Made this up this morning, so I’m going to type up the recipe here so I don’t forget.

Raspberry Pecan Coffee Cake

1 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

(mix together)

1 egg
1/4 c. melted butter
1/2 c. greek yogurt
Scant 1/4 c. milk

Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour in wet mixture, stir together.

Preheat oven to 350* F. Grease a 9 in. cake pan, pour batter in, level out with spatula.

Take 1/2 – 1 c. fresh raspberries, rinse, pat dry, and then insert into batter at 1″ intervals.

For the topping:

1/4 c. melted butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 tsp. almond flavoring

Mix together until mixture is pea-sized bits, sprinkle liberally on top of batter and raspberries.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until center is set. Serve warm.

 


It’s been a quiet week for me online. I’ve been working ahead on some things, and hopefully I’ll have some more regular posts up next week. While this is a few days late, here’s some great reading to ease the end of your weekend.

The Gifts and Benefits of Doubt, Experimental Theology

Preaching Grace is Risky Business, Internet Monk

Plutarch and Paul on Husbands and Wives, newlife

An Open Letter (from a conservative Christian to her lesbian friend. Read the response and the follow up post as well.)

Modesty is a Chameleon, Soul Nation

Is your clothing made by slaves?

Marriage isn’t the silver bullet for all social problems, and we shouldn’t pretend it is: The Magical Mystery of Marriage, Dianna Anderson.

Why I’ve Stopped Living Like Each Day is My Last, Elizabeth Esther

The One Thing About Being A Therapist, Nicole Unice

Valerie Eliot passed away this week. Maybe scholars will have access to his papers now!

Susan Wise Bauer, Washington Post. I never loved her homeschooling stuff, but I’m really excited to hear what she’s up to now.

How To Live Without Irony, NYT blog

Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriend, College Humor (ridiculously funny)

The word of the year is “GIF.” Here’s how it was chosen, in GIFs.

Favorite meal this week: Cheeseburger Buns

Lauren went to Three Rivers and Sequoia National Park and now I’m ridiculously homesick.


This is the recipe I made a couple of weeks ago. It’s a family favorite, and according to the note on the recipe card my grandma made for me, it came from a woman named Joan who she knew in 1962, which was during her years working to put her husband through his Ph.D. program there.

2/3 cup soy sauce
2 bunches green onions (cut into 2″ strips)
3 T sesame seed (heated, then pounded with salt)
1 tsp MSG (I left this out)
1/4 cup sugar (I substituted this for 1/4 cup Mr. Yoshida’s original sauce–usually sold at Costco)
1 clove garlic, mashed (I did 4)
1 1/2 tsp ginger
2 T oil (I used sesame oil)
3-4 lbs boneless chuck, sliced thinly (1/2″)

Pound the meat with a meat mallet until very thin. Mix the above ingredients together, and marinate the meat in it for about 3 hours.

Barbecue on the grill for about 5-7 minutes.


I’m starting off with the big picture here, so bear with me!

As a culture, we like to forget our dependencies, yet we still observe small reverences to the sacred act of eating food with another person: a first date usually means dinner, death or a birth signals the community to bring meals to the bereaved/new parents, and weddings are celebrated with multi-course reception.

Breaking bread in community is an illustration of our common physical weakness and our common spiritual weakness–our need of others. In some eastern cultures, this reality is honored by tradition, as a guest who breaks bread with his host is then treated as under the protection of the household. Food binds us together.

As food is intrinsically tied to place, to seasons (time), and our human dependencies, the need to make a meal becomes the catalyst for humans to be dependent on each other and tied to a physical place. Usually, the act of preparing and eating a meal draws you away from the computer and internal monologues, and forces you into the physical reality of your geographic location, your neighborhood, and your personal community.

Here’s an example of what I mean: last night, I made Korean Barbecue for dinner. Now, we live in a basement apartment and don’t have any place for a grill. The last time I tried to cook a steak indoors in my cast iron frying pan, the smoke detector serenaded us and everyone was grumpy (and I didn’t even burn anything). So this time, I planned ahead.

I made this based off of my grandmother’s recipe, substituting what I had in the house and adding this and that to balance the flavors. This recipe is one that her kids remember with great fondness, and she gave it to me in a recipe book she made up of family recipes (complete with stories prefacing most of them) for my twelfth birthday. And most recently, we made it in her honor at our family memorial dinner when she passed away in May.

This has to marinate overnight, and I hoped to grill it up for dinner on Sunday evening. Our pastor lives down the street from us, and he and his wife offered us the use of their grill anytime we needed it. So we headed down the street with tongs and the pan of meat, and chatted with this kind couple while the meat cooked. Kevin had a beer, and we met some of their family who was visiting.

