I have long debated with myself whether this observable talent of mine is more of a superpower or a spiritual gift — perhaps you can solve the internal dithering for me. A definitive word from you, the readers, and I shall close the metaphorical comments section on this issue with a bang. But first: the facts.
I can make absolutely anything unhealthy.
Obviously, defining terms is an absolute necessity in this scenario, so when I say “unhealthy” I mean by modern American standards, the sort that get squeamish at the sight of dessert more than once a week and that believe white flour was invented by the devil after God had finished all the good creation, the sort that in fact think the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did not produce fruit, but just hung with five pound bags of refined sugar.
Such assertions get my goat (the goat I probably would have cooked in good old fashioned lard).
This topic worked its way to the front of my consciousness today while I was enmeshed in the deeply noble task of simmering borlotti beans, the first of the season. Before you start rolling your eyes, at least look them up. Sometimes, in parts of the southern United States less devoted to using the coolest name for things, they are referred to as cranberry beans, and they are a fresh shelling bean, the sort you can cook without all that botheration of soaking. They are pretty beans — cream colored with an almost magenta speckling on the less mature beans and pods, darkening to a burgundy as they ripen further. Sadly, they lose their spots when cooked.
Hm. Really feels like there is a spiritual application to be had there… something about the heat of adversity driving out the stain of our sinful longings… eh, take what you will. Let’s move on.
I was cooking my first little haul of borlotti beans in a cast iron pan, with thick slices of Walla Walla sweet onions, fresh sprigs of rosemary from the garden, sprinklings of kosher salt and grinds of fresh pepper. Doesn’t that just sound idyllic? Meh. It’s all in the writing. The reality is that after an hour of simmering, they took on the visual quality of a pile of laundry that has all been washed together without sorting colors — grey and dingy, though my beans probably smelled better. Still, I was nursing just a bit of self-righteousness over the obviously healthy and wholesome nature of the lunch I had prepared for myself… which is when my superpower kicked in and I reached for the salted butter.
Have we discussed the imported French salted butter yet? I believe we have already established that I am not instinctively frugal, despite my best attempts to fake being so (yes, you are right — faking is the problem. Perhaps if I was striving to actually be frugal, my attempts would bear more fruit), but this is truly a justifiable expense to my way of thinking. It is the most flavorful butter I have ever encountered, and you can see the streaks of sea salt running through it. It is my favorite non-shoe splurge.
Anyway. Back to the beans. They were tasty and all, but one bite in and it was apparent to me that what they really needed was a little swirl of cream and a smidge of French butter dropped on top. The French actually have a name for this (they seem to have a name for pretty much everything, so this is not a shock) but I am pretty sure it means something like “making life worth living”. And it did.
But I seem to be blessed with this knack in all areas of culinary endeavor. Any good batch of green beans fresh off the stalk is surely made better by a lemon chiffon sauce, a salad seems like a degradation to eat until you have sprinkled it liberally with candied pecans, and don’t get me started on quinoa.
Just kidding. We should talk about quinoa.
I have never encountered a more self-righteous food than quinoa — the small, but mighty in pomposity. The way foodies wax poetic about the might of this ancient grain is enough to send you straight to the nearest McDonald’s in the hopes that a baptism of grease might purge the taint of the Pharisaical self-importance that is quinoa. That being said, it is a handy ace-in-the-hole for mothers who are feeling the guilt of having only succeeded in getting their wee tot to consume goldfish crackers for the last three days. The beauty of it is that they don’t actually have to eat the stuff — simply serving it is enough to keep you from losing your Ricky Raccoon Mothering Badge. But if you actually want to make the stuff edible, be as the French and drizzle melted butter on top with a sprinkling of kosher salt.
And that, I suppose, is the principle that I keep thinking about. I wonder why we are prone to think that God is in the business of handing us plain quinoa — do we think that because that is what we do? Do we downplay the grace of God because we ourselves are so lousy at extending it, and we cannot wrap our minds around a Heavenly Father who is constantly obliterating our false spiritual healthiness with an embarrassment of spiritual fat and sugar?
I am like Dick in the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle story, the one who received a box of peppermint sticks from his mother and then turned and took a baseball bat to the hand of the first child who reached for one. God never stops giving me the sweetness of His grace… and I am aggressively stingy with it.
Perhaps you are as well. Perhaps your relationships today are in deep need of fat — the fat of forgiveness before it is sought, of listening intently when you don’t think you can stand hearing the same story again, of offering fun and laughter to your people when what you crave more than anything is for someone to throw a little sugar your way — and then for them to leave you alone. Maybe you are struggling to resist the urge this morning to shout at your husband, “Good gravy, aren’t you just a protein packed SUPERFOOD today!!” while chucking your wedding ring at him. And that quinoa man needs the salty butter… the good stuff that you are tempted to hoard.
You do not have what it takes to be the sweetness that is required. You do not have fat enough to spare for this in your own strength. That is by design. Pray for a big heart. Pray for the grace to pour love onto the people God puts in your path today. Pray for eyes to see how your Lord has saturated your heart with everything good and lovely and full of the best tastes, pray for hands that grasp less and give more. And then?
Go and be the fat.