Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Of Faith & Food....Food, Inc.

  • Our bodies are temples (I Corinthians 6:19 -20).
  • "Worries go down better with soup."  (Jewish proverb)
  • Creation is ours for the subduing (Genesis 1:28).
  • "God does not forbid you to drink, as do the Turks; he permits you to drink wine and beer: he does not make a law of it. But do not make a pig of yourself; remain a human being." (Martin Luther)

Food and I have always had a love-hate relationship.  I grew up in a home where Eastern European heartiness met with Dutch sensibilities and I believe my gut has never quite recovered.  I long for fresh food - baked fresh daily, picked fresh daily, prepared fresh daily.  The Dutch girl in me, however, cannot fight the urge to keep leftovers.  And the idea of not consuming the leftovers is akin to heresy.  I really should keep a straight jacket hanging next to my apron in the kitchen.

I find this even more prevalent in the area I call home, where the frugal still strive to pinch a penny until it bleeds and generally find mock-worthy the idea of wrapping raw fish, surrounded by rice, in a lovely piece of seaweed (that's sushi my friends).  We still fill food pantries with processed foods and corn syrup while most men quietly (or even not so quietly) berate their wives for gaining weight and not looking like they did in high school.   It is an odd little corner of the world in which I find myself - a transplant of a certain kind - one who knows a good perogie is not frozen and is not restricted to cheese or potato.  One from a culture where birthing a healthy baby resulted in some lasting girth on baby's mom and we all rejoiced in good health as we passed the meat and potatoes.

Food and faith are forever intertwined.  We celebrate the very death of our risen Savior with - of all things - a meal.  Oh, our version is small to be sure, but it is still a "supper".  We espouse the teachings of theologians and philosophers whose very size (think Martin Luther) bespoke an affection for good beer and good bread, among other things.  And what better way to fellowship with one another, than around one's dinner table whether it be ornate or antique - a card table or TV trays - a meal shared conveys so very much about its partakers and, if lingered over and savored properly, cannot help but result in conversation that feeds the soul as much as the food feeds the body.  And yet those of faith often have a more restrictive relationship with food than they have with their barber.  It's an odd, odd mix - that of faith and food.

My heritage is one of tolerating conditions beyond one's control.  Of a great grandmother who was a hod brick carrier in Austria-Hungary, of a grandmother who worked long hours in Chicago factories but sent out her daughter (my mother) for fresh lunchmeat and bread when company stopped in.  Of meals spent with balance and butter....of sausage and poppy seed cake.  This is a culture which espoused the fresh - the available - the unprocessed....and they didn't even know it at the time.  This is the culture we would do well to emmulate in food-related matters.  Of eating what is available when it should be available for, though I wish it weren't so, watermelon doesn't grow well in Michigan in December and cabbage is best grown when temperatures are cold.  Animals were created to live and graze in fields and fish were meant to swim wild (imagine for a moment explaining a "farm raised" fish to great-grandparents).

Faith has always meant a trust that food will be available.  That if one can eat a good meal, other things will fall into place.  (And perhaps this is why Christians often feel the drive - truly a 'need' - to feed those who won't otherwise be able to find a meal.)  That all things edible were given to God's people as a source of protein, fat, vitamins....and when done in moderation will feed the body as well as the soul.  Our temples were constructed to run on fuel - our fuel is supplied by the very Builder of our temple.  When filled with fuel prepared as close to its original source as possible, these temples will endure - no thrive.  The temples in this case are created for work....not for beauty (lest we become vain) and not first for the pleasure of our significant other (unless that's Significant Other in caps and referring to our Creator)...our Creator doesn't require high school bodies on mothers, or gut-free bellies on men fulfilling their purpose.   Our Creator supplies food and common sense.  He never supplies vanity.

Faith & food....Food & faith....often difficult company.  It has been said that if your great-grandparent wouldn't recognize a particular food item, don't eat it.  This, I believe, is advice that a healthy life can be built upon.

“One of the troubles about vanity is that it grows with what it feeds on. The more you are talked about, the more you will wish to be talked about.”
Though a bit obviously political in certain areas, PBS is beginning a series based upon the movie Food, Inc. this Wednesday.  Check your local stations for times and tune-in.  You may never eat a twinkie or Tyson chicken nugget again.  And that, my friend, your great-grandma would approve of.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

End Breast Cancer By Eating Fried Chicken

In a crazy attempt at altruism KFC is offering up to its customers a bucket of fried or grilled chicken in a lovely pink bucket.  In return they will donate .50 of each sale to the Susan G. Koman for the Cure fund to help stamp out breast cancer.  Before I launch into what KFC must be setting me up to launch into, I wll state that cancer stinks.  It kills.  It ruins lives.  It is more than pink ribbons and "saving ta-tas" and walking to end it.  To sit next to someone dying of the awful disease - in any form - is to be forever altered.  This I know.  Donate for a cure.  Work for a cure. 

Just don't buy fast food chicken for a cure.  Wow.  It's like someone at KFC said "...now what could we do that would be so hilarious that anyone with any sense of humor and intelligence will have to talk about it".    Some breasts for thought....

An Original Recipe Chicken Breast (that's the white meat folks) eaten as served will gift you with 320 calories, 130 of those from fat.  3.5 of those grams are saturated fat.  The sodium content is a whopping 710 mg.

The Grilled Breast eaten as served is 190 calories with 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 550 mg of sodium.  Interestingly, the grilled breast actually is smaller than the original recipe breast weighing in at 123 grams vs. original recipe's 164 grams.

