Monday, March 21, 2011

Caserole Communing

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Eccclesiastes 4:9-11

I'm not ashamed; I have a deep and abiding love of tuna casserole, anything resembling spaghetti- only with a ridiculous amount of cheese and "fun" pasta, overnight french-toast, that brunch egg-thingy with hash browns on top, Chile Rellano... that spells comfort food to me. It also spells less dishes, fewer courses and left-overs; what's not to love there? We all know there are times when people (myself included) can go a little crazy, causing a hot dish gone wrong. Come on, do you need THREE cans of "cream of something" in there? Must we have some sort of potato chip, tater tot or breadcrumb drenched in butter atop EVERYTHING? A person could get a heart valve clog just reading some recipes! And please, I beg of you, do not get me started on why pimentos, Lima beans, Velveeta and corn simply cannot be entrusted to the pantries of some well-meaning, but clearly misguided casserole cooks. Clearly, there must be balance among the sauce (be it creamy, cheesy or tomato-based), starch (be it pasta, potatoes or rice), veggies, protein and toppings, but when it's good, it's goooooooood.

Casseroles can help forgotten, but nutritious and lovely ingredients shine. I must admit, there have been times when I've left out a bag of frozen veggies to make for dinner, grabbed something else, then come back an hour after dinner was over. Those poor little thawed peas were clearly not to blame for my forgetfulness, but they can't be re-frozen. Ah, but there are many recipes where thawed peas can be added at the last minute; becoming a happy little companion to a creamy sauce! Forgotten veggie tray friends, such as celery and carrots, can make your chicken Divan Divine! That sad little nub of neglected cheddar that's too small for a sandwich can add a little oomph to the body of any sauce. A casserole can prevent good food from becoming compost!

Casseroles can also revive tired turkey, ham that's "had it" and "beyond-braised" beef. I would love to say that I always remember to set timers when I have a roast going on the oven, but that is simply not the case! OOPS! Chicken jerky is just not the same as jerk chicken! There are also times when I get impatient with a meat that needs a slower roast, resulting in jaw workout for the whole crew! Nobody likes throwing away a beautiful ham that just didn't cook well, but how much ham salad can a person eat? Enter the forgiving support of sauces, pasta and a little cheese on top, breathing new life back into your "dead" meat! It moistens, tenderizes and enhances the flavor of your leftovers, saving you money in a delicious way! :)

A well-balanced casserole supports all the ingredients and doesn't have a glory-hog syndrome. There are times when there's a little meat and a lot of pasta and cheese, there are times when the opposite is true. As long as the flavors are melding, that's keen! (Yes, I typed keen. It's a nifty word, I'm determined to bring it back!) Casseroles rarely turn out the same way twice in my house. I grab what we have on hand, and that's always changing! Writing out recipes for what we eat is a challenge, because I'm often just making it up as I go! It's how my Grandma Howard did it, it's how my mama did it (and still does), it's probably how some of my great-great grand kids will cook in their kitchens. It's about feeding your loved ones the best of what you have, while being mindful of using the resources God has blessed you with in a wise way.

After talking to my missionary friends, a few world-travelers and watching a lot of food-related T.V., I have come to the conclusion that nearly every culture in the known world seems to have at least one "casserole" of their own. From the affluent to the poorest of the poor, families and communities across the globe are melding bits and pieces together to nourish their families. My heart breaks for the mothers who have never had leftovers in their cupboards, while I coax my children at our table, saying, "Everything you love is in here. Just try it ..." How blessed we are to have variety and excess in our lives!

I've always called our worship team "my casserole," because our goal is to share our gifts and support one another. We vary who leads, working on melding together to nourish our body of believers. I awoke Sunday morning to a tickle in my throat. I had two solos and a lot of high (for me, anyway) harmonies ahead of me during service. I asked people to pray after rehearsal, feeling fatigue already entering my vocal chords. By offertory, my voice was nearly gone. Remember when I mentioned the two solos? Well, one of them was the offertory! When my voice wouldn't come out, my buddy Dawn took over for me. During communion, I knew the high harmonies just wouldn't happen. After completing a beautiful solo, Alyssa had my back with the high harmonies while I sang when I could. Thank goodness for the casserole!

I am so blessed to be part of an amazing body of believers, loyal and loving friends and a phenomenal family. I'm pretty good at thanking them internally, but I forget to tell them! Lord, show me this week how I can bless my fellow "ingredients!"

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

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