th century style.  While I love the exploration of different cultures, I always feel a bit strange being a tourist of people; gawking at other human beings simply because live differently than I do.  My fears calmed a little, though, as their children also stared at us in open curiosity.  I supposed we were novelties too.  I can live with that.

On our visit we rode in a horse drawn wagon, though the business was run by the “English” (non-Amish).   The inhabitants of the farming community were Old Order Amish who didn’t run businesses per se, though they happily interacted with us outsiders visiting their farms.  As our wagon would stop at one farmhouse after another, family members would sell us jams and candies, canned vegetables and woodworked crafts and furniture. 

We bought raspberry and huckleberry jelly, more chocolate candy than was good for us, and a wooden yo-yo and top for the kids.  We took in the serene beauty of the farm life, though the hard work involved in daily routines was clear.  For all their simplicity, the Amish make their lives look lovely.  Their crisp white houses, and their carefully constructed barns housing well-cared-for animals speak of a life of dedication.

I don’t know if I could be Amish, but I think too many of us brush off such a possibility too easily.  With a roll of the eyes, we disdain the commitment that makes such a life not only possible, but even a good idea.  By contrast, I think of how difficult we find commitment today, especially to religious practices.  We attend church when our work or our children’s sports schedules permit.  We give things up for Lent, but mostly feast on every good thing the rest of the year.  We work our faith in and among our other things to do.  Though we may name it among our top priorities, our faith can be the grudging recipient of our most precious commodity: our time. 

We act this way, because we know we can.  We can push our faith practices to the back of the line because we know we will be forgiven.  We can miss worship because we know services will still be going on when we return.  We know that God will hear our prayers whether it has been an hour or a year since we last gave them our attention.  Here we find the irony of grace.  Grace makes it possible for us to be lax. 

Sure, there is nothing magical about worshiping at the 11:00 hour on Sunday morning.  True, God doesn’t require of us a certain amount of scripture reading every day, or an exact number of minutes spent in prayer or service.  But all too easily, the practice of our faith becomes like a gym membership which, by itself, won’t make us lose weight or become one iota healthier.  Faith is a lot like exercise.  The only penalty for non-participation is self-imposed.

A problem we face in our modern culture is that we are told by a thousand different sources that we really can have it all.  Then the things which aren’t directly measured are often the things that lose out; family loses out to work, faith community to recreation.  It is to our disadvantage that there is no tally kept.  No book – at least no visible one – where it is all written down so that we can see how we are doing.  The total is only fully known when it is well past changing.

To what are we really committed?  We shift our schedules all the time to accommodate our shifting priorities, but what in our lives is so important we are willing to sacrifice?  We may not surrender electricity or modern convenience, but what will we give up in order to gain something greater?  If our Creator isn’t very high on that list, then why on earth not? 

Let’s change things.  Let’s knowingly choose what matters and commit to that.  You may not have to give up your mobile phone or driving in cars.  But you might choose to close the laptop and turn off the Blackberry every once in a while.  Cook a meal for your family or friends, or worship in a sanctuary on a day you would rather sleep in.  Like exercising, you will find that the effort is worth it.

Blessed eating!

Wanda’s Grilled Beef Steak with Sauteed Onions

1 tablespoon olive oil                     1 large onion (about 2 cups)
2 pounds beef sirloin, strip or rib steak, cut into 8 pieces
1 jar (16 oz) Pace Roasted Pepper & Garlic Salsa

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until tender.  Remove onions and keep warm.  Heat remaining oil in same skillet.  Add beef and cook until browned on both sides.  Add salsa. – Wanda Barnes

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pumpkin Ice Cream

We gave away ice cream on a hot August afternoon. It was for a good cause. The Drake House, a local non-profit serving single moms and their children, was holding its annual fund-raising event, Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’. Volunteers and organizations made gallons of homemade ice cream to give away. Participants and tasters paid their money to sample lots of flavors.

