Category Archives: Soul Food

Inspirations & Anecdotes

Stir a Pot, Feed a Soul: Real Comfort Food

Chicken & Dumplings -- click on photo for recipe

When we hear someone say, “comfort food” thoughts drift to dinners from childhood imagining something warm, full of carbs, or sweetly satisfying. We dream of flavors and textures to feed our emotional funk or exhaustive schedule to quench and satisfy.  The focus is inward, self-gratifying.

What if our focus shifted outward instead?

This is not intended to make you feel guilty about surrounding yourself with good food or savoring a favorite meal, simply to think about comfort food differently.  Food not only soothes our moods and maladies, it brings comfort to those hurting, recovering, or overwhelmed. Of course, it fills a practical need, but so do restaurants and pizza delivery. Taking a meal to someone invests in community with a personal touch that goes far beyond the food itself.

When someone notices our need and offers to lift our burden for a moment we feel valued, encouraged, and less alone.

Our family has been the beneficiary of meals arriving at our door after a major car accident, sudden illness, and crisis.  The concern and kindness of friends, as well as others we didn’t even know, created emotional margin and physical relief when doctor appointments, decision-making, and grief consumed daily routine.  They were life-givers, every one, with encouraging words and reassurance they were there to do whatever they could … taking care of one of the basic needs like dinner or groceries was a vital part of the help we needed.

According to 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  When we serve others, it is a blessing no matter how big or small the gesture.  It doesn’t have to be a whole meal, if you bake amazing bread, make an extra loaf to give away.  I believe good food is one of the various forms of God’s grace we can use to meet someone’s need—real comfort food.

So what does that really look like?

You can start by responding to needs in your own sphere of influence at church, school, work, club, or neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be someone in crisis, it can be a single mom with a maxed schedule, a college student missing home, or a co-worker trying to finish a big project who would be grateful to know you care. Yes, it might feel weird to be the first one to do something like this, but caring for others is worth feeling a little awkward.

10 Tips for Stirring a Pot and Feeding a Soul:

1. Simple food is best. Make what you know and do well; this is not the time to try new recipes.  Check for allergies and strong dislikes. For food sensitivities and allergies, think outside the casserole. Casseroles are great comfort food for many, but are more apt to contain common food allergens like corn, wheat, milk, or soy.  Braised meats, steamed vegetables, soups, and salads easily accommodate those with food restrictions or strong dislikes of certain foods.

2. Use disposable containers.  Unless it is a neighbor or someone you see regularly, deliver meals in containers that do not need to be returned.  Keep it as simple as possible for those you are trying to bless.

3. Deliver the meal at dinnertime, if possible. If not, make it as close to ready with clear instructions. If delivering food to a family with a new baby, don’t ring the door bell.  Arrange a specific time and arrive with a gentle knock at the door in case the baby is sleeping.

4. Consider everyone in a family. Crisis, surgery, new babies, grief, affects everyone within a family. Try to include at least one thing everyone will like with the meal. If the family has small children, make sure you show up with ice cream or something specifically for them if you can.

5. Customize the meal for the event/purpose. Bereavement, nursing mothers, recovering from surgery or illness can each pose a different need.
New moms
, especially nursing moms, eat often so snacks and easy breakfast foods are great too.  Avoiding spicy, acidic food is helpful to prevent adverse reactions from the baby.
Surgery
is hard on the body, when someone undergoes general anesthesia the entire digestive system shuts down. Provide a gentle and nourishing meal like chicken soup made from homemade bone broth. Consider foods that are soft, nourishing, and easy to digest. If you know they like smoothies, provide a few pre-packaged frozen smoothies easily assembled at home.

6. Offer to coordinate the meals.  Major crisis, trauma, accidents can be overwhelming and having an infant with the phone constantly ringing is no picnic either.  Having one person collect primary information and receive questions regarding meals is truly helpful.  Organizing a handful of suppers for a friend is pretty straight forward, but when a larger group or longer-term need is part of the equation, there are services to help.

