Archives For Amuse-Bouche

“Prayer in Thanks for the Little Flying Dinosaurs We Call Dragonflies Because
they are unbelievably cool, that’s why, and we casually glance at them when they whiz past, and rarely if ever sit down in a daze and contemplate the fact that they are astonishing miracles, the saber-toothed tigers of the insect world, and they are the most amazing aeronautical engineers and fighter pilots, and they come in all colors, and sometimes on a hot day there are dozens of them in the air all at once, stitching patterns and conducting maneuvers that I would have given a thousand bucks for in the old days when I was a young supple athlete; to move like that, changing directions in a split second, wow! But then my mind suddenly is filled with dragonflies in basketball shorts and soccer jerseys, so we had better close up shop with this prayer, and yet again, for what must be the millionth time in fifty years, thank the Engineer for absolutely first-rate design and construction. What an artist, what craft, what imaginative leaps! And so: amen.”
Brian Doyle in his “A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary”

My favorite mealtime grace these days [sung to the theme from Superman]:
Thank you Lord, for giving us food
(actions: raise right arm overhead as Superman flying)
Thank you Lord, for giving us food
(actions: raise left arm flying)
For the food that we eat
(actions: standing with both arms over head, to the left)
For the friends that we meet
(actions: standing with both arms over head, to the right)
Thank you Lord, for giving us food!
(actions: move both hands in fists to hips and stand strong like Superman)


“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who in His goodness, grace, lovingkindness, and mercy nourishes the whole world.
He gives food to all flesh, for His loving-kindness is everlasting.
In His great goodness, we have never lack for food; may we never lack for good, for the sake of His great Name.
For He nourishes and sustains all, He does good to all, and prepares food for all His creatures that He created. Blessed are You, Lord, who provides food for all.”


“Peel an orange. Do it lovingly–in perfect quarters like little boats, or in staggered exfoliations like a flat map of the round world, or in one long spiral, as my grandfather used to do. Nothing is more likely to become garbage than orange rind; but for as long as anyone looks at it in delight, it stands a million triumphant miles from the trash heap.”
Robert Farrar Capon

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The hungry orphans in the movie adaptation of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” sing one of the best songs about the glories of food:
“Food glorious food
What is there more handsome
Gulped swallowed or chewed
Still worth a kings ransom
What is it we dream about?
What brings on a sigh?
Piled peaches and cream about six feet high”
[complete lyrics here]


Tomorrow is the American celebration of Thanksgiving. Like many holidays, we’ve come very far from the original intent of the pilgrim feast. It’s now a time to travel to one’s family, or to invite friends together to share an extravagant meal. For Christians, it is often seen as a time to give thanks to God for what He has done in the past year, a time to stop and consider the blessings that have come from His hand.


But there is a more basic aspect of the holiday that is often forgotten: the simple focus on God’s provision of a good harvest. The British refugees had arrived to a new land in late November, and suffered a harsh winter [half of those who had arrived on the Mayflower had died by spring]. As the pilgrims settled in, Native Americans shared seeds and fishing knowledge. As the first anniversary of their arrival approached, the pilgrims set aside a time to feast and give thanks for the crops and other food.

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Now we live in an age of what I call ‘industrial food’. Storage and transportation and agribusiness separate us from the simple but profound miracle of God’s creation of fruits and vegetables and grains and meat. Bananas magically appear in our supermarkets regardless of what latitude we live on. A bad rice harvest in one part of the world is made up by a good harvest in another. Apples are sold in May as well as October, bred for long term storage. Still, food remains one of God’s greatest gifts to us–why else do we feel the urge to take pictures of special meals and post them on social media? Or watch hours of cooking shows?

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This Thanksgiving I want to pause and take some time to thank God for His amazing provision of food that has sustained me throughout this past year. As I do this, I have to resist the temptation to think it’s trivial to be thankful for strawberries and cheese. I need to remind myself that food is one of God’s great delights, and a precious sign of His eternal faithfulness to us. Instead of taking these gifts for granted, I want to become, as Jesus counseled, like a child, and shout, “Thank You, Lord, for giving us food!