When we got home, I stuck the steak in the warming drawer, and started cooking the rice and pot stickers while Kevin biked down to the grocery store for broccoli. While he was there, he ran into a new friend and her son, and they chatted and made plans for us to have them over for dinner one night.

When he got back, I finished cooking, and we sat down to eat. He took a picture of the food, posted it on Facebook, and later I ended up having a conversation with my younger brother about the recipe which turned into a good talk about life in general.

And Kevin and I had a lovely dinner together. Which turned into canoodling while watching Some Stupid TV Show.

And so, just making dinner together turned into a series of interactions with people in our community and families. Now, granted not every dinner is a conversation piece (I like mac ‘n’ cheese a lot), but it’s when your need for food drives you to interact with other people (even if it’s just the lady at the checkout in the grocery store or the waiter at the bistro…or fast food joint). You may not have much to talk about and it may be more of a transaction than an interaction. Yet it’s still an evidence that we can’t quite digitize our need for food and our need for community infrastructure.

Modern food methods and experiences tend to create either an imitation of a real community or family meal (restaurants!) or reduces food to a caricature of the real thing (frozen dinners, box mix desserts, Velveeta, margarine?!). It’s efficient for us and sometimes cheap, but the existence of these things and the cultural dominance of cheap, pre-prepared foods reflects a pivotal shift in our value system.

Another reflection of this shift is how we have ceased to use physical language (metaphors derived from nature) and are now dependent on mechanical or industrial metaphors for our linguistic rubrik. We develop things, we don’t grow them. We download or upload, instead of plant or store. I’m a productive worker, not someone with stamina. Try listening for this in your everyday language–our society has become industrial, rather than agricultural, and our language reflects that.

Similarly, the family and household has stopped being a place of creation and production, and has instead become a place where we consume products and store ourselves  and our stuff in between work days. Our lives have become defined by industrial efficiencies rather than natural cycles and relationships. We perform tasks in a process in our cubicles, we eat fast food, we relate over text and the internet. The value of our physical bodies is secondary to the worth of efficiency (which probably contributes to our national problem of poor body image and crippling physical self-consciousness).

I know we’ve heard our fair share of lectures about the detrimental effect on the family from not eating dinners together, but it’s worth reiterating: unless you take time to let yourself be human and hungry with other hungry humans, you isolate yourself and ignore the basic needs of body and soul to eat in community. We are a displaced and existentially challenged people for a reason: we have forgotten that we are mortals and we have sanitized human processes [ah-ha! mechanical language] until there is nothing human left about them.

(Which is why sex seems to be the most significant thing for our generation–it’s the last place we are able to be simply physical beings and need another person.)

And so, this is my apologetic for cooking and eating your own food: this process of mealtime is the most natural place for community to grow. You can have your slick blog community and guest posts and a thousand Twitter followers, but it will not feed your soul quite so well as eating spaghetti and garlic bread you made yourself with your spouse, family, or friends. This is coming from me, the introverted nerd who sometimes really dislikes people. You need community. I need community. Food is normal and good and somewhat of a social equalizer, and sharing food with people makes you belong somewhere real. Even if it’s Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese in your dorm room with your roommates.


This was our dinner last night (sorry, no picture!), and I thought I’d share the recipe. This comes from my mom’s good friend Joanne, and once she made it for our Bible study group and afterward everyone was begging her for the recipe. I suspect that it’s now a regular meal for most of those families, like it is with mine. It’s really quick and easy to make and is a good fresh sort of soup for spring or fall. We like it with chunks of sweet cornbread and chips and pico de gallo. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 onion, chopped
4 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp. butter
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 c. hot water
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 c. half-and-half
1 c. shredded pepper Jack cheese
1 (15 oz) can cream-style corn
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
1/2 cup tomato, chopped
fresh cilantro sprigs

Saute onions with the garlic in butter over medium-high heat until onions become translucent. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink.

Dissolve the bouillon in hot water; pour over the chicken and onions. Stir in cumin, corn, and chilies. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Turn down the heat to medium low, and stir in cream and half of the cheese. Cook, stirring frequently, just until the cheese is melted. Stir in chopped tomato. Garnish with cilantro.


I love to eat what I eat. My pleasure at the stove and table are sincere and coherent.
– “Learning How to Eat Like Julia Child” by Tamar Adler, New Yorker

Julia Child’s 100th birthday was yesterday, and this essay on learning to eat and love food is good.  I think about this a lot–what food means to us, what it should mean to us, how we use it, how we taste it, how we feel about it, what it means to relate to food as a human.

