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?
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.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, recipes don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to.
Your soufflé turns into a pancake; your cookies are as hard as hockey pucks; or your cake is a soggy mess. Any way you slice it (if it’s even possible to slice it), the recipe results in a total disaster.
Sometimes it’s due to a mistake on your part. You accidentally added twice the amount of an ingredient called for (guilty!); you used Shake ’n’ Bake instead of graham cracker crumbs for the dessert base; or you put the pizza in the oven for 450 minutes at 15 degrees, instead of 15 minutes at 450 degrees.
Or maybe the fault lies with someone else. The recipe’s author might have led you astray by inadvertently calling for 1/2 pound of flour instead of 1/2 cup’s worth. You only discover later that the recipe contained errors when you see a correction printed in the next day’s newspaper or blog post. But by then, of course, it’s too late: your family is using the rock-hard muffins you made as door-stops.
Often, you didn’t see a recipe fail coming at all. You followed the instructions to the letter, but it still didn’t work out. The ingredients may not have behaved as you expected due to humidity, altitude, or their age. Your oven may be hotter or colder than you realized, or your flour is harder than the type tested in the recipe. It wasn’t your fault, but just the nature of baking.
As Marian Keyes puts it in her cookbook, “Saved by Cake,” sometimes bad cakes happen to good people.
It’s the same in our lives, isn’t it? Sometimes things go wrong even when we’ve tried to do everything right. Our lives don’t turn out the way we expected.
But there’s good news for the believer in God: He can redeem any mistake and turn things around for your good and His glory.
I love desserts that you can make on the spur of the moment, with ingredients you already have in your kitchen (like the recipe for coffee cake below). The ones where you don’t need to make a special trip to the store to find an uncommon or rarely used ingredient.
For instance, I love the flavour of pistachios, but rarely keep them on hand in my cupboard. Walnuts, on the other hand, are more likely to be found year-round in my kitchen. If a recipe calls for nuts, I know I’m bound to have some walnuts I can use.
Or what about an ingredient like rosewater? It sounds like it would create an exotic dessert, but who keeps rosewater in their pantry?