I will thank Him, as my friend Edwina did one meal, for the beautiful colors on my plate. I will thank Him for mangoes and salmon, for ginger and pears, for hamburgers and pulled pork, for breakfast waffles and chocolate tarte, for milk and cream and butter, for eggs scrambled or fried or boiled, for barley and wheat germ, for blueberries and bacon, for corn and fresh-squeezed orange juice that tastes like sunshine. I will thank Him for the energy and nourishment these give to my body, for their delightful scents and aromas, for the pleasure of all the delicious tastes I savor, and for the incredible variety He gives us to enjoy. How wonderful are the edible works of our creative, good, and loving heavenly Father!

What foods are your favorites?

He waters the mountains from His upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of His work.

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He makes grass grow for the cattle,

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and plants for people to cultivate—


bringing forth food from the earth:

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wine that gladdens human hearts,

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oil to make their faces shine,

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and bread that sustains their hearts.


Psalm 104:13-15

Speaking of holy food

November 25, 2011 — 3 Comments

Two from Robert Farrar Capon:

Peel an orange. Do it lovingly–in perfect quarters like little boats, or in staggered exfoliations like a flat map of the round world, or in one long spiral, as my grandfather used to do. Nothing is more likely to become garbage than orange rind; but for as long as anyone looks at it in delight, it stands a million triumphant miles from the trash heap.


Deliver us, O Lord, from religiosity and Godlessness alike, lest we wander in fakery or die of boredom. Restore to us Thyself as Giver and the secular as Thy gift. Let idols perish and con jobs cease.


When I moved to the East Side, I went to a Salesian priest, Father Zossima. It was he who urged me to go to daily communion. I had thought this was only for the old or the saintly, and I told him so. “Not at all,” he said. “You go because you need food to nourish you, for your pilgrimage on this earth.”

Dorothy Day

This Week’s Special
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Isaiah 55:1-3

Once upon a time, before food blogs and before the Food Network–but not before Julia Child–there was an Episcopal priest by the name of Robert Farrar Capon [Don’t ask me why he went by three names. Perhaps because he was Episcopalian…] He was a good pastor, fond of eating and drinking with sinners, just like his Master. He also enjoyed cooking as much as eating, and theology as much as writing, a rare combination. Then he put all of these talents to use and wrote The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection. It’s called a reflection and not a cookbook because although he does guide the reader through recipes, the book is not just about cooking, but also about savoring food, and of course, about God.**

The book is framed around a simple premise: one leg of lamb for eight people, four times. You’d think that would take about five pages at most. But Capon is a preacher, a very good one in fact, and he’s engaging, funny, and easy to listen to. However, don’t worry. The book is not written from the pulpit, but in front of the stove where he ruminates as he works. The result might be what you would get if Babette, the wonderful cook in Babette’s Feast,** decided to write down how she cooked her amazing meal. I doubt she would give any recipe that could be reduced to a 3 x 5 index card. It might even have 45 steps.** In the eponymous** movie version**, Babette doesn’t come across as talkative, but I think in her more exuberant moments she would end up writing something like The Supper of the Lamb.

Capon’s** instruction to slice an onion leads to a ten page meditation. There are discourses on knives and cutting and water and meat. He is an amateur in the true sense of the word: someone who cooks out of love not duty.** He is filled with a holy joie de vivre that echoes God looking at the His creation and saying it was good.

“Every real thing is a joy, if only you have eyes and ears to relish it, a nose and a tongue to taste it. But more than that, food and cooking are among the richest subjects in the world. Every day of our lives they preoccupy, delight and refresh us. Food is not just some fuel we need to get us going toward higher things. Cooking is not a drudgery we put up with in order to get the gruel delivered. Rather, each is a heart’s astonishment. Both stop us dead in our tracks with wonder.

Rereading this book [I first read it over a decade ago in the middle of my once-a-month cooking phase], I see the errors of my ways, given what I wrote about making Boeuf Bourguignon. To complain of labor, in Capon’s view, is to complain of love, for what we love we are willing to work for. If I have a problem then, the fault is not in Julia Child or French cooking, but my acceptance of the gospel of speed and efficiency.

