28 June, 2011

Sweet Sounds Right Now

One good thing has led to another. I am mildly obsessed with The Civil Wars - so much so that I will not even attempt to express my feelings for them...It's an impossible mission. I only mention them because, through a recommendation they posted on their Facebook page one day, I discovered Ivan & Alyosha.

It was love at first...listen. Their voices meld perfectly, the harmonies are tight, and the instrumentation exudes a California cool that instantly makes me feel as though I am driving down a West Coast freeway in a convertible with nary a care in the world. But on a deeper level, their lyrics compel me and keep me coming back to listen again, to mull over the heart issues being exposed in each song. They often seem to be grappling with the angel and the demon that wrestle inside of us, crying for a Savior in one moment and grasping for independence the next.

"Living for Someone"

Now I just quit my job / and sold my fine possessions
Expecting our first child / amid the Great Recession
We care less than you, it's true / It was the spirit of the age
Ain't it funny how nothing really ever changes?
Now draw the line between / what you want and what you need
Now tell me what you see...
Could it be you were not living for yourself / but you were living for something else?

Now tune my heart and tune my strings / and see what giving thanks might bring
For all I have was always Thine / but I was fool to think it mine...
Glorify the Lord above / with your drink and making love
Glorify the Lord, my son / til your work on earth is done
Glorify the Lord above / oh, if you've plenty, if you've none
Glorify the Lord, my son / with your whiskey and your gun

12 June, 2011

Savor the summer

I have a new addiction. I can't stop watching episodes of "Chopped." Four chefs, three rounds, a $10,000 prize, and a basket of four mandatory ingredients they must incorporate into their dishes. For example, one dessert round required contestants to use hoisin sauce, red chili peppers, yuca, and figs. The chefs are pushed to the limits of their creativity, technique, and presentation skills. I find it fascinating largely because I just can't imagine ever having such an encyclopedic knowledge of foods and how to prepare them that I could whip up such creative, cohesive dishes. However, it's also a startling show at times because it really brings out all the worst stereotypes of successful chefs; crass, fiercely competitive, egotistical trash-talkers. Half of them are simply there to prove something, to save face, to get their fifteen minutes of fame. Makes you wonder how much love they really have for food.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was preparing the food in the above photo. Sometimes I dream of being a chef, but then I watch shows liked "Chopped" and realize that I would rather have a more untainted relationship with the kitchen. For this time in my life, I have the privilege of being able to cook and bake for leisure and for pleasure. They are what I do to relax; they are things that bring me delight; they are things I can do to communicate my love for the people around me. There is no reputation at stake, no money to earn, nothing to prove.

Recently a friend from church gave me an enormous bunch of rosemary. I am a rosemary addict and was so excited by the possibilities this presented! I usually end up baking with it, but this time I wanted to try something new involving meat....If I don't learn to step it up in the protein department, my poor future children will exist on nothing but bread and muffins and cookies. So a bewildered Google search led me to this recipe. I thought it sounded easy and delicious, but I also liked that it offered instructions for grilling or broiling the chicken, because the weather forecast was not in favor of grilling. Broil it I did, with marvelous results! A beautiful golden-brown, crispy exterior, and a perfectly-cooked juicy interior that managed to soak up a lot of the marinade flavors even though I hadn't let it marinate quite long enough. I'd like to try this again soon on the grill and compare the results of the two techniques.

My sister brought some chopped green peppers, celery, sprouts, and other miscellaneous greens, which we mixed with quartered fingerling potatoes and a light vinaigrette. We also had a fruit salad of cantalope, kiwis, strawberries, and pomegranate seeds. I love the extra crunch and burst of sweet juice that the pomegranate seeds add!

I didn't put very much thought into beverage pairings, to be honest -- we were not feeling so picky about that. With dinner we enjoyed some Old Speckled Hen, an English fine ale which brings back fun memories for us. In 2007 I was studying abroad in London, and two of my sisters came to visit me. We took a lovely picnic to Hyde Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, spread out a blanket, and opened a couple bottles of Old Speckled Hen. Suddenly, the sun vanished and it began to hail! We quickly packed up our picnic and prepared to escape to somewhere warm and dry........but we hadn't finished the ale and, dangit, we poor students were not going to let that good stuff go to waste! So chug it we did, under an umbrella in the middle of a hailstorm.

All in all, a great evening. Here's to cooking for FUN. :)

08 June, 2011

Getting after it

Come August, I'll have a stronger justification for staking out this corner of the world wide web. I'm leaving my current job, home, and community to take an opportunity in my beloved England. London, to be exact. Am I excited? Yes. Am I terrified? Well, yes, sometimes. But this love for England has been one of the few and one of the strongest certainties I have known over the course of my 24 years...and after a few fits and starts, the door has opened to go. So the excitement is greater than the fear I have over the many remaining question marks. God knows what is ahead of me. God knows, and He is not in a hurry - I tell myself this when my heart is overwhelmed by the need to see every step laid out.

My hope is to write more frequently and with greater focus. I'll be using this space to share my experiences with you and to try to work out what "echoes of Eden" I find in them - what fragments of God's name are stammered in all these sights, sounds, bites, sips, things, thoughts? And yes, don't worry, if I ever happen to spot a celebrity, royal or otherwise, while out and about in Londontown, you'll read about it here. :)