Care Calendar
Meal Baby
Food Tidings
Lotsa Helping Hands
Take Them A Meal

7. Providing a meal is not the time to impose your nutritional agenda on someone else or “teach” them how to eat.  Try to understand what would bring comfort to them, even well-meaning advice can be overwhelming when someone is stressed.

8. Include the recipe. This can be especially helpful for those with food sensitivities or allergies too—they can have a little more confidence when they can review the recipe.

9. Include a note of encouragement, which mentions what you brought. This is helpful when a number of meals are provided. It can be difficult to remember and sort out who brought what when writing thank you cards. (Yes, I know, you didn’t do it to be thanked.)

10. Even if you don’t cook or have time to prepare a meal, you can help. Offer to run errands, clean, babysit, carpool kids, or provide a gift card for take-out.

What is comfort food to you? 

Have you comforted others with food or received this kind of comfort food from someone?  If so, what was your experience?

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Gallery of Favorites Holiday Edition

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Cleaning the Kitchen and Ordering My World: Soul Food

Yesterday, my kitchen and dining room was an outward expression of an inward condition. A collection of displaced items, useful items like shoes, books, platters, bowls, foodstuff, mixed with things beyond their usefulness like empty boxes, trash, dead flowers from weekends past, and a grimy counter. None of it required urgent attention, but the mess noisily taunted.

Of course, I could have retreated to my computer to assuage the echo in my head of all the undone to-do list items, like, oh yeah, WRITE A BLOG POST, dovetailing nicely with the burgeoning angst of what will this ever amount to? The restlessness has been palpable, a host of ideas without clear plans to implement, seemingly stalled in the fast lane of life. Clean, write, plan, develop recipes and projects, exercise, read, learn new technology, laundry, dinner (just to eat), and the demands of family all weigh in at the same time. With all these things thrown together without a plan, tackling life is more akin to Whack-a-Mole game than savored living, hence the restlessness.

However, just the day before, the greater need with the quieter voice brought this plea to the forefront, “God, order my world.”  I decided I should cooperate with my own prayer; starting the day quietly with my bible, I then began to return each item in the cluttered chaos to its rightful place. No inspired music to move me along, just whispered conversation with the lover of my soul, wooing me to loosen my grip just a little from the cares I held.  It did not happen all at once, there were plenty of interruptions–this life I lead is real–but I did not miss the lesson.

In the still, UN-busy and quieted place, yielded before God, I gained the intangible peace and confidence for all else before me. It is not an escape, but a solace–a soul-centering constant–momentary, yet lasting. Whether by drip or deluge, this renews me time and again when my self-imposed, imbalanced struggle for _____ has tipped the scales once more.

It is a simple petition, “God, order my world.” He knows the details of the request. He has watched the fruitless flailing and held-back tears. Waiting, wondering when it will be enough, what will it take for me to relent and yield. It is all right there–peace, revelation, strength, provision, guidance, wisdom–ready for my cooperation with the divine.  He has shown me in this stillness is the exchange of restlessness for repose.

As you might guess, when the counter was free of crumb and crust, the last item secured, creativity returned as I imagined what I might cook next. It was okay no post was written and I still do not know what all this will amount to … with my world in order, both external and internal, I am refreshed and renewed for whatever lies ahead.

Shared on:
Premeditated Leftovers Gallery of Favorites

Mother’s Day Soul Food: Feature Fridays

Featuring a few videos today in honor of Mother’s Day.  Pour a cup of coffee or grab some popcorn (you might want to have some tissues nearby too) and relax with these tributes to motherhood.  Encourage other moms too—pass along a little laughter, inspiration, empathy, encouragement—there is something here for everyone. Enjoy!

Happy Mother’s Day!  

Soul Food: Inspired Reflection

Inspired reflection—that momentary pause when thought and emotions intertwine to consider the profound. Whether prompted by human touch, written word, nature’s beauty, allegory, or song, you are keenly aware you were just given a glimpse of something transcendent. Today, this video, this song, did just that.  Deeply grateful.

