Don’t you just love cookies shaped like little people, such as gingerbread men and women?
I always start munching on gingerbread people at the head. According to a survey conducted by the folks at Dunkin’ Donuts, I’m not alone. Almost two thirds of people surveyed start at the top when eating a gingerbread figure. A fifth of people begin with the legs, while the remainder go for the arms first. (To make some gingerbread cookies yourself, see below for a classic recipe.)
We seem to have a penchant for foods shaped like bodies, or at least named after various body parts.
There are chicken fingers, kidney beans, artichoke hearts, navel oranges, black-eyed peas, heads of lettuce, ladyfingers and elbow macaroni.
The Italians have given us pasta shapes like orecchiette (little ears), linguini (little tongues), and capellini (angel’s hair). In France, cotton candy is called, “Dad’s beard.”
Our bodies are precious to us and are wondrously made, so it’s no wonder we pay tribute to them by naming foods after our various body parts.
But did you know that if you’re a believer, you don’t just have your own body, you’re a part of another body, too?
Have you ever tried a recipe you secretly doubted would work out?
They’re often the ones with the word “magic” in the recipe title, and they seem to promise the impossible.
The “Magic Chocolate Pudding Cake” below is a good example. The recipe instructs you to press a firm batter into a baking pan, and then pour flavoured boiling water on top of it. It claims this will magically transform into cake and sauce during the baking process.
You may be a bit dubious about this, however. The batter seems too solid and unyielding, impenetrable to the liquid atop it. You don’t see how this “magical” transformation will ever happen.
As you put the baking pan in the oven, you may think, “This will never work out. This will be another culinary disaster my family will tease me about for years to come, like the time I tried to cook a Thanksgiving turkey but forgot to turn the oven on.”
But lo and behold, the recipe does succeed after all! The two differing natures of the mixture are indeed transformed into something new and delicious, and your family thinks you’re a genius in the kitchen.
Unlikely transformations can still happen in our lives, too.
Some things are better when they don’t come too easily, aren’t they?
Like making butter yourself. When I was a child, I had the chance to do just that.
On a visit to my grandparents’ farm, my grandmother handed me a closed jar with rich cream inside it from their dairy cows. She instructed me to shake the jar vigorously.
I did so, but didn’t see much happening. I wanted to give up, but Grandma told me to keep agitating the jar. I obeyed, and soon started to see clumps forming inside the jar.
Grandma knew it wasn’t ready yet, however, and instructed me to keep going. My little arms were getting tired, but eventually Grandma told me I could stop. The cream had finally transformed into the right consistency.
I had made butter! (Well, technically, I suppose most of the credit should go to the cows.)
It was hard work making that fresh butter, but the taste of it was heavenly on fresh bread. It was vastly superior to the blocks of chilled butter you buy in the supermarket. Not only did it taste wonderful, I appreciated the butter more because I’d put in the work myself to make it.
Sometimes God lets us go through the effort of doing things for ourselves, doesn’t He?
Have you ever cooked a dish which turned out to be plainly inedible, or even downright dangerous to consume?
It can happen to the best of us, as these examples prove:
A grandmother with failing eyesight accidentally grabbed a bottle of ammonia instead of vinegar when making potato salad for her family. They started gagging at the mere smell of it, which fortunately prevented anyone from eating it!
An 18-year-old living on his own for the first time wanted to make fried rice. He poured some oil into a very hot pan, then dumped in a bunch of uncooked rice. Needless to say, the burned mess had to be thrown out.
Another young person forgot to add water when cooking packaged ramen noodles. I guess cooking isn’t for everyone!
Did you know that a cooking fail even happened in the Bible?
Gardeners may not realize it, but they’re a bit like soldiers in wartime. Their enemies aren’t people, of course, but an even more insidious foe:
Weeds infiltrate our gardens like enemy invaders: dandelions, nettles, thistles, couch grass and garlic mustard, to name a few. They may seem innocent enough when there are only a few of them, but make no mistake: their ultimate aim is to take over and occupy your territory.
One vanguard weed may sneak in and settle, and you think nothing of it. If you’re not vigilant, though, that lone plant will soon multiply into an overwhelming host.
Or you pull up a dandelion and think that’s the end of it, but unless you’ve been very thorough, part of the taproot remains deep in the soil. The weed will come up again long after you thought you’ve eradicated it.
The seeds of weeds may stay in the soil of your garden and remain viable for years. They lie in wait like sleeper agents, waiting patiently for the right opportunity to spring up and attack.
The mission of weeds is simple but deadly: to compete with other plants for light, water and nutrients and crowd them out so they die. They’re dastardly adversaries, often needing less sunlight and water than other plants to survive.
And the worst part of it is that they’re very hard to kill.
I’ll bet many of you grew up watching the televised cooking shows of Julia Child, “The French Chef.” If not, you’re probably familiar with her name.
Credited with popularizing French cuisine for an American audience, this six-foot, two-inch dynamo was always a hoot to watch. You not only learned a great deal about cooking from Julia, but you were also entertained with zingers like these:
“A party without a cake is just a meeting.”
“I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”
“Cooking is like love—it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
“I just hate health food!”
But the Julia Child quotation that has stayed with me is this:
“Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.”
Why does this phrase resonate with me? Because with faith, as with cooking, the size of our “container” can be a limiting factor.
One of the wonderful things about chocolate (and there are many), is how well it pairs with other foods.
Chocolate seems to go well with just about everything. It marries happily with fruits like strawberries, raspberries, pears, cherries and bananas. It perfectly complements the flavours of nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts.
Chocolate cheerfully coexists with citrus, coconut, ginger, caramel, coffee, dairy or mint. It has even been known to blend with the flavours of chili and meat in some Mexican dishes.
Some adventurous people claim that chocolate goes well with broccoli (well, perhaps…if you held the broccoli).
You’ve got to hand it to a food that is uncompromising about its own flavour yet harmonizes with such a wide variety of other substances.
Did you know that the Bible implies that we should be a bit like chocolate? Not in so many words, of course, but the concept is still there.