In this corrupt world of high-fructose corn syrup, mass slaughterhouses, and food products created only to tempt and never to satisfy, cooking real food and eating it with friends is a very holy act. That’s why holidays like Thanksgiving are good for us. It’s a day that slows us down and gives us a chance to savor the bounty of God’s culinary creativity with the dear family and friends He has graced us with.

Happy Thanksgiving. May you enjoy your banquet feast and remember the Giver of all good gifts.

**Links and notes
**Capon on why he wrote the book:
“The world may or may not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers—amateurs—it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes, and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight: it is, far more often than it should be, boredom. And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral—it is the fertilizing principle of unloveliness.”

**summary of Babette’s Feast

**post about my Waterloo: making Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

**I will give a special prize for the person who knows how many times I’ve been able to use my new favorite word, eponymous, this year.

**The movie version of Babette’s Feast has the distinction of being the first [but not the last] Danish language film to receive the Academy Award for best foreign film.

**I wonder if Capon developed a love of cooking because his last name is a kind of prized cooking bird [actually a castrated rooster].

**Capon on being an amateur:
“The role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace… Instead, the world looks as if it has been left in the custody of a pack of trolls. Indeed, the whole distinction between art and trash, between food and garbage, depends on the presence or absence of the loving eye. Turn a statue over to a boor and his boredom will break it to bits…on the other hand turn a shack over to a lover; for all its poverty, its lights and shadows warm a little….”

Today was my first full day at an artist’s colony in southwest France, and it was filled to overflowing with wondrous and amazing sights. My camera got quite a workout with the Canal du Midi a stone’s throw away, the exhibition of doors painted by mentally-handicapped adults in the courtyard, pilgrims passing by my window on their way to Santiago de Compestela in Spain, a visit to two artists’ studios, and a leisurely stroll exploring the little medieval village here. [It is billed as “One of France’s 100 Most Beautiful Villages” which I was convinced was marketing hyperbole until I walked through it.]

But the most amazing sights of the day belonged to the Master Artist and Creator. To start, I went to the market:

The incredible beauty of lettuce, pears, apples

Then, walking down one of the utterly quaint lanes of the village, I stopped to take a picture of an old vine-covered wooden door and bell.

That was beautiful enough, but then I saw a flower on the vine that just took my breath away: a multi-colored, multi-textured, multi-level creation.

Count the colors

Count the textures

Count the layers

It was named Passion Flower by Spanish Christians in the 15th century who came up with symbolic meaning for the various parts, connected to the crucifixion of Jesus. [For starters, the radial filaments suggest the crown of thorns.]

The vine also produces Passion Fruit but it must be past the season because I didn’t see any fruit. There were also only two flowers in bloom on the entire vine, though there were plenty of shriveled blossoms and a handful of new ones. They didn’t look remarkable at all, and if someone had come along and plucked the two flowers off, I would have never known the beauty given by this lowly, common-looking vine.

I know there have been times when I’ve encountered a person and not realized the gifts and richness of their life. Maybe they were at the end of one season or the beginning of another. Maybe all their blooms were picked off. They appeared like an ordinary vine, and I passed by without paying attention to them. Jesus, however, was constantly treating people based on the spectacular potential he knew was in them: Zaccheus, the woman caught in adultery, the demon-possessed man, Lazarus, Peter, Paul. Each one of them displayed how God can produce amazing flowers from common vines. I want to become more like Jesus this way, to see the people in my life through the eyes of faith, confident in the power and brilliance of the Master Artist at work in them.

Remember my turban squash?** Well in case you were wondering, it turns out that turban squash makes excellent soup. It took me a few weeks before I got around to making it, but the squash waited patiently.

Turban Squash Soup [or any kind of squash or pumpkin]
Cut squash in two.
Bake face down [unless you forget like I did and leave it face up] It takes about an hour at 350.
Fry some onions.
Put chicken broth or bouillon, onions and cooked squash in some water.
Cook some more.
Puree with a handmixer.
Add some milk, and spice as you like: salt, pepper, a touch of garlic.
Serve with grated cheese and croutons**

You probably weren’t wondering if the word turban is in the Bible but I came across it the other day in Exodus. Who knew.
Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD.
Exodus 28:36-38

Speaking of turbans, I recently saw this around town.