Glenn Packiam serves our church as pastor, teacher, author, songwriter, and worship leader. It is a pleasure to know him and a privilege to glean from his inspired reflections, poured-out through his teaching and music.  Written by Glenn Packiam and Matthew Fallentine, the song At The Cross (Hallelujah) is on Glenn’s latest album The Kingdom Comes (the video was created and posted on YouTube by someone else).


Soul Food: Gossip, Did You Hear the Latest?

The gossips

Image by jaci XIII via Flickr

We deal with gossip every day, either on the distribution or receiving side of it.  Tabloid-type-talk is everywhere—the workplace, schools, at the grocery checkout, news stories, emails, Face Book, and bible studies—let’s face it, wherever two or more are gathered there is potential for talking about someone not present.  You have probably heard the line in Steel Magnolias when Clairee says, “Well, you know what they say: if you don’t have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!”  Sometimes, we are not the gossiper; instead, we partake by soaking up all the juicy details, departing with a clear conscience since we do not intend to tell anyone else. But let’s be real here, if gossip has no receiver, it has no power.

This topic came up yesterday with my daughter as we shared some couch time during the precious few moments she was at home between classes and work.  She was venting her frustration with co-workers and the constant gossip that circulates as they talk about the work habits, personal lives, and characteristics of others.  The negativity, distrust, and defensiveness it brings to the workplace are stifling, not to mention the barriers it creates to developing real friendships.

Our other daughter, who is in high school (a gossip mill if there ever was one), describes her take on gossip, “If you will talk to me about someone else, then you’ll talk to someone else about me.”  She has learned that lesson the hard way as the subject of reputation robbing rumors. Whether true or untrue, gossip is a double-edged destroyer, not only demeaning the person talked about, but also infecting the character of those involved in its circulation.

According to Webster’s, gossip is a: rumor or report of an intimate nature b: a chatty talk

I would add one more: Unauthorized, personal information veiled in a prayer request.  Even if you are well meaning, sharing intimate information about someone without their permission is not honoring.  Christians tend to use this form of gossip more and any other. “Did you hear about … well I heard … we need to pray for them.” Little praying takes place, instead there is lots of “chatty talk”.

So how do we graciously avoid gossip?

1.  Don’t say anything about someone you would not say if they were present.
2.  Excuse yourself from conversation that involves gossip. (Yes, leave if you have to.)
3.  When someone wants to complain to you about someone else, ask them if they have talked to the person about the issue. Let them know they are free to tell you once they do.  This gives them a chance to resolve it without your involvement and most of the time it never makes its way back to you. Remember: #2 is always an option.
4.  If you are unable to remove yourself from where the gossip is taking place, you will have to take a stand and let friends or co-workers know you are not comfortable discussing people like that. Saying something nice about the individual squashes the mood too.
5.  If someone has a prayer request that becomes too personal about someone else, gently tell them you do not need to know all the details to pray.
6.  If someone shares personal information with you, ask them if you have permission to share it (even with a spouse) or to ask others for prayer on their behalf.  This honors their privacy.
7.  Remember, gossip has no power when there is no receiver.

Getting to the root of gossip.

Judgment, insecurity, and elevation of Self are what gossip revolves around.  When we engage in gossip, spreading it or listening to it, we make judgments about people or their circumstances.  Our own insecurity draws us into conversations about other people.  If we think there is a chink in their armor, we may experience momentary satisfaction, feeling better about ourselves.  That is the subtly destructive aspect of gossip; it diminishes our character by feeding its counterfeit—self-esteem.  The temporary feeling of superiority can never supplant the lasting character developed when we choose to humble ourselves and build others up.

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

How do you graciously avoid gossip?  Or do you?

Soul Food: Encouragement & Anecdotes

Ready for yet another theme at Savoring Today?  Adding Soul Food to the post cycle feels as natural as a memorized recipe.  Long before the inspiration to start a food blog and write a cookbook, there was the desire to share the deeper things of life—that which feeds the soul.

