A Return to Blogging

My blogging habits fell by the wayside for a couple of years due to a variety of life circumstances. But recently, I have been challenged to do so again.

This blog will be about more than just food, although food will always play a prominent role.

Now that I am working in a local church, I want to converse with those that are thinking deeply about the role of the church in this new and different 21st century. But at the same time I want to remember and learn from my predecessors whom God used in amazing ways to build His church.

I want to converse about how spiritual formation and missional church intersect and how the two desperately need each other.

But most importantly I want this to be a place where I can wrestle, and you, in turn, can wrestle with the tough questions. And through the wrestling, my hope is we can all work together to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Just as a shared meal around a shared table creates convivial conversation, my hope is that this blog creates and adds to the already amazing conversations being had. So please, pull up a chair and join me at the table.

Hospitality and Being with Others

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love,” John 13:1.

So begins Jesus’ last night with his closest friends in which he washes their feet, shares Passover with them, inaugurates the Eucharist and gives them their marching orders for when he is gone.

What always astounds me about the Passover meal Jesus shares with his disciples is the very fact that Jesus decides to share it with his friends who are about to betray and desert him. Peter is there—the disciple who swears up and down that he will never, ever, in a million years betray Jesus. And we all know how that worked out for Peter. And yet Jesus still washes Peter’s feet and extends to him the bread and the cup.

But more astounding to me is the presence of Judas. The same Judas whom Satan had already convinced to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. And yet, Jesus, knowing all that was about to happen, still washes Judas’ feet and as far as I can tell extends the cup and bread to Judas.

I wonder how this passage can speak into our theology of personhood and hospitality. I wonder what this passage means for my theology of strangers, and even more so, my theology of enemies. Who are my enemies? What is my responsibility towards them? And bigger still what should the stance of the Church be towards those we disagree with?

I wonder when it comes to specifically the issue of homosexuality, which seems to be the issue for the Evangelical church right now, why is this passage never talked about? Shouldn’t the fact that Jesus washed Judas’ feet on the very night Judas betrayed him somehow inform what it means to be with others? And if so in what ways?

Jesus never excused sin; he actually upped the ante. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus redefined sin that makes me, and everyone I come in contact with, guilty of murder and adultery. When Jesus meets with the woman at the well in the Gospel of John, he calls out her behavior as sin. And when the woman caught in adultery later in the same gospel is alone with Jesus after all of her accusers have left, Jesus tells her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

But what compels these women to leave their lives of sin is not judgment and rejection and a hard-line stance, but rather a radical, life-altering experience of love. They realize that, contrary to their culture, they are so much more than their sin, and that they are loved even in their sin.

What is so hard for me to wrap my heart around is that Jesus knew that Judas was not going to repent, and yet he still opened the door of hospitality to Judas till the very last minute. Till the very last minute Jesus was inviting Judas into love; Jesus never stopped inviting Judas into love.

In his book Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen describes hospitality in this way:

Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are not alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit. It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own. (pp. 71-72)

This view of hospitality is scary and raises more questions than answers, but we have to be okay with the questions instead of thinking everything is so cut and dry.

I really do not know what it means that Jesus washes Judas’ feet and Peter’s feet, but I at least want to ask the question. And I want to dialogue with others about what this means.

An Ode to Potatoes

Potatoes. They seem so innocent. So cheap. So accessible. So versatile. Providing starch to any meal. Oh so comforting. But healthy?

Ponder with me for a moment the most common uses for a potato:

  • French fries
  • Potato chips
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Scalloped potatoes or Potatoes au Gratin
  • Hashbrowns
  • Baked potatoes
  • Roasted potatoes

French fries and potato chips…enough said. Next.

Mashed potatoes. I am sorry but what makes mashed potatoes so tasty is not the potato. Have you ever tried mashed potatoes with no butter or fat added? They are repulsive. The key ingredient in good mashed potatoes is butter, and lots of it. The famous chef Joël Robuchon is known worldwide for his incredible potatoes. He found that the best ratio of potatoes to butter is a 2 to 1 ratio. For every two pounds of potatoes, he uses one pound of butter. It takes that much butter to make mashed potatoes taste good.