Now that’s a turban.

How to make homemade croutons
Turban Squash, another display of God’s brilliance

I grew up with acorn squash and butternut squash and summer squash and winter squash and pumpkin and of course, truckloads of zucchini. [Though I confess I didn’t acquire a taste for acorn and butternut squash until much later–like a few years ago]. Squash are, if you stare at them long enough, a little on the odd side. Except for pumpkins, I don’t think any would even come close to winning a Best Looking Vegetable contest.

But then there’s turban squash. Squash on fashion steroids. A squash of many colors, like Joseph’s coat, that can include orange, red, green, and beige. And for good measure, the flesh inside is yellow.

I saw my first turban squash driving south along the coast road a few years ago. I remember wondering, as we passed by, what the strange looking vegetable was.

Now that I study this picture, I’m also wondering what the long red vegetables are hanging above. Does anyone know? My best guess is red eggplant [another surprise for me: who knew that eggplant comes in red?], or perhaps some giant pepper?

This week, turban squash appeared at a little vegetable stand right in the thick of downtown and I couldn’t resist getting one. I thought perhaps it would be called ‘mushroom squash’.

But instead the Adam who named this thought it looked more like a sultan’s turban. Fair enough. The man who sold it to me said he doesn’t cook them, but just puts them out for decoration. Best Looking Vegetable indeed.

I may make a pureed soup out of mine, if it doesn’t go bad before our heat wave leaves. To me, the oddest thing about this squash is that it’s harvested here in the thick of summer. The least oddest thing is how amazingly creative God was when He designed the things of earth.

I grew up surrounded by snow-covered evergreens, blazing maples, acorned oaks, and flowering apple trees. I didn’t see a palm tree until I was 15 on my first trip to southern California. As I remember it, what impressed me most were not the tall skinny trees but the largeness of the uncrowded sky.

Living here, I’ve found it easy to take for granted the palm trees that line the streets and poke up over the walls of back yards. But gradually, I’ve come to appreciate their beauty…

I love the way they catch the breeze I’ve come to appreciate their variety too. There are 2000 species of palms, but basically two main types of palms, fan and feather.
fan palm, of course
feather palm at sunrise
I’ve come to appreciate their fruit like the bunch of dates here [but they also produce coconuts and oil]

My favorite place to see a palm tree: against the southern mountains*
*although we think of palms growing in humid, tropical climates, there are some varieties that do fine in temperatures of 5-10F [yes, that’s 5 farenheit, not celcius].

They grow straight and strong, living long and fruitful lives, so it’s no wonder the psalmist used them as a metaphor for following God:

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”

Psalm 92: 12-15

After two years of posting on a blog whose title alludes to food, I think it is time to finally share some of my easy cuisine recipes. They’re in pairs, in honor of Noah’s ark cruise. Bon appetit!

Two condiments
1] Cut some bread into cubes
I prefer a firm bread though any kind is fine. And stale bread works well too.

2] Sprinkle with spices to taste: I use salt and garlic powder. But you could also try dry parsley,basil, oregano, thyme, or just about anything else.

3] Toss with olive oil, regular oil or melted butter. I use olive oil and go easy on it.

4] Arrange in single layers on cookie sheets. Bake at 300°F for 10-15 minutes or until crisp.
Keeps 4 weeks, or may be frozen for up to 6 months.

Honey mustard salad dressing
1 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
4 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
Whisk or shake together all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Two appetizers
Caramelized Onion and Spinach Dip
6 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped or a pound of frozen spinach
olive oil
one large onion, thinly sliced
1 cup yogurt
8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add spinach and saute until wilted, about 4 minutes. Scrape into a bowl. When it cools, squeeze the moisture out of it.
In same skillet, heat more olive oil over medium high heat. Add sliced onions and saute until golden and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool.
In a food processor, combine yogurt, cream cheese, garlic, and 1/2 the caramelized onions. Scrape into a bowl, and add spinach, remaining onions, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.

