A Strategy for Salads (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Are you crazy?!? Don’t touch that giant pea pod!! Uh, too late.

Tuesday we discussed Culinary Oddballs, those misfit foods that defy categorization. For instance, most vegetables are either roots, stems, seeds or leaves, but the tomato … well, it’s not even classed as a veggie. It belongs to the fruit family. So does the avocado. Yes, you’ve been scooping up fruit dip with those tortilla chips. And the coconut? Another fruit, right? Nah, coconuts are actually really big seeds, and therefore fit better in the seed and nut category. Peas? They’re just plain weird, hiding in their green pods all quiet and unassuming, all the while plotting to take over the earth. (Like in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers!)

On the other hand, no one is fooled by the banana, right? Bananas are fruit, period! Banana cream pie, banana ice cream, bananas dipped in chocolate, Bananas Foster, banana pudding! And yet … the plantain belongs to the same family as the banana, but in many cultures the plaintain is prepared and served as a veggie. In fact, it’s often considered the “Hispanic potato.” In several Latin American cuisines plantains are baked, boiled, mashed, and fried — just like spuds. And by the way, we actually prefer tostones (crispy fried and salted sliced plantains) over french fries! So, is the plaintain a fruit or a veggie? Uh, yeah.

¡Tostones son deliciosos!

What do we do with these culinary oddballs? We enjoy them. We find ways to use them and help them fit in to our meals. We give the tomato a big group hug between two slices of rye with some baked ham; we blend the avocado with seasonings and make a killer dip that tortilla chips can’t resist; we sprinkle coconut on everything from shrimp to ice cream, and  sometimes we lovingly smother it in dark chocolate; and peas … well, now that we’re adults we love them, too! And all these items can be tossed together in a salad or stew!

We also encounter “oddballs” in life. Good people that don’t seem to fit the standard profile. People with their own unique personalities, gifts and talents. People who have much to offer and contribute — if we let them. Maybe they have different beliefs, interests, or backgrounds. Maybe they’re just shy. But for one reason or another, they don’t fit in with the crowd. And know what? At one time or another, in some situation or group, we’ve all been there!

What should we do with these social misfits? Toss ’em out? Nope. Toss ’em IN. Make a social salad! How do we do that? By being welcoming and accepting and inclusive. Here’s God’s simple recipe for making a Social Salad. It’s really quite simple:

SYMPATHIZE! Remember what it was like when YOU felt alone and strange — like you didn’t fit in; like you were an oddball! Then treat others the same way you wish you’d been treated. Welcome them. Make them feel accepted and a part of your group, circle, etc.  “You are not to wrong or oppress an alien [newcomer / misfit / ‘oddball’], because you were aliens [‘oddballs’] in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21 ISV)

STRATEGIZE! Think of ways to use their gifts and talents, ways to help them feel comfortable with the rest of the crowd. Help them find a place and fit in. “The stranger [newcomer / misfit / ‘oddball’] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens [‘oddballs’] in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34 NASB)

SOCIALIZE! Do we really need to explain this one? Just talk. Communicate. Be friendly. Share food, fun, and fellowship. Play nice together!  “…Show your love for the alien [newcomer / misfit / ‘oddball’], for you were aliens [‘oddballs’] in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19 NASB)

If you feel awkward or uncomfortable (or odd!) doing any of this, it’s probably because you’re fearful of coming across as an oddball yourself — a sure sign that you really do understand what it’s like.  And if you understand … well … then you’re the best person to toss together a social salad using the “3-S” recipe!

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Culinary Oddballs (Angel in the Kitchen)

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No, “Culinary Oddballs” is not the title of a new sitcom about a couple of kooky cooks; today we’re discussing those freaky food misfits frequently found in the kitchen: fruits and veggies that have the chutzpah to be DIFFERENT!! These curious culinary nonconformists keep us on our toes; just when we think we know them … we often learn something new and surprising.

Veggies are many and varied. Although most people agree that veggies are the edible parts of plants, the actual classification of vegetable varies slightly from culture to culture. Carrots and turnips are roots, celery and asparagus are stalks and stems, and spinach and lettuce are leaves. What’s a tomato?

Tomatoes go great in salads, hanging out with all the other veggies; but in reality, this red rascal actually isn’t a veggie, at all. The misunderstood tomato belongs to the fruit category. So, one might wonder why grocers don’t display the tomatoes side by side with the apples and strawberries. Perhaps it’s because — unlike his fellow fruit — the noncomformist tomato doesn’t make great jam or taste very good in a pie.

When pondering veggies, the avocado is another of the usual suspects. But again, it belongs to the fruit category. Peas? When we used to leave these little green guys on our plates, our mommies would say, “Eat your veggies!” Alas, peas belong to the category of seeds and nuts. Weird? Well, we are talking about something that lies dormant in a pod until some unsuspecting person comes along and … no, wait, we’ve got peas confused with those things from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Don’t touch it! That’s no pea pod, mister!

Coconuts? They’re also seeds. Really really big seeds. Who knew? But all this just goes to demonstrate: in the kitchen there are certain culinary oddballs that don’t conform, don’t necessarily fit in with the rest of their group, and are generally misunderstood. Do we neglect them? No, because they’re tasty, and we find ways to help them fit in.

In life, just as in the kitchen, we continually encounter social misfits. People who for various reasons don’t quite fit in with the rest of the crowd. Maybe these people think or dress differently, maybe they’re just shy, maybe they simply have different beliefs, interests, goals and dreams.

Have you ever felt like an oddball? Maybe at school, or at work, or even in your own family? Cheer up, and welcome to the human race. We’ve all been there. In fact, some of us never left! But being an oddball isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most intelligent, creative and fun people often come across as a little different. And even the most popular, well-adjusted individual eventually finds him- or herself sticking out like a sore thumb within certain situations, at certain times, or among certain groups of people. None of this means we can’t toss ourselves together to make a social salad.

Face facts: sooner or later someone’s going to misunderstand you, and mis-categorize you. It’s okay. You’re not alone. So relax and learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Repeat after us, “Thank you [God] for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:14 NLT)

Remember that you have GREAT value. After all, God sacrificed His only Son, Jesus Christ, in order to redeem you! And you will always be an important part of God’s family: “…He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6 KJB)

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NLT)

Tuesday: “A Strategy for Salads”

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