Scalloped Potatoes or Potatoes au Gratin. Look at the ingredient list – potatoes, cream, cheese. Why do we like this dish? Probably not because of the potatoes. This dish was probably invented by an old country mom who had served her family potatoes one too many times. Not only were they tired of potatoes, she was also out of butter, but realized that she had a plethora of cream and cheese at her disposal. In a moment of sheer brilliance she tricks her family into eating potatoes for the umpteenth time by cooking them in cream and cheese and at the last minute adding more cheese to the top.

Hashbrowns. The best are those that are crispy on the outside but tender and fluffy on the inside. But the only way to crisp them up is to use butter. And you know what makes hashbrowns even better? An over easy egg in which the yolk becomes the perfect sauce for hashbrowns. Either that, or they are smothered in ketchup, not as bad as butter or a yolk, but not exactly health food. Let’s not forget what hashbrowns are typically served with…eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, biscuits and gravy. Those hashbrowns definitely make up for those four pieces of bacon, three over easy eggs and the short stack of pancakes.

Baked potatoes. On their own, they look innocent and healthy enough. And in an ideal world, they probably are healthy. Plus baked sounds healthier. Better than fried…right? “So waiter, I will have the baked potato, but could I get that with butter, sour cream, bacon bits, and did you mention you had chili? Some of that too then. And maybe just a little cheese as I am really trying to watch what I eat.”

Roasted potatoes. These are definitely the healthiest of the bunch, but my problem with roasted potatoes is that they really only taste good that first minute out of the oven. You know exactly what I am talking about. Perfectly crisped on the outside while tender and fluffy on the inside. But try that same potato five minutes later and I would swear that some weird voodoo stuff was put upon the potato as there is no way that is the same potato I tasted mere moments ago. So while healthier than every other iteration of potato, they suffer from not being fried, mixed with a lot of butter or cooked in cream and cheese.

I am therefore left to draw the only reasonable conclusion from all of this: Potatoes exist to be a conduit for fat and lots of it.

My Biggest Pet Peeve

My biggest pet peeve in being a professional cook has nothing to do with the hours, the people I work with, or even the customers who can sometimes be completely unreasonable. No my actual biggest pet peeve is when I hear people tell me, “We would love to invite you over, but we are scared to cook for you.”

Listen, I understand. I am around food way too much, cook way too much, and taste good food way too much. And I will admit that it is hard to turn off the critique in my head. Doing something as an amateur around a professional can be nerve-wracking. It can bring to the surface all of the feelings of insecurity and inadequacy we are used to suppressing.

But I still hate it.

First, understand that Claire and I have just finished graduate school and are going to be paying back over $200,000 in student loans FOR-E-VER. So when someone wants to offer us a free meal, we will gladly accept it.

Second, people must think that Claire and I eat like royalty at home every night of the week, which is simply not true. My lunch is sometimes frozen pot-stickers from Costco or beef hot links on a hotdog bun. Not to mention that there are some nights after a long week, where I simply do not want to cook, so Claire and I will enjoy the rare delicacy of Kraft Mac-n-cheese with a can of tuna.

Third and most important, Claire and I love spending a quiet evening with other people around the table. Sure it helps when the food is good, but just being together is more important. I did not start cooking because I wanted to always eat really good food; I started cooking because I noticed something more in feeding people than just the physical act—the deep spiritual connection that occurs when people dine together.

Maybe that is why the statement irks me so much – it reveals that the other person does not know me that well yet.

Even if you order in pizza, Claire and I will be thrilled; we simply want to get to know you.

Or recall the climatic scene from Ratatouille, when Ego is served ratatouille. That is all any of us really want…to experience the warmth, love and security of home every time we sit down to eat.

Grandma on Gardening

As mentioned in my last post, my dad recently discovered two speeches by my Grandma – one on cooking given in 1958 and one on gardening, which unfortunately does not have a date.

