Eight years ago I began to write a food blog in addition to my “church” blog. It only took about a year and a half for me to quit doing both. Time and life go in the way. I am working on a book about food and faith and preaching. This seemed like a good way to get back into thinking about how cooking and preaching are so similar AND how these arts impact my life of faith and service. Once a week I will be adding to this blog lifting up cooking, food, preaching and faith as deeply related to I am and I think to who we are.

I often find my center in cooking.  The french word “chez” means “at the home of” or “with or among.”  “Chez Cindy” is what I often use when I have a gourmet meal in my home and I title the menu that way.

For me, cooking means being at home or with friends or family.   I love how when I step into the kitchen, I feel the chaos of my life fall away and a calm and centeredness fill me.  Chopping, mixing, sautéing, grilling, baking all help me focus on what is in front of me and not get lost in all the craziness of my life.

Often my “job” my “ministry” does not result in results that are easily measured.  Cooking, however, immediately connects me with the food I prepare and with the people who eat it.  If I have paid attention, what I create provides satisfaction for…

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Communal Cooking

Last week, I took an unexpected trip to Goshen to help our my daughter who had been hospitalized.  http://revcindylee.wordpress.com  After making arrangements for things at church, I threw things in a suitcase and boarded a plane and finally made it to Goshen.

The first thing on my agenda after visiting my daughter in the hospital was to take care of everything at the house.  There is nothing worse than being sick and having three small boys at home and a husband who was doing everything he could to juggle everything.  She also has wonderful in-laws that were pitching in to make sure the boys were cared for in her absence.

Sometimes, you just need your mom.  She asked and I went.  Didn’t think twice.  Friday I cleaned house, she returned home and the boys were thrilled.  Now it was time to think about cooking.  A household of five needs food and even though the boys are 6, 4 and 3 they eat a lot!

First thing Friday morning we started with coffee, Grandma’s special coffee.

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Coffee is made with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of sweetened ground chocolate, a bit of hot coffee to blend it and then filled with hot milk, usually two cups are necessary for a long day.  Following coffee, we cleaned house and then in the afternoon we prepared supper.  They decided that spaghetti and meatballs was on the menu.

Middle son Cai is gluten intolerant, so we we made gluten free meatballs and then cooked the gluten free pasta.  It was wonderful!  The younger two helped with the meatball mixture….but didn’t want to get their hands dirty!

On Saturday, we went to the Goshen Farmer’s Market.  We ate at Rachel’s Bread for breakfast.

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The market is marvelous.  i picked up lovely asparagus, lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes.  So beautiful, so tasty and ready to make wonderful food.  That evening, my middle grandson, Cai, cooked together.

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We took some of the lovely vegetables from the market and stir fried them and served them with brown rice.  Cai loved it!  With my help, he had his first lesson in using a knife to cut vegetables.  He is only 4, but did a great job with some assistance.  The most fun was firing up the stove and adding the vegetables one by one.

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I believe some of the best cooking is communal.  Sharing the tasks of preparation, cooking, and serving creates a space for love and grace.  We smelled the vegetables as we were chopping and then cooking them, smelled the combinations as they sizzled together.  When it was all done we added a sauce and watched it thicken.

Finally of course, one sits down a the table.  We said grace, then passed around the rice and stir fried vegetables.  The family ate, laughed and enjoyed each other.  I watched Cai dig into what he had created and ate and ate and ate.  The food was fresh, crisp, and tasted good.

I am reminded at moments like these that life is good.  I was grateful for the time to be able to take care of my daughter, her family and to create meals with my grandsons and to freeze some for the future.  Sharing that time, that food with family, was wonderful.  Cooking with my grandson, was priceless.    

 

Remembering my Nana

My grandmother was an old-time cook.  Meat, potatoes, a vegetable.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast.  I lived with her and my grandfather for five years.  The only time she didn’t cook was Sunday evening.  That was the evening for Lawrence Welk, popcorn and apples and the Wonderful World of Disney.

Sunday dinners tended to be wonderful, served on her china and ready to be served when we returned from Church.  Pot Roast, chicken, and casseroles.  On occasion my grandmother, my Nana made pan-fried chicken.  It’s tedious, takes a great deal of work and so we often did not have it.

To this day, I love pan-fried chicken.  Nana often made it in the summer for picnics when we would go to the park or the lake and it was accompanied by coleslaw and potato salad.  When we stayed home, it was made with mashed potatoes and cream gravy.  It wasn’t fancy, she didn’t do all the things you often read about, she dredged the chicken in seasoned flour and fried it.  To this day, I can not fry chicken and smell the searing meat without thinking of her.

So tonight, I pan-fried chicken.  I was supposed to have some folks over for dinner, at the last-minute no one could come.  I wasn’t devastated, it’s been a long day, but I had chicken and something needed to happen with the chicken.  Late afternoon I said to Andrew, “I’m hungry, I probably out to do something with that chicken.  How about I fry chicken?”   HIs eyes lit up, “Fried chicken????”  And then I said, “how about fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy?”   He was sold.

It is not gourmet.  It is simple, down home country cooking like my grandmother used to cook.  I fry chicken once, maybe twice a year.  Always pan-fried and ALWAYS with mashed potatoes and cream gravy.

The recipe is not difficult.  My Nana didn’t “double dip.”   She dredged the chicken in seasoned flour and popped it in hot oil or Crisco on the stove.  I put about one and a half cups of flour in a pie plate, added salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Mixed it together, salted and peppered the chicken pieces.  Dredged them in the flour mixture then sprinkled a good dose of paprika on the top and put them in the hot oil

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I fried the top, the bottom and then the sides. It takes time and then I cover the chicken for a time to make sure it is cooked through. Forty five minutes to an hour should cook chicken to the place it needs to be done.

I take it out of the oil and drain it on paper towels.

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The potatoes were already cooking. I had opened a can of green beans I had canned last year. As the chicken was draining, I poured off most of the grease, leaving the good brown bits in the pan and added the flour I had used to dredge the chicken. I did that knowing it would be heated to a high enough temperature to deal with the raw chicken issues.

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This needs to be “cooked” for two or three minutes to get the raw flour flavor out of it and then you can add milk. This is the only time I make cream gravy. I always do a butter/flour roux and then add stock. But the cream gravy takes me back to my childhood and my grandmother and somehow makes the fried chicken taste the way it is supposed to taste.

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We mashed the potatoes, and we were ready to eat. My Nana wasn’t the kind of country cook many speak about. She embraced convenience foods early and with gusto. However, on occasion she went back to the farm and made meals I still remember. Fried Chicken is one of those meals that remind me of home, of love, of family and of a woman who took in four kids and a mom at seventy years of age and made of the best of it. She and my grandfather in so many ways are my saints and I am grateful for all their love and faith that believed in me and my siblings.

This is what dinner looked like tonight. I think Nana would have been proud.

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