We at Christ Church were excited to support a worthy non-profit, so we packed up a table and decorations and spooned out our ice cream. We did, however, we had an additional incentive. In one short month, our church will begin what is for us our largest annual event; our Pumpkin Patch. By the beginning of October, the front yard of our church will be covered with pumpkins big and small. It is the biggest outreach to the community that we offer. Our hope in attending the ice Cream Crankin’ was to offer invitations along with ice cream samples. We thought the best and most tasty reminder would be pumpkin ice cream.

Though I had heard of pumpkin ice cream before, I was taken aback by the astonishment and reluctance we saw when we told folks what we had. The hesitation didn’t last long, however. Almost everyone who tried it became an immediate fan. It was delicious! Even I was surprised by how good it was and I made some of it! We won a lot of converts to pumpkin ice cream that day. I hope, through our invitations, they will also become coverts to Jesus. But first they had to try something new; take that first step into the unknown.

Taking those steps is rarely a popular thing to do. None of us like it, and almost never will we make it our choice. Many of us United Methodist clergy got to do just that a few months ago when our General Conference decided to do away with the practice of guaranteed appointments. Having been in place for several decades, the system of guaranteed appointments meant that while we clergy agreed to go where we are sent, the church agreed to send us somewhere. The repeal of this practice stunned many of us. I began wondering if I could afford law school. Am I too old to learn a new language? Is there a field of work out there that will feed my kids and pay my mortgage, and what will it take for me to do it?

After much prayer, I realize that God is calling me into the unknown . . . of the path I am already on. The work that I do every day is as much a leap of faith as venturing out onto some new trail, to a new and never-before-experienced place. Sometimes staying where we already are is as much a step into the unknown as turning new corners. The only certainty we have – or have ever had – is Emmanuel, God with us. The rest is always mystery.

So I’ll try new ice cream and keep my old job for as long as God means for it to be so. Most of all, I will welcome the unknown that greets me anew every day.
Blessed eating!

Pumpkin Ice Cream
4 oz. egg substitute            1½ cups heavy cream
1 cup of sugar                       tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin                    1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger           1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, processor, or blender. Mix well and chill thoroughly. Process in ice cream maker for 30-40 minutes.

Monday, August 20, 2012


O Lord, you have searched me and
    known me.
You know when I sit down and when I
   rise up;
you discern my thoughts from  far away.
You search out my path and my
   lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.    Psalm 139:1-3

“Hi. I’m Roland.”

We already knew this, of course, being his parents and all.  Still, we were charmed by our son’s use of a movie line tailored to the purpose of introducing himself.

The line came from Finding Nemo, a movie about father and son fish who get separated, and about their adventures in reuniting and returning to the place where they belong.  The piece of the script that Roland chose came from a group meeting held by sharks trying to give up their fish-eating habit.  Mimicking traditional 12 step meetings, each participant begins by introducing himself.  I suppose Roland likes imagining himself at that meeting, and I think he is doing well.  He almost never eats fish.

When I hear my son offer his name in the style of such meetings, I think about how important it is for us to be able to say who we are.  Identity is such a complex thing.  Most of us would likely struggle to really offer a clear picture of ourselves.  Each one of us is such a complicated mixture of natural inclination combined with culture, relationship, location and time.  It is often excruciatingly difficult to know ourselves.  In truth, beyond our first name, how accurately can we introduce this complicated compound of humanity called me or you?

I imagine the first step in self-understanding lies in acknowledging the unfathomable mystery of ourselves and the God who made us.  Beyond the image we would like to project, there lies intricacy and beauty that only God could fashion.  The first step in comprehending it is the realization that we are beloved, carefully built by our creator, and that each part of us – even the less pleasing aspects – are blessed and purposeful.

