January 14, 2021

Jan 14, 2021

Image: Melanie Kyer

Cooking Lessons

I love to cook and bake, especially at the holidays. I am often using tried and true recipes, or maybe no recipe at all, just improvising by how the chili tastes, or how the dough “feels.” Sometimes, though, it is a new recipe or one I don’t use very often, and I have to “trust the recipe.” 

For Christmas Eve, my husband’s family traditionally has French Onion soup, so since we were home this year, it fell to me.  The recipe requires caramelizing a lot of onions. I am not very patient and I wanted to move on to the next step many times before they were just the right golden brown.  But I waited. I stirred. Each time I looked they were just a bit more soft and had gained just a bit more color.  There was no specific time listed to cook– I just had to wait as long as I possibly could and trust they were caramelized enough. It might have still been a good onion soup if I had stopped earlier, but in the end, the wonderful sweetness was truly revealed by slow gentle roasting for what seemed like forever. Trust the recipe.

After Christmas we made orange marmalade for the first time. I had never made it, so I kept checking the recipe which this time happily came with more specific instructions:  cook until the marmalade reaches 220 degrees.  And yet, even though I knew exactly what to wait for, there was a long time when it felt like progress was frustratingly slow. The marmalade looked and smelled beautiful– did I really need to wait for the thermometer to tell me when to pour it into jars? Well, if I hadn’t, I might be enjoying orange sauce instead of lovely marmalade. Trust the recipe.

Much of the past few months have felt like that. We have waited for the election. We have waited for the birth of Jesus, our Christmas traditions, and the magi. We have waited for a vaccine to be developed. Sometimes it has seemed like those things would never happen. Through it all, it has seemed like stirring the onions or making marmalade:  we know we are not done stirring, but it is so hard to wait. Why can’t we just move on?  Trust the recipe.

But do we even have a recipe for these times which we have never seen before? Scientists may have developed a vaccine, but we do not know how long it will take to be administered to everyone, nor do we know how long it will take before our lives are “back to normal.”  So now what? I like to think the recipe does lie in the hands of our “Master Chef.” The problem is, on our end, it is more like the soup recipe than the marmalade one. We know the method set out for us, but we don’t know the “time” or the “temperature” when everything will be finished. We can pray to discern the will of God in our lives and to live accordingly. We can distance and wear masks.  And we can practice patience that ultimately, the soup will turn out well.

In other words:  trust the recipe. 

Melanie Kyer
January 8, 2021