Friday, November 11, 2016

The Lesser of Two Evils

Nobody noticed we were slowly but surely painting ourselves into a tight culinary corner. With time, all the wonderful vast choices the good Lord put within our reach were reduced down to two.

It was either Tyson or DiGiorno.

Personally, I didn’t care for either. And against my better judgment, I willingly conceded to both.

We never put our foot down to stop the insanity. We must have been fooled by the fact that nobody appeared to be dying of hunger around us. Our stomachs were getting filled plenty but it was more like eating Styrofoam than sushi or sarma.

In the process, our palates atrophied along with our taste buds. Our children couldn’t tell the difference between a turnip and catnip, Our noses vandalized by seductive air-fresheners and scented candles, couldn’t smell basil from cilantro anymore.

We started slathering Chick-fil-A sauce on everything and calling whatever was buried under ‘tasty’.

Forgotten were the days of thyme and sage in our messy kitchen…

Gone was the smell of bacon fat and caramelized onions that made our stomachs growl like a roaring lion…

Gone was the fire of all four burners running red-hot, the bobbing lids making our house steamy and us sweaty yet glowing…

Our onion-tears dried up. 

We were eating without tasting.

Watching without seeing.

Listening without hearing.

And even though our stomachs were filled to the brim every night, they felt strangely empty…

Which made me wonder...

What is worse… ?

Eating without tasting...?

Or not eating at all...?

Monday, November 07, 2016

Breaking the Speed Limit of Life

Some may say it was simply life catching up on us.  We were two busy, exhausted parents dealing with rather significant health issues...

Who could blame us for wanting a break, for taking a short-cut or two?

Especially when we discovered that our more discriminating toddler actually preferred surrogate dinosaurs-shaped chicken over its more gruesome counterpart? And that we could save time, energy and eventually even money while still having our hungry bellies filled...

Who could resist such a deal?

Others may shake their heads and say that just like everyone else, we too were duped into mindless following of the global frenzy of busy...

... two arrogant fools hell-bent on saving the world while squandering our own and our children’s souls, accelerating when we should have been stopping and evaluating...

... breaking the speed limit of life and praying to God we won’t get caught.

Regardless of reasons or faults, we joined the army of parents all around the country who were chomping off tiny dinosaurs’ legs in PG-7 rated family dinners, pretending to have fun while kids giggled, making sure they don’t see through our charade.

None of this happened overnight. We slowly slid and skidded. Nobody meant any harm. Everybody thought this was actually helpful. We were ‘spared the hassle’. We had ‘more important things to do’… 

Like the Once-ler's Thneed, we became convinced that we needed it!

Thus our bustling, blood-and-gut splattered, alive kitchen turned into a fine dining for the toddlers containing warmers for nutritionally-empty artificially-flavored convenience foods prepared by nobody we knew, and nobody that knew us.

Friday, November 04, 2016

The Fine Dining for Toddlers

It hasn’t always been like that around here – I mean, frozen pizzas, the 3-minute Ramen Noodles and 11-minutes assembly-line chicken nuggets in the shape of little dinosaurs. We never meant for our house to become the fine dining for toddlers!

Our chickens used to have legs and breasts, gizzards, back and neck.  

We didn’t hire hit-men from Publix for $8.99 to execute the dirty work for us, to bail us out of the mess and the gore that eating fried chicken represents.

The mess and the gore were an integral part of each meal, not sanitized out of it..  

When we got married, our kitchen became one-of-a-kind, steamy, sticky, bustling melding pot of two very, very different worlds and styles, taste buds, culinary experiences and philosophies. We had almost as much fun there as in our bedroom. 

At first we fought a lot because we didn’t understand how our different personalities could possibly work together. Eventually we were able to relax and enjoy some of the best home-made foods from around the world and share it with few gutsy friends and neighbors willing to join us at our dining room table.

Stuffed Peppers. Paprikas. Sarma. Curry. Musaka. Chilli. Sopska salata. Masala. 

You could never predict what might be cooking in our household. Until you could actually smell it.

And it smelled gooood... at least most of the time.

I brought the Europes and the Balkans and my husband contributed the rest of the world spawned out of his international travels, which we later were fortunate enough to combine.








We had the best of both… no – the best of all worlds under our roof. 

And then… I don’t know what happened...

I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able. I Corinthians 3:2

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Kick-Pork-Butt Roast

Every so often, usually when the dinner table is cleared and the dishes piled in the sink, there is a knock on our front door. It’s dark outside and I am already  in my bathrobe, settled in front of the TV watching reruns of Criminal Minds while the rest of the family is too preoccupied with whatever they are doing to even hear the knock-knocking.

Hey! I yell, Can somebody get that door – I am in the bathrobe!

It’s me, Juergen, I recognize our neighbor’s voice coming from the outside. My mind and heart at rest that there is no serial killer or a door-to-door Kirby vacuum peddler, I unleash the kids who swing the door wide open, all too eager to see what Juergen is bringing to us this time.

See, he conditioned our kids perhaps too well. He never comes to our door empty handed, and most of the time he apologizes for the late arrival – the dinner took much longer to cook, or he was kept late at work so he had to start late, as if an apology is needed when you are on the receiving end of a gracious gift.

I hope you enjoy it – it took ten hours in the smoker…

For the family accustomed to frozen pizza, 11-minutes Tyson chicken nuggets and 3-minutes microwavable Maruchan ramen noodles bowls, ten-hour-smoked-pork-butt-roast represents a life in a galaxy far far away, even if it’s only two doors down.

Even though I already ate, I can’t resist.  I don’t share my family’s enthusiasm for convenience food and whenever the opportunity knocks to enjoy some real, home-made-from-scratch adult deliciousness, I take it.

Mmmmmmm… this is sooooo good!  My pleasure is contagious, at least to the other adult in the household.  We don’t even bother with forks, scooping pieces of meat with the tips of our fingers, holding off the licking part until we couldn't take another bite.

It’s a bit of a delayed reaction, but eventually it hits us both – first me, than my husband.

This has a KICK to it!

Yea, it’s a kick-pork-butt roast!

Everything that Juergen has brought to us over the years has been delicious. One may even say, inspired. He is a hard working truck driver with many overtime hours, but he loves to cook. And his love shows in every meal he prepares.  His cuisine generally hugs the mild and gentle side. Tasty and mild.

But this… this charted a whole new territory. It was still as inspired as ever but the added kick made it awesome.

Next time I saw him, it was pre-dawn morning a couple of days later. I was going for my walk and he was heading for work. I waved his red truck, he rolled down the window.

Juergen, that was awesome! Thank you so much.

Oh, I thought it had too much pepper, he said in his usual modest way, but that’s what the recipe called for...

It was PERFECT amount of pepper, I assured him. EVERYONE in our family LOVED it!

In that case, next time I’ll make two batches…one mild, and the other...

No! Noooooo!!! That’s not what I was trying to say….I am mortified. You…you  are just making me...


But he laughs and waves…  

…And inspired…

puts his engine in gear …

to make some 



kick-butt roasts of my own

…as he rides off.

Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Matthew 5:13