Another important piece of our identity arises from the people who inhabit our lives, and from the ways we share with each other.  Roland’s presentation came at a dinner we had with friends.  (Soon their children were introducing themselves to each other and to us following the same cadence and tone.)  I served several items from the Bass cookbook, including broccoli salad, a dish I have eaten at countless covered dish lunches and family dinners.  It is a part of a tradition and a culture that has shaped me.  If you asked me to describe myself, broccoli salad would not feature strongly.  In fact, I am not likely to mention it at all.  But it is one of surely millions of invisible factors that have formed me into the person I am today, for better or worse - one of the subtle influences that tell me where I belong.

What are some of the foods, the relationships, the traditions that have shaped you?

Blessed eating!

Broccoli Salad
2 heads broccoli, coarsely chopped    ¾-1 c. red or sweet onion, ch.
½ c. raisins                                                  ½ c. toasted pecans, ch.
½ c. real bacon bits
Mix all ingredients.  Add the dressing below and marinate at least 24 hours.
Broccoli Dressing:
2 T. red wine vinegar                                  ¾ fat free mayo
½ c. sugar
Place in a container and shake until well mixed.  Pour over the broccoli mixture. – Wanda Barnes

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Spaghetti Squash

Blessed is the one
  who does not walk in step with the wicked
  or stand in the way that sinners take
  or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
  and who meditates on his law day and night.  Psalm 1:1-2

It has been a heck of a summer.  Far busier and speedier than I had imagined it would be.  Where did the time go?  It is already August and the kids are back in school. 

It was a great summer, though.  We travelled a bit.  Ate fresh tomatoes in Vicksburg, Mississippi, snacked on beignets and sipped lattes in New Orleans.  We visited with family, played at the beach, told stories for Vacation Bible School and attended Annual Conference.  We even had a new experience: Todd attended camp meeting and I experienced life as a full time working parent!

During 10 days in July, Todd worked as the coordinator of youth and young adults at Morrison Campground near Rome, Georgia.  Morrison Campground is a lovely place filled with “tents” (cabins) with woodchip floors, some beautiful woods and a spring in the back where children can wade in the cold water.  People gather there once a year to greet old friends and hear preaching.  I am impressed with any event that brings people to worship several times a day.

The kids and I visited Todd, but most of our time was back at the home front.  I learned the joys of being a single working parent.  While attending meetings, writing for church website and publications, calling on the sick and finishing a sermon, I also got to do laundry, meal prep and entertainment for two children who are only in school for three hours a day, three days a week.  That is an awful lot of entertaining.

I began with a spreadsheet outlining my schedule, including activities, outings and even meal plans.  While the contents of this grid mostly became the star in a tale of good intentions, I don’t know what I would have done without it.  It was helpful to have occupations planned ahead of time.  I was also rescued by invitations to dinner from friends and childcare services from relatives.  It really does take a village.

During my single parenthood – and the kid’s incarceration to my way of doing things – I decided to try some foods that I have been wanting to sample.  The first of these was Spaghetti Squash.  I had been told about spaghetti squash, that it cooks into long strings like spaghetti or vermicelli.  That it has a very mild taste so that it can be eaten as pasta.  That the eater can hardly tell the difference.  I scarcely believed this seemingly too-good-to-be-true tale, but I had to try it.

I bought a spaghetti squash at the farmer’s market, then Googled information on how to prepare it.  Cooking directions were easy to come by (below).  After cooking, cutting and scraping it out, I did have something on my plate which looked sort of like a pile of noodles.  I put marinara sauce on Vivi’s, cheese on Roland’s (as if he might think it was macaroni).  To my utter astonishment, the kids actually liked it!  By “like,” of course, I mean that my daughter ate some voluntarily, and Roland needed only the mildest of time-out threats.  All in all, I considered it a successful venture.

My kids are like any others.  Their tastes are set on foods they are used to; the typical kid fare of pasta and pizza and chicken nuggets.  They won’t necessarily like grown up eats, even the delicacies we pick out for them.  The best meaning parent offering their child the most delectable treat may find it rejected in theatrical disgust.  Like any other kids, mine want what they want. 

