The power of a meal

Cooking is not my best gift, actually, it’s probably not exactly my nemesis, but we’re less than considerably close or kindred spirits. That’s not likely surprising to most as I’ve talked about the year I received, among other utensils, a melon baller as a gift which I thought was the receiver of a toy telephone. The old timey phones that had receivers – even older than flip phones. Anyway I’ve been trying my hand at cooking a little more. You can order these boxes where all the stuff comes that’s needed for that particular meal. Herbs and spices I have never heard of and would NOT go to the store to find because having to search for things, even when the grocery professionals decide to move things to different aisles, frustrates me into quitting. I won’t quit on a long run. I won’t quit on projects. I won’t quit when trying to solve perhaps unsolvable world issues. But if I get frustrated in a grocery store trying to find something, I quit, often too easily and without remorse, whatev.

But ALL the stuff needed comes in this magical box. AND the recipe is there as well. Plus it tells you when to start what so that in general everything is finished close to the same time. I’ve learned as a cooker, that I’m a get everything out that you are possibly going to need and put it on the counter in the appropriate order so that when it says you need a particular pan or bowl or utensil, it’s right there. I still don’t like touching slimy things. Goes back to mom trying to show me how to cut up a whole chicken – sorry mom, who is the best chicken fryer ever plus mashed potatoes and gravy – but I can still today hear the chicken bones breaking and feel the pebbled slimy skin, nopity-nope-nope. The magical box comes with the chicken already skinless and ready to go, but I still don’t like touching it so I often use a paper towel to put it into the pan because ewww.

Then there’s the slicing and dicing and peeling and zesting. Those I find no less than dangerous. For not liking to cook, I watch a LOT of Guy’s Grocery Games and Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives – in fact I’m rather fanatical about watching even the reruns. And I watch them slice and dice and peel and zest and very rarely is there blood. My cooking could be called, “and there will be blood” – I think there was a violent movie entitled that at some point in the last few years. It wasn’t about my cooking but it could have been. Last night was the latest. I was supposed to slice the cucumber lengthwise and then with the flat sides down, slice them into half moons. It sorta sounded romantic really – not so much when you’re doing it as it turns out. Cucumber skins are slick – not slimy like raw chicken, but slick, almost like a waxy consistency that when you wash is sorta like “slicker than snot on a doorknob” as we used to describe things back home – you’re welcome if you’ve never heard that phrase before.

So I’m trying to slice it exactly in the middle lengthwise because I don’t want my halfmoons inconsistent in size. My initial knife entry was not right in the middle because the cuke moved/slid, so I was trying to re-position the knife while also using it to bring the cuke back to it’s center position and my finger somehow managed to interfere with the whole operation. And bam, there will be blood. I’ve learned that quitting cooking at that point doesn’t lead to a desired outcome. I don’t know who invented paper towels, but I love them. They help me move chicken from packaging to pan, and they help stem the flow of blood when wrapped tightly around a finger cut. I yelled at the cuke because really? BTW, a quick way to pickle a cuke is to slice it like that into half moons and put it in a bowl with some kind of fancydancy vinegar and sugar and let it sit for about 30 mins. and voila, pickled cukes! And did you know that if you have a gas stove, that you can crisp up your tortilla’s by placing them directly on the burner over a medium flame and flipping them a couple of times? Caution, make sure you don’t have loose fitting clothing near your wrists or lower arms if you choose that method of preparation, no need for Dante’s Inferno.

I think these magical meal prep boxes are sorta the IKEA of cooking. All the pieces are there but you have to put them together and sometimes everything fits and sometimes you have a few things leftover and decide not to worry about it mostly. Besides, that’s what garbage disposals are for and when the extras disappear, you don’t have to feel badly about forgetting to put that one little thing in that you weren’t sure what it was anyway.

I know there’s a sermon in all this somewhere, because for preachers there always is, but it hasn’t been written yet. Perhaps because I’m still in the midst of the struggle. On the surface what I can say is that I feel Martha’s pain in a whole new way even though I’m the youngest sister who, as we recall, “chose the better way” and sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha was preparing everything for the guests. Martha stops and says to Jesus that he needs to tell Mary to get up and help her, and Jesus responds that she’s worried about many things and that in this instance, Mary has chosen the better part (see Luke 10:38-42, NRSV). I’m not one to disagree with Jesus but . . . again, I simply feel Martha’s pain in a whole new way. And perhaps have gained a greater insight and maybe verging on expanded sensitivity to my older sister’s plight…or not. snort

I will likely never be a chef, although trying to do my best imitation of Julia Childs makes me happy – who doesn’t it? And yet there is the feeling of understanding a little more of what went into the many times Jesus shared meals with the wealthy and high religious positioned as well as Zacchaeus and other various sinners. And maybe how he knew that establishing a new covenant would have the most power with the sharing of a Passover meal and then breaking and sharing a loaf of bread and some wine. There’s something about food and how it comes together and what happens when we receive it with humble thanks that leans into the sacred.

So bon-appetite in my best Julia Childs voice, and thank you to those who have blessed us with food creation all our lives, and know that it is never to late for the rest of us to give it a try!

The last part of this Julia Childs YouTube makes me laugh out loud every. single. time! Enjoy her minute, or two, of grace!