Bon Appétit! (Encouragement for Creators)

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Innovative people have always had their fair share of critics: “It’ll NEVER work!”; “It’ll never FLY!”; “It’ll never FLOAT!”; “It’ll never stay SUBMERGED!” Anyone who knows their history, has learned to NEVER say “Never”! Still, many of us, as creators, are on the receiving end of the “No can do” attitudes and criticisms of certain agents, editors, publishers, financiers, and other assorted people who choose to see all the obstacles to any given project or goal. For your encouragement, we’ll now share the story of a creator and her naysayers. And since we’ve been discussing cookbooks in our Angel in the Kitchen series, we’ve chosen as our subject, the late Julia Child, who wrote one of the most influential cookbooks of the 20th Century.

Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California, on August 15, 1912. Although she’s Internationally recognized as a multiple award-winning chef, author and television personality — as well as THE person who introduced and popularized French cooking in America — she attained none of this notoriety until she’d reached the ripe age of 51. Late bloomer? Some things are worth waiting for.

Many of us remember Julia Child as the elderly and unassuming French chef with the unusual voice that seemed to warble. It’s interesting to learn that as a teenager, the six-foot, two-inch-tall Julia participated in sports while attending Smith College, and was an avid basketball player. She graduated from Smith in 1934 with a BA in English. Her career in cooking was still decades away. Long before she was “The French Chef,” she moved to New York City and worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of a firm that marketed upscale home furnishings. She returned to California
in 1937 and spent the next four years writing for local publications.

During World War II, Child tried to enlist, in both the WACs (Women’s Army Corp) and the U.S. Navy’s WAVES, but was rejected for being “too tall”! So, Child joined the famed OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and worked her way up from typist, to a top secret researcher. While working in the Secret Intelligence division, Child had a variety of jobs that took her to Washington, D.C., Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and eventually to China. But her most interesting assignment may have been as the assistant to a research team developing shark repellent! The foul-tasting stuff was needed to keep sharks from exploding mines intended for German U-boats. So how in the world did Julia Child end up as the last word on French cuisine?

While in Ceylon, she met fellow OSS employee and New Jersey native Paul Cushing Child. The two were married in 1946, and moved to Paris, two years later, when Paul was given an assignment there by the US State Department. Julia’s hubby was an artist, a poet, and a gourmet, and he introduced her to fine French cuisine — which she repeatedly described as a culinary revelation: “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.”

While in Paris, Julia attended the famous cooking school Le Cordon Bleu, and later studied with several master chefs. She also met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, two French women who were trying to write a French cookbook for American readers. They quickly convinced Julia “the English major” to collaborate with them. That was around 1951, and the three cookbook creators spent the next decade researching and repeatedly testing recipes. Child translated the French into English, and worked to make the recipes detailed and interesting to American cooks. Finally, their book was finished. All they needed to do was find a New York publisher. Piece of cake?

The three authors were told repeatedly that their 726-page manuscript was “too long”! Other objections included: “No one’s interested in preparing gourmet food”; “No one’s buying cookbooks these days”; “If someone wants a recipe, they’ll just tear it out of a magazine”! When a door finally opened, and Houghton-Mifflin signed them to a contract, the editors then rejected the manuscript because it seemed too much like an encyclopedia.

Alfred A. Knopf Company ultimately published Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. It was a critically-acclaimed bestseller, and it’s still in print to this day. More books followed, as well as a long-running television show. And would you believe, the kitchen set, where for years Julia Child cooked up special dishes for her legions of viewers, is now permanently exhibited in the Smithsonian.

So, all her naysayers had to eat crow — and at the end of each episode of The French Chef, Julia would say, “Bon appétit!”

“And the LORD answered me: Write the vision; make it plain…. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; …If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come.” (Habakkuk 2:2-3 ESV)

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The Seeds of Faith (Angel in the Kitchen)

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This guy knows what it takes to “cut the mustard.” What’s his secret?

We all have hopes and dreams, visions and goals. But the journey to accomplishing our goals, seeing our dreams fulfilled, or receiving a promise, can take years. Many people start the journey strong, but often, just short of the finish line, they run out of steam and give up. If we’re going to stay on course — and reach our goals — we need to be fueled by faith: an unshakeable belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel; an abiding trust in His goodness and lovingkindness; and a resolute confidence in His ability and willingness to fulfill His promises.

“…Faith is the reality of what is hoped for….” (Hebrews 11:1 Holman CSB) In other words, faith is treating God’s promises as a “done deal” — despite our circumstances or any obstacles, and regardless of what other people say.

But how much faith is enough? Jesus said, “…If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:20 NASB) To fully understand this verse we return now to the kitchen, that endless source of wisdom and inspiration.

Mustard seeds are among the tiniest in the plant kingdom, usually about 1 millimeter in diameter, smaller than this asterisk: * ! And yet, each edible seed is packed with a strong spicy flavor. When properly planted, these small and seemingly insignificant seeds, grow in size and strength, producing the largest of garden plants, with tasty leaves. There are three major types of seeds, black mustard, brown Indian mustard, and white mustard.

When the seeds are ground, the resultant powder is a potent spice that enhances many dishes.  The English name mustard  is derived from a Latin word meaning burning must. “Must” is the young, unfermented juice of wine grapes, and “burning must” refers to the spicy heat of mustard seeds that have been ground and mixed with a little wine to create a sauce.

Mustard was originally considered a medicinal plant rather than a herb for cooking. In fact, the Greek scientist Pythagoras used mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings, during the sixth century B.C.; and a hundred years later, Hippocrates used it in a variety of medicines and plasters to “cure” toothaches and several other ailments.

But in latter days, mustard was simply used to spice up dishes that needed … well … spicing up! And it’s been called a “food deodorant,” also, because it can mask any unpleasant taste of what the cook happens to be dishing out. Pope John XII was so fond of mustard that he created a new Vatican position, Grand mustard-maker to the Pope. He then promptly filled the post with his nephew. (Was this the historical origin of nepotism?)

So, when Jesus spoke of mustard-seed faith, our Lord couldn’t have drawn a better comparison: a tiny bit of faith can produce huge results; faith is potent; it can soothe us in times of misery and heartache; it helps us endure the unpleasantness of trials, and “deodorize” any circumstances of life that may stink! When it comes to Faith — just like mustard — a little dab goes a long ways.

“But what if I don’t have even a little dab of faith?” Yes, you do. You already have plenty of faith: “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” (Romans 12:3 Holman CSB) Would God ask you to put your faith into Him, without first giving you faith? Nah! God has given us everything we need to believe in Him and do his will.

A mustard tree: Huge results from such a tiny seed!

But we must activate our faith: One way we do this is by reading and listening to the Word of God. The historical account of His faithfulness to us, of His mercy and lovingkindness, of His miracles, encourages us and feeds our faith. “…Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 King James 2000) And by fellowshipping with other believers. “…Encourage one another and build each other up….” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)

And by talking to God. Yes, we call this prayer, but that’s just a fancy word for sharing your thoughts, concerns, and problems with the Lord — in the same way you’d share with a really close friend, someone you totally trust and can confide in. We can trust and confide in our Heavenly Father; we can have total faith in our invisible God. No, we can’t see Him, but He’s there by our side at all times! (John 15:15) That’s faith!

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