Baked brie
1 round or wedge of brie
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit [raisins, cranraisins or apricots for example]
2 T brown sugar
2 T water
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried rosemary or Provence herb medly
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

In a bowl, mix the dried fruit, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, water and rosemary together. Spoon on top of the brie. Sprinkle on the chopped walnuts. Microwave on medium power until soft. Or you can bake it in the oven at 200F, covered, for about an hour or so. Serve with apple slices and french bread.

Two main dishes
Mexicali Rice    
one 15 1/4 oz can corn, drained
two soup cans black beans or kidney beans,
two taco seasoning packets
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups long grain rice 
4 cups boiling water   
1 1/2 T ground cumin
1 T chili powder
1 1/2 tsp Salt
sliced sausage or ground beef or turkey
In an oven proof casserole, mix together everything . Cover and cook on the low, 2-3 hours [200 F]. Mix well. Serve hot. Serve with grated cheese, yogurt, corn chips.
Barbecue Chicken 1
1 frying chicken, cut up
1 cup Ketchup
3/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sweet basil
1/4 tsp. thyme
Place chicken in slow cooker or in oven proof casserole. Combine all other ingredients and pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or in a 250F oven for four hours or in a 350F oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Two desserts
Chocolate bundt cake
1 package dark chocolate cake mix
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups yogurt
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup coffee or water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1] Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan.
2] In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, yogurt, eggs, oil and coffee. Beat until ingredients are well blended. Fold in chocolate chips. Batter will be
   thick. Spoon into prepared pan.
3 ]Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until cake springs back when lightly tapped. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out and cool completely on wire rack.

Baked apples
6 large baking apples
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter

Wash and core apples, then remove a 1 inch strip of peel around the middle of each apple; place in a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
Combine sugar, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar in a small bowl; fill the center of each apple and dot with 1/2 teaspoon of the butter. Add just enough water to baking dish to cover the bottom of the dish; bake, uncovered, at 350F for about 30 minutes, or until apples are tender. Baste with juices occasionally. Serve warm with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

Long ago in a distant galaxy, that is fresh out of college and living in rural Ohio, I served a reheated hamburger and two kinds of frozen vegetables for supper. Jack looked at his plate and commented that if the meals became any simpler, we’d be slicing meat right off the cow. He was right, too. I occasionally got fancy and made something from More With Less or Diet for a Small Planet but daily meal preparation was not a source of pleasure. If the Three Ingredient Cookbook had been published then, I would have been working my way through it. Later I lived by The Once a Month Cookbook where you make a month’s worth of meals over one weekend.

I don’t hate the idea of cooking. I have recipe boxes, file folders, a OneNote section and a shelf of flagged cookbooks bursting with possibilities. But I am not a fan of chopping. More specifically I am not a fan of chopping day after day after day. Then there is another task I’m not fond of: clean-up, which even the simplest meal requires.

So over the years, I’ve developed a cuisine that could be called easy but good, with its hallmark method of ‘open and dump’. Though I’m not sure hungry ex-pats are the sharpest critics, when someone does compliment my cooking, my stock response is “Oh, it was so easy.” I’m not trying to be modest. I follow an intuitive equation that calculates ease of effort with epicurean achievement. The goal is to make dishes that are tasty but quick.

The creme de la creme of my easy cuisine

Since moving here, I’ve expanded my repetoire and have started to make some standard items from scratch, either because it’s cheaper [salad dressing and orange juice] or not available [croutons and barbeque sauce]. I drew the line at tortillas because other than replicating my mom’s beloved Christmas coffee cake, I have an aversion to rolling pins. Instead, I find it easier to buy several packages whenever I across the Straits to Spain.

Then when C was here, I watched “Julie and Julia”, about a woman who cooks her way through Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. We [as in C with her charming enthusiasm and me with my maternal willingness] were tempted by the scene where Julie makes Julia’s Bouef Bourguignon for a famous cookbook editor. I should have noticed that the drama is focused on how Julie burns her first attempt and not on the actual preparation of the dish. Still, C urged us to put the dish on our dinner menu and I thought, “How hard can it be?”

