The Secret Ingredient (Angel in the Kitchen)

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To quote the Pillsbury Doughboy, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven”! That’s the idea behind the recipe for Amish Friendship Bread, a sweet, stirred quick-bread with a cake-like texture and a mild cinnamon flavor. The reason it’s called friendship bread is because the recipe calls for a cup of sourdough starter (a mixture of yeast, flour, sugar and milk) which is shared among friends in much the same way as a chain letter — only with tastier results. Here’s how it works:

Someone first adds a package of dry yeast (dissolved in a little warm water) to one cup each of flour, sugar, and milk. The yeast mixture begins to ferment, but for the yeast to remain active, the mixture must be “fed” every 5 days by adding another cup each of flour, sugar, and milk. On the tenth day, the starter is ready for use, but there’s FIVE cups of the stuff! Solution: use one cup of starter to bake a loaf of delicious bread, give away three cups of starter to friends (who then begin their own 10-day cycle), and save the last cup of starter to begin the next cycle. So, every tenth day, a person either has to bake 4 loaves of friendship bread, or connect with 3 new friends who don’t already have starter. Obviously, the process can continue forever, and eventually the starter spreads through entire communities. A sweet idea!

No one’s absolutely sure who started this tradition. Elizabeth Coblentz, a member of the Old Order Amish and the author of The Amish Cook, writes that true Amish friendship bread is “just sourdough bread that is passed around to the sick and needy.” That’s still pretty sweet. Tuesday we shared God’s recipe for Keeping Your Priorities Straight. It boiled down to Love the LORD … with all your heart, soul, and mind (which is the first and greatest commandment) and then love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-38) Clearly the secret ingredient in God’s favorite recipe is LOVE. And as we mentioned in a previous post, love makes everything in life taste better.

Love is the “starter” for God’s special brand of “friendship bread.” He commands us to share it until it’s spread throughout our world. In the verse above, specifically the second half of Keeping our Priorities Straight, God commands us to love others to the same degree we love ourselves. That’s some pretty intense affection, folks. It reminds us of what we traditionally refer to as The Golden Rule — which is a distillation of Matthew 7:12 (GOD’S WORD): “Always do for other people everything you want them to do for you. That is [the meaning of] Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets.”

In other words, if you want people to be kind to you, show you respect, and be sensitive to your needs, then you must also do these same things for others — be they black, white, red, or polka-dotted; male, female, young, old, rich, poor, or what have you. We are never closer to God or more like Him than when we love others: “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16 NLT)

It’s not always easy. We can all be a little unloveable at times. So we need to try to understand what other people are going through. We need to try to see things from their perspective. And when we honestly disagree with someone, we need to do so lovingly and without disrespecting the person. “Speak the truth in love….” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) Your homework for today is to read 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter”; then go out and share some starter — LOVE!

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What’s Cookin’ this Christmas?

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Pillsbury once had an ad slogan declaring, “Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven!” And we all know that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Expressing love through food is an American tradition.

Recently we wrote that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Just as our physical hearts pump the blood that sustains our bodies, our kitchens sustain our families, both nutritionally and emotionally, with a steady flow of home-cooked meals. Even if you take your meals away from home, somebody’s kitchen is keeping you alive, whether it’s at a restaurant, college cafeteria, or the factory kitchen that prepares those frozen dinners we all eat in a pinch. So, if you love food, ya gotta love the kitchen, too. It’s where our meals are cooked, and the place where we most often enjoy them. It’s also a great starting point for expressing love.

While she was still with us, we’d often visit Tom’s Gran-ma—especially around holidays. How does that old Christmastime song go? “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go….”  You know the rest. Except for the part about the horse and sleigh, the song pretty much described the long trip to her house: three hours of tree-lined interstate and the occasional billboard hawking fireworks or pecan pies.

Gran-ma’s home was small. The rooms were distinguished by old furnishings and outdated decor. Whenever we visited we always ended up in her kitchen; it’s where she overfed us, and where we sat for hours, stuffed, happy, and chatting across the table. Gran-ma’s table was set with mix-matched dishes, paper napkins, and oddly-placed silverware, all atop a tablecloth that really didn’t go with anything. Her meals were simple fare, the Southern food Tom had grown up with,  but … Ooh! How delicious!  Being a Northerner, Wilma was thrilled by the awesome taste and crispiness of her fried pork chops. “It’s just her usual hearty fare,” Tom would say nonchalantly. “She breads the chops with crushed, seasoned, cornflakes.” Her “usual fare,” the meal she had prepared with no fuss and no pretension, tasted absolutely gourmet. It was simply divine! When Wilma asked her where she got the recipe, Gran-ma simply shrugged and said she couldn’t rightly remember: “I was just using what I had in the cupboard.” Now, obviously there was a little something extra in that cupboard. Can you guess what it was?

What Gran-ma lacked in decor, what she never even knew about “style”; she made up for, with something far more precious: her love.

There’s a simple truth here. Please don’t miss it.  “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf and hatred.” (Proverbs 15:17 NKJV)  Sounds cryptic? Here’s another translation:  “A vegetarian meal served with love is better than a big, thick steak with a plateful of animosity.” (ISV)

The secret ingredient in any good recipe is LOVE.  When served with love, even the simplest, humblest meal turns into a banquet. What’s for dinner? Same thing we served last night and every day before: LOVE. Whatever you’re cooking up today, prepare it lovingly and it will be a culinary masterpiece!

Remember those twin pops you ate when you were a kid? You’d break one down the middle to get two single pops, one for you and one for a friend. Didn’t they taste so much better when shared? Food and love go together like biscuits ‘n’ gravy! (Okay, we need to stop making everybody hungry!)

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him…the people who give you their food give you their heart.”  (Cesar Chavez)

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