March 2009

Structure can be good. It can be comforting. It can be expanding. It can force us to refine our techniques, like a word limit or a poem form. But it can also become limiting, especially when we get so used to it we don’t even see it anymore.

Worship can be like that, either way. My question of the day: what new shapes might enliven worship? What new structures are possible? What media should be incorporated? What kinds of expression could inspire? Dance? Drama? What musical forms are missing? What else?

First the food.

Way back in another lifetime in another universe, I was engaged. We had very little money and lots of student debt and were forever looking for ways to keep our costs down. This is one of those ways, passed from my then-fiance (we never did get married) to me and onward to you. It is, I will warn you, not particularly healthy. It is ramen-based. But it is a vast improvement over the undoctored ramen. Really. And even if you substitute a non-MSG-laced broth (ie, toss the “flavor packet” and boil the noodles in stock of your own devising) it’s still cheaper than almost anything that your stomach will believe is a full meal.


Recession-proof Ramen

needed per person:
one packet of ramen noodles
one egg
substitute broth (optional)

Prepare the ramen as directed by the package. When it is very nearly cooked, take it off the heat, break the egg(s) into it, and whisk vigorously. Slurp out of the pot with the aid of a fork, or attempt to act civilised by pouring it off into a large bowl first.

Warning: it splatters.
High in fat (ramen noodles are fried before packaging) and protein (yay, eggs!). If you add vegetables it begins to resemble actual soup, but in Maine in the winter that can be an expensive proposition.

Now on to microlending. Usually a tactic for banks in the US to magnanimously apply in countries where the dollar is so strong as to make exchange almost laughable, I wonder what would happen if we did something like that here, with each other, because the banks won’t lend us money? With the circles for support for repayment and allathat. To get businesses started and things. Just thinking.


And while I’m thinking about the economy. I’m thinking we’re moving from an economy of stuff to an economy of brains. Which hurts my head, because shouldn’t stuff be worth something? But if there’s plenty of stuff (I contend that the problem is not lack of stuff but bad distribution of either stuff or people) then there’s nothing to drive an economy as such. But knowledge can be forever generated and consumed.

There’s nothing like being in bed all day to inspire completing the reading backlog. Only in this day and age, it’s also the social media, Facebook, LiveJournal, and YouTube backlog. Following up on the race discussion I linked into, here’s an excellent, straight-up three minute video:
from illdoctrine.

We all have foods we prefer when we are sick; most of us learned to want whatever our parents gave us as easily-digestible.

And with sore throats my family always serves hot lemonade. Most people think it sounds disgusting, and then they try it and are hooked. Super simple:

ingredients: honey, lemon juice (plenty of each), water

boil a kettle of water
take a tall glass and put in the bottom two fingers of honey and on top of that two fingers of lemon juice (the honey is denser so you can see what you’re doing; if you start with the lemon juice the honey mixes with it).
pour the boiling water on top.

note: if it tastes bland, add more honey. This is counterintuitive, but it works. It should be so strong that it almost hurts to drink it.

I’m really sick right now and can’t do much of anything, but this is too much to set aside and then forget.

I think about race and racism a lot. It’s in my bones. It’s in my skin. It’s in my daily experience. Even, or maybe especially, here in Maine. But in the church context it can’t be about me, because if it’s about me then not only is any conversation happening for the wrong reasons (like quitting smoking because your best friend said so) but anything bad that happens becomes about me (continuing the smoking example, it’s like blaming your best friend for the fight you got into with your spouse because you were irritable from nicotine withdrawal), even if it’s not really about me. It makes starting the conversation hard. It’s why white allies are so vital to the process, especially in churches, especially when the blatant racism is muted and what’s mostly left is subtle, systemic, invisible-to-most-people racism.

And common wisdom is that even this kind of speaking up is a risk, that I shouldn’t say anything precisely because it should be about the community, started by the community, supported by the community.