The answer is not hard at all–just very, very, very time-consuming as in 21 ingredients, 45 steps, and 6 hours. That’s without doing the shopping which J kindly did. In true French style he went to the vegetable market, the grocery store, and the meat butcher. Finally he went to the pork butcher, [as in ‘the only pork butcher’] because the recipe for Bouef Bourguignon requires 6 ounces of solid chunk bacon. Total shopping time: an hour and a half. Total amount of aggravation from driving in this city’s crazy traffic: incalculable.

My vintage Le Crueset perfect for French dishes, thanks to Noreen. Also perfect for weight training since empty it comes in at about 20 pounds**

Once all the ingredients were assembled, I got down to work chopping , simmering, draining, browning and sautéing. I skipped what is known as an auxiliary recipe for Simple Beef Stock because it had more than one step. My preferred method: unwrap a cube of bouillon. However, the adapted Bouef Bourguignon recipe** weaseled in two other auxiliary recipes from Julia Child’s bible, one for braised onions and the other for sautéed mushrooms.

For the first half hour, I felt like a French chef, or at least like Julia Child who was California born and bred. I preheated the oven to 450F. I cut the three pound slab of beef into 2-inch cubes [a step needed only if the cook delegates the meat buying]. I peeled and chopped a carrot and a regular onion, and cut the bacon into lardons, a word I only learned when I spent a summer in the French Alps. However, Julia doesn’t presume that her servantless American readers will have been so fortunate and she specifies that lardons are “sticks 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inch long.” I could have bought a package of pre-cut lardons at the grocery store but I resisted, because I wanted to make “the real thing”. I didn’t get out a ruler to measure them, but I figured my lardons looked close enough.

Later I checked one against a store-bought lardon. Can you guess which is mine?
Mine is the one on the left of course

Using authentic ingredients was one thing [though I did have to substitute regular onions for pearl onions.]. But following the instructions precisely was another and I bailed at step 9: dry off the pieces of beef before sautéing them. Mine went in wet.

Then at step 13, the thrill of pretending I was a diplomat’s spouse living in Paris suddenly disappeared.
13] Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.
14] Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes.
15] Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.
16] Now, lower the heat to 325°F and remove the casserole from the oven.

I felt I had landed in dog obedience school and I started muttering to myself. Would it really make any difference if the casserole was put in a 450 oven for 4 minutes, turned and then given another 4 minutes? Maybe not, but I reluctantly decided I’d better tow the line if I wanted to be sure the dish turned out perfectly. I had three hungry adults waiting eagerly for the pièce de résistance. *1*

The same couldn’t be said of Jeff

By the time the meal was ready, it seemed I had mastered not only the art of French cooking, but the book of Leviticus as well. That’s where you’ll find instructions for how to deal with mildew and be cleansed from skin diseases. In chapter 4, there are also details given on the more important matter of making a sin offering for unintentional sins.*2* First you have to offer a flawless female goat, lay your hand on the head and slaughter it. Then “the priest must take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and he must pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar.” The fat has to be removed and smoked on the altar too. Back in Moses’ day, I can’t imagine how many animals I’d be sacrificing for all my unintentional sins. But that’s what I would have to do to put myself right with God again.

Fortunately, following all the steps to make the Boeuf Bourguignon turned out to be worth it. [Halfway through cooking, someone pointed out it’s really just a fancy name for beef stew, and I had my doubts.] We all took our first bites and everyone agreed it was surprisingly delicious. We feasted away, and there were even leftovers which is perhaps my favorite dish of all.

However, I can’t say that I’m eager to make a dish which brings to mind the expression ‘slaving away in the kitchen’. And if I had to cook three meals a day like that, I’d be ready to take any short cut offered, cake mixes, frozen dinners, pre-cooked bacon. I ‘d steer my taste buds far away from frenchified delicacies like Mousse de Foies de Volaille and Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provencale. I’d go running for boxes of macaroni and cheese and canned soups, and fast food hamburgers, even though they wouldn’t taste nearly as good.

