When Food Stops Tasting Good

After a very long wait to get here, I am now 15 weeks pregnant with our first child. What no one told me about morning sickness and food cravings and food aversion was that it wouldn’t just be certain foods that would make my stomach churn. For me, it’s pretty much everything. I used to have a very healthy appetite. I loved food and cooking. Now, there is absolutely nothing that tastes good. I wish I were exaggerating, but it’s true. Really, there are only just a few things that don’t taste bad. I no longer get hungry, just queasy and gross-feeling from low blood sugar. No one warned me about this.

Sometimes this happens in our spiritual lives, too. It may not be a specific event or life change that brings it about, but our spiritual tastes and needs change. The prayers and scriptures and songs that used to make us feel so fulfilled and close to God just don’t do it anymore. We feel empty and lonely and disappointed. No one warned us this could happen.

But it does, and sometimes we have to get creative about how to deal with it. Sometimes it is just for a season, sometimes the change is a permanent change of taste. Like Ecclesiastes 3 says, there is a season for everything, and sometimes the season you’re used to is over. God plans on interacting with you in a different way now. I used to be able to meet God through cooking. I’m not a remarkable cook, but I enjoy it. That time was an opportunity for me to be at peace with God, while I chopped onions and sautéed zucchini. It was how I cared for my husband and how I helped my friends realize their God-given abilities. Food was how I loved.

So now I get to learn a new way to love. Now God gets to talk to me in a new way. I don’t know what that will be, and I pray that the old way will just be gone for a season. Continue reading

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Dragonbreath Chili & the Tongue of Fire

Recently, my husband volunteered to make Sunday lunch (not a common occurrence as, while he is more than capable in the kitchen, he lacks confidence). This was motivated primarily out of excitement around the idea of preparing a new recipe: Dragonbreath Chili, a fictional dish in the World of Warcraft universe, interpreted by  Cassandra Reeder in “The Geeky Chef Cookbook” (I highly recommend it).

017c85e6-3a14-4e3f-9794-b45575de26edHe labored over it for a number of hours, and I was so proud of him for all his work, cutting all the peppers (two habaneros, among others), onions and tomatoes. And the chili stayed true to its name. While it wasn’t an immediate and overwhelming blast of capsaicin burn, it was the kind of heat that goes right on past your tongue and sets the back of your mouth on fire once you’ve swallowed, making sure you remember what you ate long after it’s too late to do anything about it. That said, I would eat it many times over.

The dragon’s breath that I was now exhaling led me to think about the other ways that I breathe fire. While I don’t consider myself particularly talented at giving a visceral and obliterating tongue lashing, I am more than fluent in the art of sarcasm and veiled insults. When I’m angry, I prefer to be blunt about my thoughts on situations, openly declaring things ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb.’

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. – James 3:4-6

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Christmas Cookies & Ebenezers

Christmas cookies are quintessential of Christmas, more than any other dish, I would guess. Everyone has their own recipes and beliefs about what makes something a “Christmas” cookie. You will never be able to convince me that a chocolate chip cookie is a Christmas cookie. I don’t care what you say, it isn’t and never will be. But that’s part of how I was raised– Christmas cookies were cookies that you only had at Christmastime and they were special in that way. Many had nuts and lots of spices, not chocolate or peanut butter or even raisins.

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Even though December 25th has passed, today I am sharing with you our family’s recipe for Walnut Crescents, my mother’s answer to her mother’s Mexican Wedding Cookies. My husband earned huge points with Mom when he announced that they were his favorite of my cookies (they are also her favorite and frequently the last to disappear). I’m sharing these particular cookies with you for a specific reason– these cookies are a memorial, a celebration. They became a part of our Christmas tradition in order to remember Christmases past and the mother that made them worth remembering. In a way, they are a lasting ebenezer for our Christmas season.

Walnut CrescentsIMG_0975 (2)

Ingredients

3 3/4 c flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c margarine
3/4 c light corn syrup
1 Tbs vanilla
2 1/4 c ground walnuts
1 1/2 c powdered sugar

  1. Beat together margarine, corn syrup and vanilla. Stir in flour, cinnamon and walnuts.
  2. Cover and chill for about 3 hours.
  3. By the teaspoonful, shape dough into 2″ long rolls, shaping into crescents and arrange on baking sheet . (These cookies spread very little.)
  4. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool, then roll in powdered sugar.

You probably just read that sentence and got lost. Let me explain.

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Rain and Thanksgiving

We have finally reached my very favorite time of year: Autumn. The leaves turn colors, the air turns crisp and the sunlight turns pale. My childhood was spent in farm-country, among some of the kindest classes of people in the country, and I am grateful to have returned to farm-country again. Growing up, prayer requests at church always included prayers for more rain, less rain, for the frost to hold out one more week until the harvest could be brought in. Although no one in my family was ever a farmer (lumberjacks, sure– we are Scandinavian, after all), I learned to so greatly respect and be grateful for the work of farmers that labored from sunrise to sunset to put food on my table.

Grain Harvest

Because I got to hear their prayer requests, I got to be a part of a much humbler approach to life and faith: Depending on God for very real, material, life-giving needs. The prayers of farmers are very different than those of the rest of us– they pray for sun, but not too much that the crops burn, rain, but not enough for the seed to go to rot, insects to fertilize, but not to destroy, frost to put the ground to rest, but not so early that it kills the harvest. For those of us that work in offices, shops, restaurants, hospitals, we are unaffected by the elements around us and we can easily lose sight of God’s providence, as we can easily be distracted by what seems to be the providence and omnipotence of our bosses and customers. Our needs have a middle-man and we easily lose sight of their true provider. Continue reading

Is Dinner Ready Yet?