I am not much of a gardener; however, Grandma’s thoughts on gardening are quite profound and beautiful. I was never able to see any of Grandma’s gardens, as Grandma and Grandpa lived in a condo by the time I was born. I can only imagine how beautiful her garden, along with Aunt Izetta’s garden, was on the farms back in the day.

If you are a person who loves to garden or aspires to be that person (like me), then I encourage us to grow gardens that reflect who we are and who we wish to become.

Enjoy.

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Personality in the Garden

When Izetta [the wife of Grandpa’s brother, Don] and I were asked if we would tell you what we plan to do this Fall in our gardens for a gay and glorious Spring, we thought we might elaborate and try to tell you what we hope to accomplish every season with our gardens—this is our ultimate dream and we hope some day to achieve it.

Have you ever thought of your garden as expressing your personality—so much so if a friend came to call and not finding you home decided to stroll through your garden? When she left, she felt as if she had had a real visit with you because everything there reminded her so much of you? She could almost feel your presence.

This is exactly the way it should be—so with this thought in mind, we go on with our planning.

First, we want our garden to have an atmosphere of warmth and friendliness. It must be a place to relax, to rest and enjoy the companionship of our friends. We see the outdoor barbecue, the tables and other things that makes entertaining so gracious.

Second, the way we plan our complete overall garden effect with its background, sunny borders, shady nooks, lily pools, birdbaths, and charm spot will reflect imagination and originality. These extras can make a small garden appear more spacious or a large garden more cozy thereby creating a different kind for each.

Ours must be a garden in which to weave memories, memories of friends, places and trips, where we have obtained some of the plants we tend with loving care. Izetta’s Mother has made her garden so special as on several occasions she has sent Izetta plants from her own garden which makes it so much meaningful that any you buy. Speaking of memories, whenever I plant my Dahlias each Spring, I always remember the first ones Dad gave saying he didn’t think they would do very well as he had never had very good luck. Needless to say, I dug that bed to China and nursed the Dahlias with tender loving care and they did beautifully and it so happened the ones he had in town didn’t do a thing—off the record it was the gardener’s fault for over watering—but I really had fun kidding him. So memories do add a lot to our garden. It must also be a garden in which to dream and build air castles, and feel that they will all come true.

It must be a garden of fragrance of roses, lilacs, lilies and Jasmines.

It must be a place where the old and new mingle in perfect harmony. To my way of thinking, gardens are like human beings in that Time and Age give them a certain charm that cannot be achieved any other way. We lie this kind of charm (like in a family) that comes with the mingling of the old and the new—not all of either one. We want the old fashioned hollyhocks, bleeding hearts and tanzy that come from our Grandmother’s garden to grow side by side with the finest and newest hybrid marigolds, zinnias and petunias of today.

The ambition of every gardener is to have blossoms around the calendar.

This is a real challenge and whether we obtain this success or not—it is good to know that by our efforts something has brown and brought beauty and pleasure.

In the early Spring months this garden must create magic with scillas, crocus, daffodils, tulips, ranunculas, candytuft, phlox, alyssum, pansies, hyacinths, columbine, stocks and calendulas—grouped together in beds and borders displaying fascinating and novelty color schemes. Let’s don’t forget our wonderful California roses that add so much color, fragrance and charm—not only in Spring but for many months.

As these beauties begin to fad the Shasta daisies, Canterbury bells, iris, peonies, gladiolas, larkspur, fever few, sweet Williams, foxgloves take up the parade and carry on till the hot dry months of July, August, and September.

But by careful planning ahead for these months, we can have quite a few blossoms in our garden—the beautiful pink, white, yellow like blossoms of perennial phlox, petunia, marigold, salvia all perform well in hot weather as well as the old stand by zinnia—and to there will be begonias, lilies, fancy leaf caladiums and ferns growing in shady nooks to give an atmosphere of coolness.

When the first cool days of Autumn remind us that Summer is past, our garden will be radiant with gorgeous chrysanthemums in very color of the rainbow to make our hearts glad and thank the heavenly Father for letting us share with him such a wonderful partnership as planning and growing a garden.

