Stir the pot, think of God

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with

abandon or not at all.

—-Harriet Van Horne

If I want to relax or experience a sudden rush of creativity, I most often head for my kitchen. It’s more than the primary gathering place for my family. It’s a playground, of sorts, for me. I have filled it over the years with useful gadgets that help me prepare food for friends and family and I use each with relish. On goes the apron and out come recipes I’ve pulled from my cookbook collection or off the Internet. I lay out the ingredients and get to work.

Although I know my family appreciates my efforts to fix good food, they also enjoy giving me a bad time about my culinary habits. Like printing out a computerized grocery list each week. Or meticulously writing comments next to each recipe and highlighting their indexed entry to remind myself that I’ve prepared that recipe.

I’ve recently entered what I call my “make it yourself” phase because I’m working to avoid ingredients in prepared foods I can barely pronounce and can only wonder what long-term costs we may pay for ingesting them. Using fresh, unprocessed, and organic ingredients when possible, I am developing some of my own recipes and beginning to organize a personal cookbook, of sorts. It’s fun with a capital “F” for me.

This week I’ve been developing a whole wheat bread recipe. My goal is to produce a tender, fluffy crumb using as little white flour as possible and no refined sugar. I’m making progress and the smell of baking bread has enticed a slew of eager taste testers.

I don’t even resent the cleanup because I enjoy the whole process, from beginning to end. It’s one place I can do things my way.

My latest purchase is a set of cookware, replacing various pieces representing numerous brands I’ve tried over the 28 years I’ve served as primary cook and bottle washer. Quite simply, I’m one happy amateur chef. They look wonderful and cook like a dream. Yet I’ve had to make some significant changes. To avoid permanently discoloring the pans and burning food onto the stainless surfaces, I must avoid cooking above a medium high setting.

Using my new cookware requires lower temperatures and longer cook times and this is tough for someone who has more than a few times earned the nickname “Flash Fry Queen!” Yes, that’s me. Get in there and get the job done as quickly as possible has been my style for a very long time. It’s how most of us live when we have careers and children with busy schedules of their own. Who has the luxury of leisurely preparing a meal?

The lower, slower requirement has forced me to slow my engines down, creating additional think time. And this week, while patiently stirring a Bechamel sauce as it slowly heated, I began wondering if hurrying has become the great excuse to avoiding quiet, private commentary with ourselves, each other, and God. Perpetually filling our schedules and attentions with activities, people and noise fills up our empty spaces to such an extent we leave no room for quiet thoughts, new ideas, and the Spirit of God. Perhaps this is by design, for entertaining fresh ideas can propel us in new directions, requiring adjustments and change. We might be led to places we don’t, at first glance, really want to go.

Let’s not let this Christmas season and the close of a momentous year become a noisy, frantic, over-eating, financially careless blur. Let’s enjoy the process. Let’s slow it all down, inviting God in with abandon, just to see where He leads us. Find a quiet place. Breathe slowly. Set aside all concerns for a few moments. Ask for God’s touch and direction. Now slowly stir. It’s a recipe for joy.

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