Angel in the Kitchen: What’s Cooking?

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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.

We previously acknowledged 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. How does that old 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 The rooms were distinguished by old furnishings and outdated decor.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 crispibigstock_A_heart_health_concept_-_red_h_25125950-e1329249097863ness 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)

Here’s a spoonful of Joy Juice to chase away the blues: When you find yourself getting down and mopey, it’s time to refocus: think about how far you’ve come, not how far you’ve still to go; what you’ve accomplished, not what you’ve yet to achieve. Above all, start focusing on what you have, not what you want. Count your blessings:  if you enjoy good health, have running hot water, a roof over your head, something good to eat, eyes and ears to take in all the beauty in life, and loved ones with whom you can share these things, then you are indeed wealthy.

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Angel in the Kitchen: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread!

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What could be better than bread? It’s called the staff of life, because throughout time, grain products have sustained people across the globe. Hop in a time machine and visit any era — in any area of the world, and you’ll simply confirm that bread was (and continues to be) an important part of nearly every meal. In fact, bread was often the chief staple of those meals, sometimes complimented only by a small piece of fish or cheese. Hence, bread had value far beyond its price, eventually leading to the slang usage of the words dough and bread to signify money: “He’s rolling in the dough”; or “If you want me to go shopping for you, I’ll need some bread.”

Biscuits, bagels, and buns; crackers, cornbread, and cakes; Matzah and melba toast. Whether it’s unleavened or yeasty, whole grain or gluten free, made from wheat, barley or rye, baked as rolls, flatbread or flakes, every nationality and people group seems to have a favorite. Visit your local supermarket and you’ll find many specialty breads: high-fiber and specialty grain products such as Ezekiel bread; artisan breads, Hawaiian rolls, and English muffins. Around Easter and Chanukah you’ll find Challah bread. And Pepperidge Farms markets seasonal breads such as Pumpkin Spice and Apple Cinnamon.

We’re fortunate to have all this variety. We were making sandwiches recently, and started pondering the diversity and utility of various breads. We like ham on rye, pastrami on Italian, and peanut butter on double-fiber. By the way, sandwiches were invented by a chef looking for a way to serve meats and cheeses to his employer, who insisted on eating with his fingers while playing cards — but who didn’t want the playing cards to get greasy. The chef soon hit upon the idea that he could serve the Earl of Sandwich a layer of cold meat wrapped within two pieces of bread. People have been eating cards and playing sandwiches ever since — or something like that.

We use Arnold’s thick-sliced Dutch Country Potato Bread when we’re making French toast, because it’s slightly denser and comes in thicker slices than regular bread. Hence it soaks up more of the egg and cinnamon mixture. And there’s nothing like a slice of Wonder Bread lightly toasted with butter and jam! Wonder Bread is plain old ultra-refined white bread. We’re not sure this after-school favorite of kids still enjoys the same popularity it did 50 years ago. Sometime around the 1980s, refined bread fell out of fashion. Health-conscious people started buying whole wheat, which was more expensive at the supermarket. People who couldn’t afford whole wheat were stuck with the cheap white bread which, considering the history of commercial baking, is indeed ironic.

Prior to the late 20th century, bleached and ultra-refined white bread was more expensive than its unrefined sibling, wheat bread. As a matter of fact, only “poor” people ate wheat bread. To quote a line from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, white bread or “‘baker’s bread’—[is] what the quality eat; none of your low-down corn-pone.” Thanks to Wonder Bread and other companies, however, by 1950 practically everybody was serving sliced white bread at meals. Which brings us back to our opening question: What could be better than bread?

Answer: sliced bread! Don’t snicker, because we’ve all learned it’s the gold standard against which everything else is measured. When we think something is truly innovative, we proclaim, “It’s the best thing since sliced bread!” And just imagine, what if before you could make yourself a sandwich you had to first slice the bread. TV commercials would need to be longer to give us more time in the kitchen! Plus, you’d need one of those special bread knives or the loaf just squishes.

Thank goodness, someone had the brilliant idea of … um … cutting out the extra work. In 1930, Wonder Bread was the first nationally-marketed bread that came pre-sliced. No wonder Wonder took off in popularity.

So many types of bread from which to choose, and yet there’s another. A bread far more essential, far more beneficial, and far far the greatest thing since sliced bread! It’s the spiritual Bread of Life, represented by Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Jesus said, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NLT)

We may need baked bread to sustain our physical bodies. But we’re also spiritual beings created in God’s own image. Hence, we also need spiritual bread: Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life! …Anyone who eats the bread will live forever….” (John 6:48-51 NLT) And just as we find baked breads everywhere in life, there’s nowhere we can go where God is not present. “…Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, [can] separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NIV)

Have you partaken of God’s Bread of Life? If not, don’t continue to avoid Him. Join Him at His spiritual table. And once you’ve received Him, remember to consume some of His spiritual Wonder Bread each day: the Word of God — it’s the best thing since sliced bread!

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