Then we can look forward to the sheer joy of going out into our garden during the cold winter days and cutting the most perfect of flowers, the Camellia to add beauty to our homes and warmth to our hearts.

As we finish the plans for our garden which is to reflect our personalities—we must not forget to add Humility, Love and Patience, and Kindness to every bed and every border to bloom every day and month of the year. Let us be reminded again that gardens are like human beings—just like you and just like me—the more they are loved and the more they respond to love—the more charming they become.

Grandma on Cooking in 1958

With Grandpa having passed away a little over a month ago, and Grandma close to nine years, my dad has been sorting through a lifetime’s worth of papers. Most of it ends up in the trash, but every so often he comes across a piece containing rich family history or a piece that sheds further light into who my grandparents were.

Recently my dad found two pieces of the latter sort. Two speeches my grandma delivered—one in 1958 on cooking and one on gardening, which unfortunately has no date. He had them both scanned and emailed me them, knowing that I would especially love the speech on cooking.

I just finished reading In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, and some of what Grandma talks about in 1958 sounds like it could have come straight from the book, but Grandma had Michael Pollan beat by a half century. Both speeches are too good not to share, so here is the speech on food. It is a little long, but is quick easy reading.

Bon appétit!

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One of the most interesting things Bill [her husband, my Grandpa] and I have learned the last few years that makes cooking those three meals a day that we are all required to do much more intriguing and fun is that cooking is culture. In reading noted cooks from the past, present and from all over the world—they all agree that cooking is definitely one of the arts and is therefore culture. Sounds rather strange when you first hear it, but stop and think, if one is to live so every minute counts, to be alert and alive instead of numb, then cooking and eating rank high as cultural matters. Nothing affects the very quality of life itself so much as our diet, our pleasure in it and what it does for us nutritionally.

The person who cooks and eats to just assuage his hunger is living no more fully than an animal. The person who is interested in food on many levels is actually living more. For the more you know about food, the more you can appreciate it—sensually and intellectually. The cooking you accomplish from day to day, whether cooked by yourself or others, is as indicative of the quality of your life as your architectural surroundings, the books you read, the clothes you wear, the music you listen to or the objects you rest your eyes upon. In some ways, it is more important than all these other things, for there are so many times in a day, and therefore in a lifetime, when food must have your attention as a necessity.  Once you become aware of how fascinating the world of food really is you bemoan the years you have wasted.

Some people associate gastronomy with “excess” but Andre Simon has expressed it best saying, “Excess is the hallmark of fast living, as sure a road to damnation as good living is to salvation. Gastronomy is, on the contrary, intimately bound to moderation, the very reverse of excess. Without moderation, appreciation becomes impossible. Others confuse gastronomy with high living. It is entirely opposed to it. High living is inseparable from extravagance, from rare and rich costly foods and wines, and from fatty hearts and enlarged livers.”

There are many levels on which you can pursue food as culture. First, there is the gourmet point of view—that is the training of one’s tongue, one’s eye, and one’s nose to recognize small differences. Without this ability to distinguish small characteristics, it is impossible to develop as a critic, as an expert or as a cook. This sensitive awareness is the cornerstone on which a cultural attitude toward food must be built.

Once you start paying attention to food in this critical way you open new areas of interest. You make observations about how food expresses national and racial differences, and how it reflects economic conditions. For instance, has it occurred to you the reason France is such a cheese producing country may be that they have so little refrigeration? Whereas, we consume our milk as milk thanks to our superb transportation system and universal refrigeration.

Thus the intellect comes into play, and you see food and cooking as living history. The folk wisdom and practices of any nation are in their cooking traditions. If you know how to analyze them you learn more about their values—from the status of women in society to the nutritional protection afforded by native diet.

The Germans have a proverb “You are what you eat.” Scientists have proved that many so called racial and national characteristics—laziness, energy, persistence or instability often bear a direct relation to habits of eating. From whatever point of view, it would appear that the proper study of mankind is FOOD, as food is linked with every branch in the tree of cultural history.