But why should they be any different from the adults around them?  We live in a society where we are used to wanting what we want and usually getting it.  We see commercials and billboards every day telling us we deserve whatever our hearts desire, though I’ve yet to notice that high level of virtue which causes us to be so worthy.  The truth is we are used to getting what we want more often than not, and we tend to think something is amiss if we don’t.

This doesn’t help us sit well with the will of God.  The truth is that most of us gripe like crazy when the delicacies God gives us don’t fit with our mac and cheese dreams.  We are not accustomed to setting aside our own plans to take on the unexpected, uncertain and often unwelcome will of God.

To me, God’s will is okra; a plant I grew up despising (I dutifully hated all green vegetables).  If I had to eat it, it would be in the manner of consuming all abhorrent foods; chew carefully, avoid all contact with taste buds, then wash down with the nearest beverage.  But when I finally gave in and really tasted it, I learned to my amazement that it was pretty good.  A gift waiting to be received.

When God gives us a treat, we are foolish to say “no thank you.”  Much better if we learn to swallow the things we don’t care for.  We might not have thought we wanted it, but in the end we it may be delightful!

Blessed eating!

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a good alternative to pasta, potatoes, or rice. The cooked squash flesh shreds into threads like thin spaghetti or vermicelli, hence its name. On average, a spaghetti squash measures about 12 inches in length and about 6 inches in diameter. The squash should be an even light yellow color and firm with no bruises. Store whole at room temperature up to 3 weeks. Spaghetti squash is available year-round with peak season in fall.

Spaghetti squash has a very mild flavor, thus it is usually served with a sauce of some sort. It may also be enjoyed simply with salt and a bit of butter. Cooking the squash is very simple.

You will need:

-         1 spaghetti squash.

-         Large sharp knife.

-         Baking pan.

-         Oven.

-         Kitchen fork

• Prick the spaghetti squash all over with a skewer so it will not burst while baking.
• Place whole squash in a shallow baking pan.
• Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 1 hour.

• When cool enough to handle, cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise with a serrated knife.

• Scoop the seeds and fibrous strings from the center of the cooked spaghetti squash.

• Gently scrape the tines of a kitchen fork around the edge of the spaghetti squash to shred the pulp into strands.

• Cooked spaghetti squash is usually served with a sauce or gravy because the flesh is very bland in flavor.
• It may be served alone as a side dish with the addition of salt, pepper, and butter.

Friday, July 13, 2012


 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
Genesis 8:22

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently made a trip to the State Farmer’s Market to spend my hard earned writing cash and to buy the ingredients for my summer salsa project.  We drove to the south side of the city, pulled our van up to stall after stall, buying first a big box of Roma tomatoes, a large basket of peaches (not salsa related) a big bag of onions and a bunch of green chiles.           

The chiles made the most unfamiliar purchase.  I am not a hot eater.  When I buy salsa in the grocery store, I decidedly go for the jars with “mild” printed in clear letters.  So when it comes to buying anything in the pepper or chile family – beyond bell peppers – I am in new territory. 

As I arrived at the stall to buy the chiles, I asked the man there what I needed to use.  I diligently showed him my recipe, and also indicated that I had small children and wanted to steer clear of anything too hot.  He smiled kindly, indicated that he understood and pointed to what I needed.  I said my recipe indicated the need for four cups.  He gathered a large number of chiles between his hands, put it in a bag and handed it to me.  He seemed nice.

On my way home, I bought the rest of the supplies I needed: additional pint jars, some garlic and gloves for handling the chiles.  My recipe and instruction book – that I mentioned in my last post – is So Easy to Preserve, offered by the Cooperative Extension of The University of Georgia.  The book encouraged me to use gloves when handling the chiles.  I needed no encouragement.

The chiles were among the first thing I prepared, leaving my kind husband to blanch and peel the tomatoes.  I blistered the chiles in the oven according to instruction, then began to peel them.  They did not peel easily.  I wasn’t sure if I didn’t blister them correctly, or if maybe it was supposed to be that hard, but the skin did not come off well.  I would often lose a significant amount of the pepper itself when I tried.  Add to this the fact that it was taking an insanely long amount of time.  Most of all, the gloves got in the way.  It was almost impossible to peel off the minute pieces of chile skin with the gloves on.