But really though, is it? When will it be ready? I thought you were supposed to be done by now? When can we eat? It looks good already, can we just eat it now?

Don’t pretend you haven’t heard these questions before. Probably, you’ve even asked them before, perhaps even to yourself about your own cooking! A meal is taking a bit longer than you expected, you’re really hungry and that stew really does look pretty good. Why not just eat it now?

More often than not, we need to practice patience in our lives. Sometimes it is just waiting for dinner to be ready, sometimes it is waiting for results from your new diet plan, sometimes it is waiting for God to answer prayer. Our prayers come in many forms and are never answered in the same way. Almost never are they answered on our timeline or in ways that we understand. Because God’s time is not our own time, we frequently find ourselves asking, “When? Weren’t we already done with this? Isn’t this taken care of already?”

So here’s a stew recipe that asks you to wait, even though it looks like it is ready.

It's even Whole30 compliant!Hatch Green Chili and Pork Stew

Ingredients

2 lbs lean pork, cubed
2 Tbs fat (I use olive oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c tapioca starch (you can use flour or cornstarch if not observing a such a diet)
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz)
6-8 roasted green chilies, chopped*
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 c chicken stock

  1. Heat the fat over medium heat in a small dutch oven or stock pot. Add the pork and lightly brown (don’t worry about it being cooked through, it will cook later).
  2. Once the pork has browned, add the onion and garlic until translucent.
  3. Stir in the starch to coat the pork, so that everything is sticky (this is your thickening agent).
  4. Add the tomatoes (you can drain them if you like, but I prefer them undrained), green chilies, jalapenos, salt and pepper. Incorporate thoroughly and allow to simmer briefly. Then add the stock, bring to a rolling simmer.
  5. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and simmer for at least an hour, best at least two hours.

*You can typically get these roasted in-store, but if you live in a place like I do, where they only roast one, maybe two, Saturdays out of the season, I just roast them on my own. This is easy– line a baking sheet with foil, line out the peppers and roast at 400* for 20 minutes. Then turn the peppers and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Then allow to cool, remove the stem, skin (should be papery) and seeds.

About halfway there, you could easily fall into the trap of ‘isn’t it ready yet?’ It looks right and everything seems cooked. Why wait?

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Getting Away with Murder: “Healthified” Recipes

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about “healthified” recipes. You know the kind of recipe I’m talking about: things like pancakes made with coconut flour or replacing the oil with applesauce in banana bread. What I’ve realized, though, is that these things tend to enable us to continue in our unhealthy habits instead of leading us toward healthy habits. We all love banana bread (if you don’t, we can’t be friends), but let’s be real. I don’t care how many ingredients you substitute, there is no way you can turn it into a health food. You just can’t.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there is no value to making healthier exchanges to our foods. I’m all for that. But here’s the deal– we cannot lie to ourselves and let ourselves believe that something that is meant to be a treat is actually a healthy food. We have many ways of deceiving ourselves into believing that things that hurt us are actually ‘not that bad’ or actually good for us. We love doing this sort of thing! Why? Because we get what we want and are freed of the consequences. What could possibly be better than that?!

Sadly, if our recipes were the only aspects of our lives about which we lied to ourselves, we would actually be pretty decent shape. But the real problem is the way we accept and encourage our own sin.

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The Best Burger in Town

“You’ve got to go to ______; they make the best burger in town! It’s incredible!”

“Oh, you got the ____? Yeah, you should have gotten the ______, that’s awesome. You didn’t get the real ______ experience, so it makes sense you weren’t that impressed.”

Don't trust the Zagat Guide...

Trust me, it isn’t at the Corner Bistro

You’ve had this conversation. We all have. And because I’ve had this conversation so many times (and have eaten so many burgers in so many restaurants in so many cities in so many states), I’m a bit of a Doubting Thomas when it comes to food recommendations. It’s not that I don’t believe it it’s a good burger, I just highly doubt it’s really /that/ special. I’ve been underwhelmed by too many oversold burgers that are perfectly good burgers.

This is a consequence of many things:

  • Our culture’s affinity for superlatives, which largely arises due to our belief that nothing is good enough unless it is better than everything else
  • Our obsession with having an opinion (this is practically a religion– unless you have a favorite, a stance, a strong opinion, you must not care, and apathy is always the enemy)
  • Our desire to “win” (I’m a better friend/person because I introduced you to_____)
  • Our inexplicable need to rank /everything/

Because I generally despise superlatives (it is very rare to hear me say anything is the best, favorite, etc), I have learned to pretty much doubt and ignore. I’ll still go to the restaurant if I don’t have somewhere else I want to go, but I’ll have no expectations whatsoever relating to the quality of the burger. I tend to have the I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it mentality (clearly I spent too long in Missouri); my expectations are mediocre.

But I don’t think I’m alone in this, though. While we as a culture may not be openly antagonistic towards the opinions and recommendations of others, we tend to discount them as perspective and opinion alone.

And we don’t just do this with food. We do it with movies (you aren’t going to believe that Jurassic World stands up in quality to a true Crichton classic just on /my/ say-so, you’ll wait to see it yourself–which you totally should, by the way). We do this with TV shows and books. We do this with sales (“Is it really /that/ good of a deal? Let me look at it”) and sports events and YouTube videos of Keyboard Cat. It’s more than just wanting to experience it for ourselves; it’s more often a desire to /prove it/ to ourselves, and we believe we are the most capable person to make that distinction between what is true and what is untrue.

It’s in our human nature to question and doubt. Faith does not come easily to us. Even young children do not trust freely. Fortunately, our Heavenly Father loves freely and is willing to prove himself to us. Over and over again.

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