A knowledge of cooking adds a new dimension to travel. It is, in the truest sense of the word, your passport into new areas and your introduction to people, things and places, which the ordinary tourist never sees. You cannot understand any country or people unless you know something about their food. When you travel you should taste your way around the world. The tourist that insists on an American steak or an American cup of coffee is missing much a country has to offer. I feel we miss much here in our own country when we are not willing to experiment with regional dishes. I have greatly enjoyed the Southern dishes Izetta [the wife of Grandpa’s brother, Don] has brought West—like the country ham and egg pie she once made for our PEO. Too many people refuse to try anything they are not familiar with and consequently deprive their families and themselves of a great deal of pleasure.

One of the pleasures of cooking is being able to increase your skill. We all know the act of doing something successfully is a pleasure. It is fun to perfect a technique, to become better and better at something. We can analyze why a thing contributes to flavor, texture or efficiency or speed. It is fun to think of the alternatives open to us—whether to soak lamb in wine or soy sauce or whether to use ginger or garlic. Cooking this way is not work or drudgery for you are always testing a theory, pursuing a point of view. You are creating as you cook.

You may be asking, what is the down-to-earth pay-off of making cooking a culture area? Here are a few ways.

  1. Once cooking becomes more than reading and blindly following somebody else’s recipe, you begin to cook superbly well. For, let’s fact it, many, many recipes are not superb because they are created by people who may not have their own cooking practices sharpened by years of tasting the best. You, though, begin to view a recipe as something you can improve. You look for faults in methods or the lacks in seasoning and you correct as you go along.
  2. This way of cooking lets you create new methods, new combinations and new short cuts. A huge mass of recipes are obsolete in the light of the revolutionary meaning of new appliances and new foodstuffs.
  3. You can order a meal well in a restaurant, for you know how to run your eye down the menu and judge the capabilities of the chef and order the best he has to offer.
  4. You can buy the best foodstuffs available for your own kitchen, screening from a huge variety of sources the choicest. You tap the local and national sources in a way you would not have known before.
  5. You get a better focus on price, for you know when to pay extra to get something better, and when not to pay more because there is a false value buried in the price. For instance, peak-of-season plenitude is also the time of peak flavor and lowest prices. Out-of-season means lowest flavor and highest prices. The gourmet eats in season.
  6. The cultured cook knows when to cook quick and when to cook long and adapts the menu and the recipes to time available. Just as there are certain types of music written to played as encores, there are certain types of dishes for fast concocting.
  7. The cultured cooks commits no clichés such as the ever present buffet menu of baked ham, potatoes au gratin and green salad.

More and more people are learning the fun of creative cooking as is seen in many of our new kitchens. The kitchen is becoming one of the most interesting, as well as expensive, rooms of our homes, as it is a place where families can have an adventure together.

The devotees of food as culture are a merry company. You find them everywhere—some are rich, some are poor, some are in cities, some in little town or in the country. A few are young—many are older, for the gourmet attitude seems to increase with the mellowing effect of years—which is another way of saying, experience. The type of culture seems to thrive among warm-hearted kindly folk. This makes it all the more fun to be one of them.

I’d like to tell you about some of the books and periodicals we have read that started and has increased our interest in experimenting with food. I’ll admit that Bill is the one that purchased our books and read them first and then whetted my interest enough to read some of them. Some of the periodicals that we feel are well worth subscribing to are:

  1. Gourmet, which is a monthly publication and always has several articles on the history of different foods, some points on making cooking easier as well as tastier and always has reliable recipes.
  2. House Beautiful, its editor, Elizabeth Gordon, is a true gourmet and there are always some food articles and generally good recipes. It gives you much food for thought.
  3. The Wine and Food Quarterly, put out by the Wine and food Society in London, which is an organization for man only and does much to stimulate their interest in food. This makes cooking a lot more fun for women if their menfolk are appreciative of their efforts. It features experiences in gastronomy and has a section on Memorable meals which comments in detail on certain meals and menus. It also gives the menus at the different meetings of the Wine and Food Society Chapters around the world. It reviews the old and new cookbooks as well as other articles on food.
  4. House and Garden, also has a section relating to food. It will take one subject, like meat, and spend the entire chapter on it.
  5. Sunset is another magazine to take as the recipes are dependable but perhaps not as classic or fine as some of the others.