Okay, but I have a resource. So I’m not organizing any conversations at church. You can do that if you want, and it is my personal belief that the church is an excellent place to make these conversations happen for us and for the whole community. I am suggesting you read this elegant, gentle, true, informative, and accessible piece by Mary Anne Mohanraj–a writer I know a little and respect a lot–because, people? We all have to start somewhere.

I have a great many friends who are math and science geeks. They include a chemistry/physics teacher, a biology teacher, and a couple of advanced geometers (people who work with geometry). My brother just finished his PhD in artificial intelligence, my father is a chemical engineer, my mother’s degree is in applied math, and I have a friend working on a doctorate in bioengineering and nanotechnology, with some connection to microfluidics. Her husband is an actuary. Then there are the friends who work in software security.

I’m so glad I spent time in computer tech before I headed into ministry.

Anyway, recently knitters and crocheters have been working on ways to use their crafts to make 3D representations of advanced mathematical stuff. There’s a klein bottle hat, for example, and a number of other things that I understand much less.

All that was important to explain this fabulous and fun cartoon. Props to Stitch Witch for the link.

I like to cook. And I learned in France not to let good health interfere with good taste, so while I improvise a lot, I rarely make substitutions just for reducing fat, salt, sugar, or flavor content unless I’m (a) cooking just for myself and (b) fairly certain it’s going to be okay.

But some of my favorite foods are the really simple ones, mostly passed on by oral tradition from my friends. I’ve decided to share. So now and again I’ll be posting a recipe that’s too simple for a cookbook, probably one that uses measurements like “some”, “enough”, and “until it’s cooked”.

In other words, just like my grandmother’s.

Today’s recipe is the
Stealth Sandwich

When I lived in Ottawa I had a sweet downstairs neighbor named Chris who loved to cook (I had other sweet downstairs neighbors but they didn’t cook much). He was the magic that made flaxseed-laced scones turn up on my doorstep as I was rushing out to work on a particularly harried morning. He had “bad day” radar and always knew when a little something would cheer me up. It was amazing. He has since moved twice and I have lost track of him, but I will be forever grateful for his grace, company, and support.

One day I was standing in his kitchen when he made the strangest food: an avocado sandwich. It began simply enough: take an avocado, perfectly or slightly overripe, slice into a bowl, mash with a fork. Add salt and pepper. Smear on wheat toast. Eat.

That version is the simple form, and works perfectly well.

However. One day I was in The Glebe, a chic neighborhood with a quaint old-European feel. There was a tiny cafe there, and I was hungry and hours from dinner. I ducked in and asked for the only vegetarian food on the menu, a tomato sandwich, just tomato and cheese on a roll. But then they asked me: would I like lettuce? (yes) Cucumber? (No). Avocado? And what kind of cheese?

It was the best cheap food in the whole city. Priced like a tomato and a slice of cheese on a roll, it became a feast. Here’s my version, although I cannot reproduce the delectable rolls that were the crowning touch.

Needed for each person:
a smallish tomato,
an avocado,
a slice of provolone cheese,
some bread more sturdy and flavorful than Wonderbread, two slices.

toast the bread
slice the tomato
mash the avocado in a bowl with a fork
salt and pepper the avocado to taste.
put mayo on the bread
spread a thick layer of avocado on one piece of toast (experience will teach you how thick it can be before it squeezes out the sides like jelly–alternatively, make it open-faced and don’t worry about the squeeze-out)
put the tomatoes and cheese on your masterpiece.
add the second slice of toast to make a sandwich.


oh, and a word about tomatoes: especially for this recipe, they need to be good, but they need not be summer-good. A good winter tomato does exist. The ones I used yesterday for this recipe were grown in Maine (presumably in a greenhouse), and it’s March. A good winter tomato should be firm and slightly sour, not as juicy or as soft as a summer tomato, but absolutely not mealy, mushy, or cardboard-flavored. Make thinner slices than you would for summer tomatoes. And if good tomatoes are not possible, better to leave them out than to settle. The beauty of this sandwich lies in the contrast of textures.