Soul Food will be more about heart stuff than foodstuff, though the two are so often intertwined—all the ingredients of life folded into the day-to-day. It will be an infusion of personal insight or stories inspired by struggles, victories, revelation, laughter, tears, comfort, mountaintops, and valleys.  Not to be confused with a personal advice column, Soul Food is intended to feed the places that food cannot, relying on God as the source.

Of course, I would love this to be more of a dialogue of encouragement, so feel free to leave a comment any time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few months ago a friend gave me a book, it was one of those “just because” gifts, Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire.  It’s a series of short, poignant stories about the “windows” (perspectives) we look through and what we do about what we see.  It’s the kind of book you can leave on your nightstand and learn something profound each time you pick it up.  She wrote a sweet note to me in the front and specifically marked one of the chapters—when a friend goes to that kind of effort, you pay attention.

That gift, the inscription, the marked pages, helped inspire the launch of this new theme Soul Food on Savoring Today, so my first post is a highlight from the chapter, Windows of Writing.

A Prayer For Discovery

Help me, O God,

Help me to discover the gifts You have given me
and how to use those gifts in a way that is worthy of the giver.

Help me to discover something of who I am from the things that I write,
whether those things are a letter or a journal entry,
a poem or a play,
a novel or a note to a friend.

In those lines and between those lines
help me discover how to live my life.

Grant that I might live it honestly,
without pretensions or pseudonyms,

and fragrantly,
with the aroma of extravagant love
spilling from the
brokenness of my heart
onto Yours …

Soul Food

Offered by Pati Micciulla:
Guest Author, Friend and Cooking Buddy

My neighbor, Judy and I cook together once a month. Sometimes just the two of us. Other times, close friends like Donna joins in. We have had as many as four women cooking meals for our individual families. Four women times fourteen meals times twenty people! Can you just imagine the Costco receipt looking like a stock market ticker tape?

Judy and I have been getting together once a month for more than eleven years. It all began as two women, wives and moms, desiring to feed our broods with prepared meals without the processed, chemical-laced food found in the usual grocery chains. We started with the book, Once a Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary B Lagerborg. They expanded on the idea of what our grandmas taught us—if you are going to prepare a pot of soup make extra to freeze for later.

As with any project Judy undertakes, a vague concept becomes a whole different animal. Call it ideas on steroids. The concept in the book along with Master Cook®, software that creates shopping lists and menus, allowed us to prepare gourmet meals on a budget in mass production. Tyson Foods never saw so many chicken breasts in one place. To say the book’s original recipes were inedible would be an understatement. To this day we still laugh about the Chicken Packets recipe. My menu on the fridge ended the daily ritual of asking a hunk of meat, “What do you want to be tonight?”  Judy’s husband, always willing to do his part, lovingly created a spreadsheet to break down expenses right down to the cost of butter pats (which we use liberally). In our opinion, every recipe needed more garlic even if none was called for. Butter and olive oil always replace margarine or canola oil.

Over time, many seasons and life events passed. Children were potty trained, teeth were lost, splinters removed and kids went off for the first days of school. Birthdays came and went, children graduated from high school, grand babies born, and laughter mingled with tears that were wiped away like the spills on the stove. As we joined together, depending on life circumstances, one would become the “brain,” able to decipher the recipe while the other became a “worker bee” cutting and chopping on rote. We solved all of life’s problems over a period of eight or nine hours, most of them our own.  Through the process of collecting recipes, stirring pots and calculating receipts, our bond to each other was cemented. Over the passage of time, we dished-out hurt, slurped sympathy, ladled-up love, and mixed-in a whole lot of patience and forgiveness.

Although other friends have been invited into our cooking group and taught conceptually how to build a deep connection over food, Judy and I have been the mainstay.  What began as collaboration between neighbors developed far beyond recipe swapping and feeding our families. We fed each others soul.

Judy

Pati