Angel in the Kitchen: A Panini for the People!

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I can’t talk at the moment. My mouth is full of food!

Ever since we launched our book and internet series Angel in the Kitchen by announcing that our toaster can talk, another member of our eccentric ensemble of kitchen “angels” has been asking for equal time. He states quite humbly that while Lil’ Toastee can brown a bagel, warm a Pop-Tart, and make … well, toast, he can perfectly prepare a gourmet sandwich! All his boasting aside, however, Signior Panini wants a chance to share his message with the world — and it’s a bit of wisdom well worth relating. So, here now with his very own story, is that master of the glamorous grill set, Signior Panini! [We, the editors of this site, promise to return tomorrow.]

Buongiorno! I am a panini-maker! That’s a fancy title for a two-sided warming grill that heats — what else? — scrumptious panini sandwiches! Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the panini is well known in most English-speaking countries, and anyone who’s ever had one knows they are simply the best! Far better than some peanut butter spread across a piece of dry toast that’s gonna stick to the roof of your mouth — no matter what that antiquated chrome-faced toaster— [Okay, stop right there, Signior Panini! Basta! Enough! No mud-slinging or name-calling allowed! Please stick to the issues. Or we’ll be forced to place you back in the cabinet.]

Sigh, I should have listened to my mother! She wanted me to be a pasta-roller! Anyway, a panini is a grilled sandwich made from bread other than sliced bread. Yeah, you can use plain bread like that high-and-mighty Lil’— [Ahem!] Well, a great panini begins with specialty breads such as baguette, ciabatta, or michetta. The bread is split horizontally and filled with succulent meats, cheeses, and veggies such as olives and sautéed mushrooms. My editors prefer my London Broil panini: mouthwatering beef layered on thick-sliced olive bread, topped with onions and red peppers.

¿Qué pasa, amigo?

They also like my Cubano. That’s a Cuban sandwich made with ham, sliced or pulled pork, Swiss cheese, garlic pickles, and a blend of mayo and Dijon mustard — on French bread! (Hey, diversity, right?) A Cubano is basically a panini with a Spanish accent.

But without me, none of these wonderful ingredients would ever reach their full potential. A sandwich is a sandwich, but a sandwich prepared by me is a gourmet treat! The secret to my ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary lies in my design: I have two — count ’em — two grilling surfaces! These square heating surfaces, called platens, are hinged at one side. I have a platen below — upon which the sandwich is placed — and a platen above. When my upper platen is lowered, the sandwich is completely surrounded — like a gangster in an FBI movie!

Then I go to work. I apply heat and pressure from every side! My heated platens, above and below, ensure the sandwich ingredients evenly and properly cook. And the press of the weighted platens helps the bread to turn crispy and golden-brown without burning. Of course, I’m only as good as the people using me. Fortunately, my editors are usually hovering nearby, and know when to open me
and remove their delicious panini sandwich. I’m pretty
foolproof that way, which is important when dealing with my editors.
[Sigh, allowing Signior Panini to “have his say” may have been a bad idea.]

Heat and pressure from every side is the secret to my success! And guess what, life is a lot like a panini maker! People encounter obstacles every single day and in every single pursuit. They face trials in their health, finances, jobs, relationships…. You name it. Things can get pretty hot, and it often seems as though every which way you turn, you encounter the pressures of life.

Ever feel like you’re being being squeezed a little? Like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place? Like a panini in a New York delicatessen? It happens in life, but you can take comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul. He faced opposition from both Jews and Gentiles; and challenges in both the secular world and the earliest gatherings of believers. Like a spiritual panini, Paul was pressured on both sides! He confessed, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT)

Hey, do I look worried?

In spite of feeling like a human panini, Paul didn’t get bitter — he got better! Regarding his innumerable trials, he states, “Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Paul overcame every challenge while keeping a victorious attitude because he realized his loving Heavenly Father always had His hand on life’s panini maker. No matter how hot things seemed to get, no matter how much pressure was being applied, Paul understood he was “never abandoned by God.” (2 Corinthians 4:9) Paul’s Creator was in the process of transforming the ordinary ingredients of the apostle’s life into something extraordinary. Furthermore, God is the Master Chef — and He knows just when to lift the top platen and remove His “gourmet” masterpieces!

Paul writes, “No test or temptation [or trial] that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG) In other words, God never let’s a “panini” get burnt.