Have you notices how many magazines are adding food articles that have never had them before these last few years, like Vogue, Glamour, and some of those?

Books that really can tell you why cooking is a real art and should be treated as such, and yet, are most interesting reading are:

  1. The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher. It is a book of observations with a few recipes. What I especially enjoyed was the history of food from 3000 BC to now, as well as her clever stories on places and people she’s known in various restaurants or who were cooks.
  2. The Art of Good Living by Andre Simon. The flyleaf says that this is a book to shape the mind and not one of action. Simon tells why he feels gastronomy is so vital to our well-being as an enjoyable art. He is the founder of the Wine and Food Society.
  3. The Physiology of Taste by jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Brillat-Savarin was a French lawyer, politician and writer of the 18th and 19th centures. He is still a noted reference as an outstanding gourmet. A couple of his quotations are: “Tell me what you what and I will tell you what you are.” “The man who gives a dinner for a group of his friend and takes no trouble over what they are to eat is not fit to have any friends.” “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a new star.”
  4. Trader Vic’s Kitchen Kibitzer by Vic Bergeron. This is a humorous book on food with recipes by a man with whom we are all familiar.
  5. The Unprejudiced Palate by Angelo Pellegrini. Mr. Pellegrini is a teacher of English and Literature at the University of Washington. He says his book is a philosophy of cooking and that the discriminating eater is seldom a sour puss. This is a cleverly written guide to good living.

Outstanding well-rounded cookbooks that are good to use regularly. Whenever I wish to find a different way of preparing a dish that I haven’t tried before, I go to these first.

  1. Gourmet Cookbooks, Vol. I and II. These books have the simplest to the most complicated recipes and cover every range of food. They are expensive but worth it.
  2. Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery by Helen Evans Brown and James Beard. This is much more than just a barbecue book and is especially good for our western type of living. My pet!
  3. Cooking a la Ritz by Louis Diat. This is a good basic cookbook as is Diat’s French Cooking for Americans.
  4. West Coast Cookbook by Helen Evans Brown. This is one that has good recipes and also is fun to read the little quips she writes about some of the recipes and how we westerners got them.
  5. Fireside Cookbook by James Beard

There are many, many more books that I use regularly but more as references.

  1. Escoffier Cookbook by Escoffier. Most often quoted author today as this book is regarded as the Bible of Culinary Art, the one indispensible book on fine cooking. Escoffier says it is not a book for beginners but I disagree as it has helped me answer many questions pertaining to food.
  2. Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy by Andre Simon. A dictionary type of reference on everything.
  3. Game Cookery in America and Europe by Raymond Camp, for the hunter’s wives whose husbands were lucky on their last pack trip.
  4. Madame Prunier’s Fish Cookery Book – Translated from French. This is still the most noted fish cooking book.
  5. Sauces by Louis Diat. The most complete and authoritative book on this subject.
  6. The Epicurean by Charles Ranhofer (formerly chef at Delmonicos). This gives detailed instructions of cutting meat, vegetables, cooking and serving. It has pictures and drawings to illustrate techniques.
  7. Modern Culinary Art by Henri Paul Pellaprat, who was formerly head instructor at the Cordon Bleu School of Cookery in France. It is also a complete book for decorative foods.

Then we have books that are just fun to read that are as interesting and as entertaining as a novel.

