While I heal

As many of you may know by now, I had a medically life threatening situation on November 1, 2014. I went through emergency surgery to save my life and will be going through 3 more surgeries over the next two months. While I recover, I will be cutting back on a lot of things in my life, including blogging. As I have energy and feel inspired, I will post here. However, in the meantime, please keep my family and I in prayer as we go through an intense healing process. Thank you!

What does your garden grow?

I am not sure what it is about this time of year that I find myself thinking about herbs. Maybe it is the surprise visit I found in my outdoor gardening area the past few weeks as what I thought would be empty buckets began to reveal hearty chives, mint, and basil. At the same time, I have found myself thinking about how much my relationship with herbs has changed over the last few years. I can remember a time when everything was just a spice and you found them all in bottles in aisle. I never stopped to look at the fresh herbs in the produce section or consider planting them in my own yard. Yet here I am with a completely new relationship with herbs. I now find myself spending a considerable amount of time exploring the herbs in the produce section of my market and, when I am able to leave the house, looking at herb plants at the garden center. I have come to appreciate the vast difference in flavor between dried and fresh herbs. I would not go so far as to say I am an herb expert, however, my appreciation and relationship with herbs has evolved over time.
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Honey, Healing, and Holiness

Maybe it was what I learned from reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees that drew my interest to honey, also known as the nectar of the Gods. Maybe it was the memory of my mother making me drink a cup of tea with lemon and honey when I had a cold or a teaspoon of honey when my stomach was upset. Or maybe it was a combination of all of the above. All I know is that as I lay in bed last night for hours with an upset stomach and unable to sleep, I could hear my mother’s voice telling me to go have some honey. So I dragged myself out of bed and took a teaspoon of honey and within a few minutes, I could feel my stomach calming down and I was finally able to go to sleep. When I finally fell asleep, my dreams were filled with honey. I had dreams about these bears that were so hungry for the taste of honey that they were willing to undergo being stung to get to that hive. I remembered a scene from Fried Green Tomatoes where Iggy was a bee charmer. I dreamt about making beeswax candles as a child.
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A New Reverence for Dates

When I was in seminary, which now seems a lifetime ago, in one of my preaching classes we were assigned to take a scripture which involved violence against women and develop a sermon on it in a way which was honest, but empowering. The result was a sermon I wrote called Take Back the Night, which was what I envisioned Tamar would have said if Tamar had been invited to speak at a Take Back the Night March. One of the things I learned while I was researching this scripture was about the name Tamar. Tamar means date palm. In biblical times, people’s names were a prophesy about their lives. Date palm might not seem like much of a prophesy, but it is. You see the date palm is said to be the oldest cultivated tree. For the people of her area, the date palm held particular symbolic significance.
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It was more then just a cookie.

Last week, I wrote about Zoë’s cousin Bruce and his request for lemon drop cookies. To be honest, I have never made them before. I figured they could not be that hard to make, but it was one of the things he remembered about his wife who had passed away. So the morning he was leaving, I woke up early and began making lemon drop cookies and quiche he had requested. I knew this was exactly what he had wanted this holiday season, so I knew he was going to be excited. What I was not prepared for was the depth of his response. He had no idea I was going to make him two quiche to bring home, along with a myriad of other leftovers from Christmas breakfast and lunch. So that in itself excited him. I am not sure he expected I would actually do this for him.
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H is for Healing.

There is this mystery writer, Sue Grafton, whose books all begin with a letter and a word. For me this week, I have come to discover that H is for healing. I should probably say that Q and L are for healing, but that would not make sense to most people. Well, at least not at first. However, the day after our wedding, I came to realize that food has the ability to help people heal emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Zoë’s cousin Bruce came for the wedding and the day after we had this awesome conversation. You know the kind that linger in your memory for a while and leave you knowing something special just happened between the two of you. It was after some left over home fries and eggs that Bruce began talking to me about his first wife who had died many years ago after a battle with cancer
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No more cardboard!

Well we are now week 4 in Zoë’s chemotherapy treatments and the two major symptoms she has experienced are fatigue and loss of taste. It seems like just about everything tastes like cardboard. Her go to breakfast, bagels, and cream cheese, tasted like cardboard. My vegetarian lasagna tasted like cardboard. The ginger ale that I made from scratch just tasted like bubbles. The few things that tasted good to her were ice cream and corn tortillas. Not the most nutritious of dishes. Nothing but the ice cream was sweet enough. Everything but the corn tortillas tasted like cardboard. The reality is that none of us wants to eat cardboard. It has been frustrating trying to find things for her to eat that did not taste like cardboard. So how do you transform things from cardboard to tasty when you have no taste buds? Easy. Salt. You put salt on everything. Bagels and cream cheese – no problem.
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Becoming a chemo caring kitchen

It was about a week ago today that my wife Zoë received her first chemotherapy treatment. While she has been amazingly blessed with the minimal side effects she has experienced, the most significant has been a decrease in appetite. What she once enjoyed with reckless abandon, she does not desire. Things she once would not consider, she is now requesting. A few months ago, I was learning to adjust our meals to be low carb, low fat, diabetic, and vegetarian friendly meals. Now I am learning what ingredients are best at preventing the spread of cancer in one’s body and identifying what foods can be most helpful in treating what side effects. It is a completely new way of cooking. The biggest symptom she has had is loss of appetite.
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Your basic vegetable stock – nothing more, nothing less.

I was talking to my brother this afternoon about cancer and how it has affected his life, the lives of friends, and now my partner who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. One of the things her diagnosis made me think more consciously about was the impact of the food we eat and what it does in our system. I am not a super health freak. I am what my doctor would say “morbidly obese.” I have more excuses about why I cannot or do not exercise then Hasbro has games and Carter has pills, possibly combined. With a hectic life, I have enjoyed the convenience of packaged and processed foods. However, the last couple of months have catapulted me to this place of rethinking what I cook for my partner and I. So for the last two months, I have been trying to be more mindful about what goes in my body and working at making everything from scratch.
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Seasonings in the Kitchen and for the Soul

I was starting to read the next chapter in Deborah Madison’s book, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, when I found myself unable to move past the first page of her chapter The Foundations of Flavor. It was not that the rest of the chapter had nothing to offer, it did. However, it was a comment she made about herbs and spices that resonated with my spirit. She wrote “Even more then vegetables themselves, it’s these small intensely flavored ingredients and how they’re combined, that give a culture’s food it’s unique stamp” (p. 27). It is these small intensely flavored ingredients, these herbs and spices, which in combination with other ingredients can transport me to another place and time. I began to think about how lemon and oregano when used to marinate my tempeh, along with some garlic, olive oil, and soy sauce allow me to experience the flavors of Greek in my vegetarian Greek Tempeh Salad or in my Greek Tempeh Pita Wraps. I think about how it is the fresh dill when combined with some Greek yogurt and cucumbers creates an amazing Tzatiki. Or I can think about ancho chili powder, cumin, and coriander and how in combination with just about anything they enable you to experience the flavors of Mexico.
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