But what if the best chef in the world showed up at my door at dinner time and said, “Here’s a meal for you. It’s all made. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to pay me anything either. It’s a gift. Just take and eat it.” What is being offered is not canned or boxed or mass-produced food. We’re talking about the chance to have an absolutely scrumptious dish of true gastronomical delight. I’d be crazy not to take the free gourmet food rather than toil through dozens of fussy steps. [I’d also be crazy to pass by the gourmet food and be content with a cheap imitation.]

The rules of Leviticus were taken care of when Jesus made the ultimate sin offering. His death on the cross means no more frying bulls, male goats, female goats, rams, lambs, doves and pigeons. No more blood on the altar, no more slaving in the kitchen. Because he paid the penalty for every last infraction, we can taste the sweet fellowship of restored righteousness every day. A marvelous feast awaits us. Free, undeserved, delicious. All we have to do is go to the door and accept His offer.

Someone may come along and try to charge us for it. Jesus was always telling his disciples to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees who had turned God’s way into a strict rule book. The recipe for righteousness in Leviticus no longer works if you want to get into God’s banquet. It’s grace and grace alone now that counts.

I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.
John 6:48-51 The Message

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Matthew 5:17

**Links and notes
Recipe [all 45 steps of it] for Bouef Bourguignon à la Julia Child

Julia in person Watch Julia Child in action, making things like tarte tatin and spinach turnover.

To read more about Noreen, a Scottish woman who generously gave us many things when we thought we had lost our container of household goods

*1*pièce de résistance: a French expression, circa 1839, that originally meant the most substantial dish in a meal, a dish that had staying power.

*2* For intentional sins you go to Leviticus 20 and follow a simple one step method.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him.

Gerard Manly Hopkins

Faithful readers of this blog with keen memories will recall that a year ago I started a series on ways to enjoy God. [I think I’m up to five, if you’re counting]. Readers with champion memories know that the first in the series was looking for patches of Godlight**. Since then there have been several times when I’ve been tempted to break out this way to enjoy God as a unique menu item. I even came up with a name for it: the amuse-bouche*.

This past weekend, we went out for lunch to celebrate two birthdays and an anniversary at a regular nice restaurant along a beach, and we were served not one but two amuse-bouches. One was a small glass of fresh squeezed orange juice that came soon after we were seated. The other was my first dessert amuse-bouche, after we proclaimed we were too stuffed for dessert. In a dish the shape of a finger were thin slices of strawberries on a bed of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Unexpected, free, and delightful.

Although I once used amuse-bouche to describe a book**, it seems like a very apt word for the patches of Godlight we find in the world around us, those sudden displays of the Creator’s brilliance.** However at this point, readers with ordinary memories will remind me that I have yet to put the amuse-bouche on this blog’s menu. That’s because every time I think about sharing a patch of Godlight, I invariably end up writing about something bigger, something that seems more profound and worthy of contemplation. I keep passing by the small but precious moments when God reveals a twinkle of His creative power and beauty.

But I love having just a taste and savoring that single bite. I know that a simple haiku can be as beautiful and meaningful as an 800 page masterpiece [say Anna Karenina]. A whisper can communicate as powerfully as a shout. And this morning as I was spending time with God on the second story terrace, a patch of Godlight suddenly appeared on my keyboard, a green tinkerbelle:
This glorious glimmer was not only a wonderful amuse-bouche to start the day, I decided [drum roll please] it was the perfect way to launch the new Snacks from the Cruise Buffet menu item.

You’re probably curious, as I was, to learn what this green tinkerbelle really is. If you google “green flying bug with translucent wings”, you’ll discover it is a Green Lacewing. They are good bugs, so good that you can buy Green Lacewing eggs on Amazon [1000 to the box] which will then hatch into larvae [not nearly as beautiful as the adult lacewing] and chow their way through the aphids in your garden [aphid is another word for a sap sucking insect sometimes referred to as ‘plant lice’–and you know that anything that is referred to as lice is a bad bug]. The larvae then transform into these beautiful tinkerbelles.

What an amazing display of God’s brilliance.

Links and notes: *An amuse-bouche is a small hors d’oeuvre not listed on the menu, a single elegant bite that the waiter brings to give you a preview of the chef’s cooking.

A sudden display of brilliance

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. Psalm 9:1