  1. Scot’s Kitchen, It’s Tradition and Lore by F. Marian Mc’Neill
  2. Scot’s Cellar, It’s Tradition and Lore by F. Marian Mc’Neill.
  3. Food in England by Dorothy Hartley
  4. By Request by Andre Simon that is an autobiography. Simon has many books that are most interesting and informative.
  5. Paris Cuisine by James Beard and Alexander Watt
  6. Fine Bouche by Pierre Andrion. A history of the restaurant in France.
  7. The Gentleman’s Companion. Two sets of two volumes. First is Exotic Cookery and Exotic Drink of the World. The other set is South American food and drink.
  8. Last of the ones I’ll mention, but not the least, is the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise which is a weekly paper from Virginia City, Nevada that always has a good food article, has advertisements of every known restaurant in the United States and is most entertaining reading about the town of Virginia City.

Authors to look for while reading that can be depended to have something of interest to say and fine recipes.

  1. Andre Simon, a grand old man in his 80’s whose life has been spent in learning and teaching good food.
  2. Helen Evans Brown, an American of today who writes for many magazines like House Beautiful, Sunset and Virginia City Territorial Enterprise and whose books are the absolute best concerning Western living.
  3. James Beard. Also a noted present day authority. He has an excellent fish book and barbecue book out. This last weekend I read he is publishing another book right away.
  4. Louis Diat, writes regularly for Gourmet. He has an article each month for beginners.
  5. Escoffier. Any reference to him is like taking a case to the Supreme Court. Cooks use his works as law.
  6. Vic Bergeron. Always fun reading and has recipes for good eating of all kinds.
  7. Frank Schoonmaker, a noted wine expert and cook of today.

These are just a few of many good cookbooks that are fun as well as practical. However, I want to point out that the vast majority of cookbooks are a complete waste of time and many, as too many are written by unimaginative and unauthoritative cooks. When you take the time to look up something, you want to know it is the very best.

It is standard practice in our home to try a new recipe each dinner. I’ll have to admit, it has added a great deal more pleasure to the cooking and to the fun of eating for our entire family.

In closing, I’d like to read the last chapter of Andre Simon’s autobiography, By Request. It gives in his words the joy he has had in finding that food is culture.

[The chapter is not quoted. Grandma must have read it from the book.]

Remembering Grandpa

Grandpa Camp passed into glory on Saturday, April 13 at the age of 89. I was able to share at his memorial service, and here are the words that I more or less shared.

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1992_XmasEve_MomDadGrandkids (1)Growing up, Grandpa was a man to be feared and respected. For many years, Christmas Eve was celebrated in Grandma and Grandpa’s condo. We grandkids were banished to the kids table. It was not so much that kids were to be seen and not heard, it was more like, “Kids are neither to be seen nor heard.” On the night before a joyous day of celebration and presents, we children were told to be not kids.

As I grew older, I would occasionally do work for Grandpa at Eclectic Associates, which Grandpa and Dad started. And in work it was his way or no way. Everything had to be exactly to his specifications even the laying of computer cords that no one would see. He was a perfectionist, an extremely hard worker and demanded everyone else be the same. Laziness was the unforgiveable sin for him.

Grandpa was also a man who would speak his mind, even if the words were extremely hurtful. For me it was right after moving back from three years in China. I stayed with Grandpa for about 6 weeks as my parents’ house was being remodeled and there was no bed for me. Moving back from China was an extremely rough time for me. I felt lonely but most of all I was disoriented, not knowing where I was or even who I was. The day I moved into an apartment, literally right next door, Grandpa said to me, “You are about to start seminary, and never once did you ask me if you could do anything for me.” Here I was in complete culture shock with almost no one asking me if they could help, and here he is turning the tables on me. It was hard to hear. And for a while I did not want to talk to him.

You might be wondering why I am sharing these memories, but the Grandpa I came to know and love in the last 7 years is all the more remarkable when I recall how he once was.

Right before Deborah, my sister, moved to Colorado for grad school, she cooked dinner for Grandpa, and Grandpa loved it and so did Deborah.

So I decided to take a chance and do the same.

These were still in the first few months of me returning from China. Still feeling lonely and very disoriented. But I was beginning to cook more and was really enjoying it.