So I took them off.

It didn’t seem like a big deal.  So Easy To Preserve had instructions for just such a possibility.  It simply said that if I didn’t wear gloves, to then be sure to wash my hands carefully before touching my eyes or face.  No problem.

In the end, I had about one cup worth of the green chiles, not the four cups that the recipe called for.  I knew I had to keep the amounts the same for canning, but fortunately, I had enough bell peppers, which can substitute to make up the right quantity.  As I came to the last few chiles, my hands were beginning to get hot.  But when I was done, I washed them thoroughly.  No problem, right?

Ha!  My hands didn’t get any cooler, in fact they began to scorch.  Then they burned for hours.  Cutting acidic tomatoes didn’t help.  The onions also pleasantly made my eyes smart and water.  To top it all off, if I had to work over the open stove, the steam from the pots turned my hands to fire! 

When I got a break, I Googled something like “cut chiles hands stop hurting” (and typing wasn’t easy, believe me!) I found websites with suggestions, the main one being “wear gloves.”  Thanks.   I tried soaking my hands in a combination of milk and ice.  I put frozen things in my oven mitts.  When none of this worked for very long, I turned to drinking.  (If you’re a member of my church, you should probably skip to the end now.)  The experience brought to mind a number of words, four-letter and otherwise, that I wouldn’t want to use within the confines of anyplace holy. 

Just after midnight the canning process was complete.  My milk solution and I lay down to watch TV for a while.  Eventually, my skin calmed enough to let me go to sleep.

I have gained a lot from this experience.  I can now consider a life of crime since I probably have no fingerprints.  While I will never stop going to farmers’ markets, I might stick to stores where things are carefully labeled if I’m buying something that might do damage.   I learned, too, that like many occasions in life, things hurt more when I think about them.

I have also learned that interactions between human beings can be very tricky things.  The kind man who sold us the chiles also allowed my daughter the orange that had caught her eye.  When I asked him for a price, he just smiled and waved me away.  In giving my daughter an orange and me an evening of agony, I hardly believe he meant us harm.  Somehow, we just didn’t communicate.

We can’t dwell on the pain.  We can’t ignore it either.  We have to grieve.  We have to pay attention.  We have to actively participate in our healing.  Then we have to keep going; march ahead with the tasks at hand until suddenly we notice that the sting isn’t quite so bad as it once was.

I have since done a little more Googling to find out exactly what kind of pepper I used.  They were mostly green with some red in them which, from the pictures, could be either serranos or arbol chiles.  While I don’t think that they were the mild green chiles prescribed, it is always possible that they were and that I am just exceptionally sensitive.  Regardless, it was a learning experience.  Some of us get our education the hard way.  

I’ve sampled the salsa.  It is pretty good, but has a heck of a bite.  I can’t imagine what it would have tasted like if I had used the full four cups of the little green offenders.  I think I can still use these jars of salsa for Christmas presents.  Of course, they should probably be carefully labeled . . .

Blessed eating!

Here is a recipe from the Bass Family and Friends Cookbook that is in keeping with the theme of the day.

Mexicorn Quesadillas
1 can whole kernel corn                        1 large onion, minced
1 can Ro-tel, drain well                          1 can ch. green chilies
1 bell pepper, minced, (opt.)                flour tortillas
1 or more jalapenos; seeded, minced       cheddar cheese
Mix all of the above, except the cheese and tortillas.  Place ¼- cup of veggies on a flour tortilla.  Sprinkle with 2 T. cheddar.  Top with another tortilla.  Press down.  Repeat.  Bake until the tortillas are golden.  I often take a pancake turner and flip them to insure even baking.  Cut with a pizza wheel and serve hot. – Diane Taylor