If you’re going through a season of being “pressed on every side by troubles”; and you can feel the heat of your problems surrounding you, take heart: “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13 HCSB)

Grazie for this encouraging truth, Signior Panini.

Dear reader, all trials eventually pass, and God is always with you in the midst of adversity. Furthermore, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him….” (Romans 8:28 NIV) So cling to God’s Word and His promises. And keep the faith!

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Of Rice and Relationships (Angel in the Kitchen)

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We caused quite a stir with a previous article, “A Stirring Message,” in which we discussed the importance of stirring things up: certain foods
and beverages require stirring to obtain the proper flavor and consistency; similarly, each of us should “stir up” the gifts and talents God has bestowed, in order to bring out our best and most consistent qualities.

However, when it comes to certain methods of cooking, we get the best results by NOT stirring! For example, good cooks agree that if you want to prepare rice that’s fluffy, not gooey and sticky, the secret to success is simple: don’t stir the pot!

Rice is a staple food in numerous countries, including the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, respectively the birthplaces of Wilma’s father and mother. In their cultures, serving sticky rice is an unpardonable sin, which is why Wilma’s Mamita taught her the secret to good rice: fill the pot with just enough water to cover the rice, bring the water to a boil, add the rice, reduce the heat, cover it — and then leave it alone! Do. Not. Stir. It!

Stirring the rice mixture will upset the proper balance of steam, and also cause the release of excess starch (which results in the grains becoming gooey and sticking together). But for many cooks, following this simple tip is easier said than done. Some of us just can’t resist removing the lid and stirring things up! The same can be said of our relationships. The secret to success in all social interactions is simple: don’t stir the pot! Ignoring this basic truth can lead to some sticky situations and generally makes a (gooey) mess of things.

The well-known idiom “stirring the pot” can be defined as: promoting feelings of annoyance, agitation or dissatisfaction; by encouraging tension and conflict between two or more people — or groups of people — in order to make trouble or to elicit a strong emotional reaction. Simply put, “stirring the pot” involves any words or actions intended to get someone emotionally worked up!

We all know someone in life, next door, at the job, down the street, who seems to take great pleasure in stirring things up. They revel in creating strife, division, and needless drama. Sometimes these people are just bored, so they try to liven things up at someone else’s expense. Sometimes the “pot stirrer” has more selfish reasons, and hopes to gain some advantage over another person. Sometimes, however, there are more devious psychological motivations at work. For instance, because “misery loves company,” a discontented person will do his best to stir up discontent.

Really? How sad.

Pot stirring can take many forms, such as teasing or “joking” about an emotionally painful relationship or situation; making provocative statements intended to fuel the flames of discord; or … repeating gossip!

Spreading rumors — or simply repeating the news about someone’s problems, setbacks, and relational confrontations — can stir up more bitterness, more strife and more division. It also hinders God’s ability to heal emotional wounds and bring unity.

The Bible gives a strong warning to would-be pot stirrers: “There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven: haughtiness, lying, murdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, sowing discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19 TLB) This, of course, is not an all-inclusive list of the actions and attitudes that grieve our Lord. But interestingly, stated together in this single verse, are several offenses which clearly define the act of stirring the pot. And if God “hates” these thIngs, we can assume that He does not prosper the pot stirrer. In fact, the opposite is true: God bestows His particular blessings on the peacemaker!

“Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous — with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!” (Matthew 5:9 AMPC) Let’s receive this as the primary lesson of God’s “Pot Principles.”

The second lesson is for all those of us who at one time or another have been on the receiving end of pot stirring. If you’ve been the victim of gossip, or falsely accused, or punished for doing the right thing, God wants you to keep your cool — to paraphrase the fictional character James Bond, shaken but not stirred! — and remain in peace. Life is not always fair, but then, you knew that. Right? Furthermore, God is our advocate; He is always just, so we need to trust Him to vindicate us in any given situation. The Biblical Joseph did this, and things worked out better than he could have imagined. Read his hair-raising life story in Genesis 37-50.

You finally ready to stop stirring the pot?

The third lesson of God’s Pot Principles dovetails nicely with #2. It’s always best to let God do the stirring. Be stirred by His Word, by His goodness, power and wisdom. “He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright He is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT)

And remember, stirring the pot is bad for both rice and relationships!

“Stir up Yourself, and awake to my vindication, to my cause, my God and my Lord. Vindicate me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness; And let them not rejoice over me.” (Psalm 35:23-24 NKJ)

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