All of this information comes courtesy of KFC.com's nutrition page lest you think that I tested the breasts in my own food lab.  I can assure you I have neither the desire nor equipment to do so.

The legacy of Susan G. Komen has grown to astronomic proportions - a real woman who died of breast cancer in 1980 at the age of 36.  The foundation whose name has adjusted a bit over time was begun by her sister, Nancy Brinker, a former U.S. Ambassador.  Over $1 billion has been raised to help fight breast cancer since its inception.  "Pink" has become the color of breast cancer and almost everything has been turned pink in some form or another. 

One has to wonder what the committee to turn things pink was thinking (or eating) when this offer came across their boardroom table.  What did they turn down until they got to this?  Because I'm thinking Toyota is looking for some corporate goodwill about now, and the former governor of Illinois would I'm sure don a pink tuxedo or something, and if push comes to shove I think Tiger would play with some pink clubs. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

52 in 52: Stephen Covey Gets Condensed

Somewhere between a book I intended to read and a book I happened to read, fell the book Everyday Greatness by Stephen R. Covey. Yes, the same Covey…the one who shares his ideas of what elements are common among ‘highly effective people’. And, from the onset, this is important to recall in reading anything from Covey – he is a marketing guru. He’s good at selling ideas. Very good, in fact. He is sort of the motivational speaker’s motivational speaker. In fact, the term “power broker” has been utilized as a descriptor. I guess that’s a good thing, right?

This one from Covey is a Readers Digest edition and comes filled with various anecdotes and stories gleaned from other famous and, sometimes, influential personalities. Wit, wisdom….very similar to the inspirational quotes found in your Grandma’s Readers Digest but with a bit more meat, a bit more length, and sometimes a bit extra oomph.

Perhaps the most important thing to note for anyone who has read something from Covey in the past, is the very fact that this is a patchwork quilt of sorts, not filled with material entirely unique to the assembler of the material, but certainly all along the vein of his usual positive thinking sermons. His emphasis on personal choice is still present in the organization and the vague usefulness in some business or team-building capacity can be found in certain areas. However, is it worth your time? You know, as ‘filler’ it’s not entirely bad. As a good starting point for someone needing some marketing help, needing some work on their life skills, working on a team (and perhaps struggling a bit)? Not so much. Ho-Hum.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Easy, Creamy Potato Soup...Look Ma! No Flour!

I do not like white stuff in my soup.  And by "white stuff" I mean flour.  I, along with the rest of the U.S. population,  really need no help getting enough flour in my diet.  I grew up on a cream of potato soup courtesy of my very Polish grandma and it never called for flour.  Hers was a bit thin and I've since tweeked things here and there to end up with a result which embraces her Polish simplicity but renders a thick soup worthy of repetition.  The version here is the "easy way" in that there is no potato peeling involved.

You will need:

8 lbs red skin potatoes
2-3 T salt
2 T fresh cracked pepper
1/2 yellow onion - diced
6 T butter - go on and use the salted stuff...and use the real stuff...you know you want to
4 c milk
2 chicken boullion cubes diluted in about 2 cups of boiling water OR 2 cups chicken stock

The really easy part.....
Rinse the potatoes and place in a soup pot, covering with water.  Add 1 T salt and the diced onion.  Cook until potatoes are soft.  Truly soft.  Don't cheat...get them soft.

Drain but save the liquid.  Mash your potatoes (yes - by hand....)  Add the rest of your salt, cracked pepper, butter, milk, chicken liquid.

At this point your "soup" probably looks like mushy mashed potatoes.  Slowly add your reserved cooking liquid - ideally use an immersion blender between additions.  At this point add liquid until you get the consistency you prefer.  Less for really thick soup - more for a more traditional soup.  Sorry OCD cooks - no hard and fast measurements for this one.

Continue heating on low heat just to get the flavors meshed together and the entire pot warm again.

I like mine with just some sea salt and cracked pepper before serving.  My son loves his with some shredded cheddar.  Either way it's easy - it's basic - and it's thrifty.  My Polish grandma would approve.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Too Many Planks

There are certain passages of Scripture which even the most ardent non-believer love to quote.  Often a variation on the following is repeated:

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.  (Matthew 7:3-5...NIV)

We love to remind others of their planks when they spend time searching for our specks.  The thing is, often what they are seeing - if we are honest with ourselves - is a plank. 

My weakness is often plank-sized.  In fact, I know I have some weaknesses which are more like large pieces of plywood.  And my plywood is not prime building grade, but more that lonely piece of plywood left by the side of a road somewhere, presumably having fallen from the back of some truck and now mushy and wet and really quite worthless.  So when people see things in me that I'd rather they not see, I will own up to the fact that some of my specks are really not so speck-like.

And so I find this verse and interesting quotation for so many to claim.  When we claim it - when we use it to point out the judgment others are levelling - in a way we just pointed out the plank in our own eye.  To take criticism is a gift.  To take the criticism from someone we may not particularly respect or even like takes courage and back bone and a gracious spirit many do not possess.  I know I am far removed from such wonderful qualities though I also feel the weight of this stupid piece of plywood more often than not.

As I travel past Easter, I pray that though I may be kept from judging when it is not my place to do so, that I may accept the judgment of others knowing that I have fallen so very short and it is only by His gift of grace that my icky, waterlogged (probably full of mold) piece of plywood hanging from every part of my being - filled with every bit of my sinful character - may be removed by the only Carpenter that really knows how to deal with such removal.