It’s frustrating to me to see people using food, instead of relating to it. “Eating is a chore,” says a friend, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard someone say those words. This utilitarian, eat-because-I-have-to relationship with food is unhealthy at best, and is perhaps a reflection of more serious issues: displacement, non-identification with one’s physical self (someone help me find the right word for this?), and a lack of ability to savor life outside of the manufactured world of technology, efficiency, and production.

I would argue, even, that it is anti-Christian to have a merely utilitarian relationship to one’s food. I’ll write on this at greater length later, but if God incarnate as the man Jesus made such a point of instituting the sacrament of communion and said that the bread was his body and the wine his blood, food can never again be just something we put in our bodies (“fuel” says that horrible industrialist metaphor) to provide energy for our day. God has eaten with us and made the very act of eating together something that he not only identified with, but made a vital part of how we relate to him and each other.

Some topics I hope to work through on this topic include:

  • Physicality and eating
  • Incarnation and eating
  • Communion and eating
  • Creating and food
  • Tasting
  • Satisfaction/being made full
  • Place and food

Now, I don’t know if I’ll post separately on each of these, combine them together, or expand the list further, but this is something I’m passionate about and if I put the list up here, I’ll be more personally motivated to follow through with all of these topics.

Part of my interest in food is driven by my family’s culture–we have always gathered as a family for dinner, and my parents have always involved us in the preparation of meals and taught us to enjoy a wide variety of foods. We’ve had a garden for years, we’ve experimented with trying to make authentic dishes from other cultures, and we’ve always tried new things together. Various family members have had food allergies or intolerances, and so we’ve had to get creative to accommodate each other’s needs.

Our holiday traditions, as a whole, center around foods more than anything else, I think. My twin brothers were born in early May, and we’d go strawberry picking together and have fresh strawberry shortcake at the peak of strawberry season. Christmas eve was always a seafood dinner with artichokes. Christmas lunch would be tamales and pico de gallo, and dinner would be a full feast with ham. Thanksgiving saw us putting out the very Northern dishes of rutabaga and creamed spinach with nutmeg, as well as the Southern roasted sweet potatoes to accommodate the family traditions of both my mother’s family and my father’s. Our loyalty to our hometown in California dictates the type of oranges, lemons, olives, and steak salt rub we use. My grandma’s favorite spice cake recipe is the family standby for birthday cake.

My dad teaches us all how to use knives efficiently, how to read a recipe and be precise. My mom teaches us the chemistry of baking ingredients and what one can substitute for something in a pinch. My dad interacts with flavors like a painter with colors, mixing and adjusting until he hits on the right combination, and teaches us confidence to create variations on favorite recipes.

Food is a curiosity and a communal art for us, and so it’s been a bit amazing to me to leave home and discover that this is pretty unusual (in middle class America) today. Most people don’t know where their food comes from, don’t know how cook beyond following the directions of a recipe, and don’t have much of a personal relationship to food beyond silencing hunger and supplying energy. There’s no holistic ethos for why we eat and where and how.

I’m not a fan of ignoring physicality. So let’s talk about this: why do you eat?


Tonight I made Kevin a Valentine’s Day dinner (belatedly). He loved it — I think the recipe speaks for itself.

Bacon Tenderloin with Bourbon Mushroom Sauce

Melt 3 T butter over medium high heat in a medium-sized frying pan.

Saute:

3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion

When translucent, remove from pan. Set aside.

Prepare the tenderloin steak. Get cutlets or cut in rounds–I got mine at Aldi, pre-wrapped in bacon. Wrap in bacon strips (use toothpicks through the center if the bacon won’t stay wrapped). Rub with freshly ground pepper (1/4 tsp each). Grill (or fry in the same pan) at high heat until just seared. (I seared mine in the leftover grease from sauteing the onions and mushrooms)

Preheat oven to 350. Set cutlets in a baking dish and bake (covered in foil) for about 20 min.

When five minutes remain, add mushrooms back to pan at medium heat.

Add:

1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T cornstarch

Stir in evenly. Then add:

1/2 cup Wild Turkey bourbon (or bourbon of your choice)

Allow to simmer at for about two minutes (or a little less, for more flavor). Then add 2/3 cup half and half and lower the heat. Simmer gently until the sauce is thick.

Remove steaks from oven when done to preference (less time if you prefer your meat rare–this cut of tenderloin lends itself especially well to a rarer doneness). Pour the sauce from the pan over the cutlets, serve hot.

I would pair this with mashed potatoes and broccoli, and a dry red wine.

[I wish I had taken pictures! I might go back and add some later.]