If my memory is correct, that first night, I made filet mignon with a mushroom red wine sauce finished with truffle oil. We drank wine and enjoyed a great meal together. I don’t remember much from that night—not because of the wine drank—but it must have been a good night because we started having more dinners together.

IMG_2658The deal was I could cook anything; try any recipe on him, and he would reimburse me for the food costs, plus provide wine. As a result I tried many new recipes on Grandpa, expanding my cooking repertoire. I made my first beurre blanc sauce, specifically a Champagne buerre blanc. The sauce turned out great, and I remember thinking to myself, “Beurre blanc sauces are not so hard to make. I don’t know what the big fuss is all about.”

It was not uncommon for us to sit at his table for hours, even after dinner was over, sipping wine and talking. Grandpa being the man he was, was usually not content with just one bottle of wine. If you knew Grandpa, you knew he loved to compare and contrast different products, especially wine. So we might open two bottles of different wines to see which paired better with the food.

A little aside and confession: There have been only two times in my life where I have thrown up from drinking too much, and both were with Grandpa.

The first was a wine and cheese night that Deborah and I had with Grandpa. Instead of dinner, it was just wine and cheese. And Grandpa being Grandpa, wanted to give us the full education. We first started with three different bottles of white wine and about half way through opened three bottles of red wine. The three of us did not finish all six bottles of wine, but if memory serves me correctly, we came close. Needless to say it was a rough night for me and a rough morning as I got up to go to work.

The second was the night before I started my last year at Talbot in the Fall of 2009. For dinner we enjoyed seared scallops with a sherry mushroom sauce served over risotto. With dinner we enjoyed a bottle of Riesling, which we finished; plus we split a bottle of beer. (I am also proud to say that I was able to get Grandpa to see that beer is more than Budweiser.) Grandpa had some blue cheese that we enjoyed after dinner, and so we opened a bottle of red wine. As we were enjoying the cheese, I realized that the amontillado Sherry I used for the sauce would pair great with the cheese, so we also sipped the sherry. I did not do so well that night either. And I may or may not have been slightly hung over in discipleship class with Dr. Wilkens the next morning.

As the meals progressed, our conversations progressed. They moved beyond the food to talk about family and memories and life.

And so began my transformation of seeing Grandpa as grumpy old man to a man, still flawed, but who was taking a deep and honest look into his life, coming to terms with who he was.

Through our conversations I learned about his rocky relationship with his father—from idealizing him growing up to seeing the truth of his father’s character, which was anything but good, according to Grandpa. I learned to see a man who began the hard work of ridding the family of generational sins. He was far from ideal, but he did the best he knew how in being a father and a grandfather and a person in general.

Wedding Picture with GrandpaBut most importantly I saw a man who deeply loved his wife, Anita, my Grandma. Tears would often fill his eyes at the mere mention of Grandma. (Grandma passed away right around Christmas 2004 after having a debilitating stroke in February 1993.) He regretted not loving her more. He regretted buying into the lie his father told him of not publically displaying his love for Grandma more so. He spoke fondly of the few years in Connecticut, which he described as the best years of their marriage. During those years, he worked in New York, taking the train to and from work. Each day on his way home, he would stop by the flower stand and pick up a single rose to give to Grandma each night.

Grandpa truly thought the world of Grandma. I almost got the sense that in some ways he did not think himself worthy of her love. Grandma made Grandpa a better man.

I began to sense how difficult it must have been to watch Grandma’s health, strength and vitality be taken from her for Grandpa. Here was the woman he cherished and who was responsible for his salvation, literally and figuratively, wasting away.

I glad that right before Claire and I moved to Utah this past summer, she was able to join me for one last grand dinner with Grandpa and hear some of the stories herself. He also challenged us to love one another deeply. He challenged me to love Claire fully and sacrificially.

But most of all we shared life together. And why food and wine? To quote MFK Fisher, a 20th century food writer:

“The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry.  But there is more than that.  It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.  So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…and then the warmth and richness and reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.

“There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.  And that is my answer, when people ask me:  Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love?”

And I am so thankful that I was able to share in this joy with Grandpa.