With Marcella #2 (of 466)

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I had a moment of mild panic – mainly about starting this project and then also publicising that I had started this project. But then I had a quick flick through Marcella’s book, chose a recipe for lunch the next day and also reminded myself that, as yet, I have a mere two followers of this blog. So any shame that may come from giving up after three recipes will not be a shame that is suffered for very long.

Today I cooked Marcella’s ‘Cauliflower Sauce with Garlic, Olive Oil and Chilli Pepper’. The reason I chose this for my second attempt was, quite simply, to use up the half a cauliflower that was in my fridge.

I don’t like Cauliflower very much. I can’t even remember why I bought it in the first place? But it needed using. To use up the half a cauliflower, I needed to stop on the way home from church to purchase a bottle of olive oil as I had run out of said ingredient. (This was not as bad as the time I felt compelled to purchase ground almonds, fresh raspberries and raspberry jam in order to cook a recipe that would use up the half a packet of flaked almonds in my pantry). The olive oil was a more sensible purchase.

Marcella recommends combining this sauce with penne pasta. I had none, so went with a mixture of a half packet of farfalle and some mini pasta shells leftover from one of Nigella’s creations. I had a moment where I wondered if I was breaking the rules to use a pasta other than her recommendation – but then realised that it was, indeed, just a recommendation – and felt free to continue with this minor adjustment.

The resulting dish was quick to make and lovely to eat – mixed pasta, cauliflower and all.

Today: #2 ‘Cauliflower Sauce with Garlic, Olive Oil and Chilli Pepper’ with Helen (still visiting) at my table.

With Marcella #1 (of 466)

At my table I am unsure if I am breaking my own rules. If I am, I am unsure if I care. Tonight I have embarked on a new project, cooking the first of 466 recipes in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Should I finish Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen before embarking on another book? After 100 recipes (of 153) I ran out of steam. But I did reach a milestone.

Should I finish Anna Del Conte’s Classic Italian Recipes? I’ve cooked 49 recipes (of 75) – so I haven’t even reached a neat 50.

Could I do some ‘cross-crediting’ where Anna’s recipes overlap with Marcella’s (and Nigella draws from both their kitchens)? Or would that really be breaking the rules?

I am concerned – but not enough to stop myself beginning a new project. I’ve taken time to count the recipes. I am more than a little alarmed by the chapter entitled ‘Variety Meats’ which contains 11 recipes requiring the use of animal parts I would rather not use.

But I started, tonight, with ‘A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart’. It was simple, yet lovely. Thinly sliced pears in a light sponge batter. It was a reassuring place to start. Marcella claimed that ‘only an active campaign of sabotage could ruin it.’ I did burn the top a little, leaving it in a little too long – but I was writing an email to an Italian woman – so perhaps I get bonus points?

Who knows what rules apply here – maybe none? But I will start and see if I can finish – or maybe, in the end, be satisfied that I almost finished.

No makings of a movie here. But hopefully the makings of some stories and some moments around tables.

Tonight: #1 ‘A Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart’ with Helen at my table.

Care-filled Whispers

At my table, sat a fellow confessor. She, like me, confesses Jesus as Lord and has absolute faith in God and his rule over this world and over our lives. Yet she, like me, had another confession to make.

We confessed to having those moments, admittedly only briefly, where we wonder if it’s all an elaborate hoax. Do we believe in a God that’s in control, simply because we’ve been told it all our lives? Or because the alternative is unbearable to contemplate? Or because we draw comfort from a sense of purpose behind everything…even if, maybe at that very moment, it seems there may not be such a purpose at all?

It’s a weighty confession for two women of orthodoxy – a confession that’s whispered between the two of us – a confession that, deep down, we know isn’t right. And we both detect a darker whisperer present in those moments. ‘Did God really say…?’ ‘Is it really true…?’ ‘Take this fruit and you’ll know everything…’

Our whispers were a little frightening. We were confessing that we don’t know it all – or perhaps (more likely) that we don’t like what we do know – not at that moment, anyway.

And we confessed God’s truth again to one another. We know he is exists – he is truth – and his plans are good and right. He alone holds the understanding of the twists and turns of our lives – those unexpected, uncalled for changes. He also understands and reigns over the landscape of our lives that is often painfully barren and unchanging.

We’re called to trust him. And there, at that table, we called one another to trust him again. And trust can feel relatively simple for that moment – sitting, confessing together. But what about the next moment? And the moments stretching ‘endlessly’ beyond that moment?

And it’s that thought, at that moment, that drew forth another confession – from both of us:

‘Sometimes I just say to the Lord “Take me now, Lord, I’d be OK with that.”

“Me too! He could take me, too!”

It’s a whispered confession we’ve heard from other’s too – those who love their Lord but are tired of travelling a barren path. It’s not that we have a death wish – but, if we’re honest, a wish for another life – or changed life circumstances, at least. We know that if our lives changed (in the way we’d like them to change) then we’d hastily retract the request to be taken. “Don’t take me now – not just yet!.”

Later, as I was sitting alone at another table in a somewhat ordinary cafe, I recalled the confession of the Lord I follow:

‘My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death…take this cup from me…’

If his confession had ended there, we’d have no sort of Saviour to follow – we’d have a sympathetic friend – but no hope – no words beyond our own words.

‘Nevertheless, your will be done.’

A confession of obedience and deep trust that continued beyond the sentence of death and feelings of sorrow. But it didn’t end there. I often forget that.

It only took me a train ride this morning – from my morning reading to that morning coffee with a friend – to forget the resurrection of our Saviour. His was no flat, final, resignation with no hope. But submission, endurance and obedience to death – with the certain hope of vindication.

He was raised from death’s clutches to new life – our forerunner – allowing us to see and know and take comfort in a change that’s coming for us who trust and follow him. Yes, we share in his sufferings now – but we will also, one day, share in his glory – raised and changed forever!

That morning I was reminded in my reading that the power that raised Christ from the dead – from seeming barren finality – is the same power that is at work in me, even now. It may not feel like it now – but my feelings rarely ‘see’ past my present circumstances. The truth is greater than my feelings.

My friend ended our coffee together by suggesting that the next time we feel we’ve had enough of this life or, at the very least, long for change (and, let’s face it, that next time could be this afternoon) we should text the other with the confession ‘I’m having a “beam me up” moment! Please pray!’

The doubts will keep on whispering – but the true confession rings loud and clear from the sure and certain resurrection event. ‘He is risen!’ – the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.


Solitary Travellers

“That was a life-changing evening, that was!”

“What was?”

“Going to see the Queen”

He said it like he didn’t mean it.

“It was so loud!”

He said it like he wasn’t.

At my table, in Costa, Gatwick Airport, I was sitting with two other solitary travellers. The three of us had formed a circle of gratitude and mutual care – at least, that’s how I liked to think of it.

The first man was sitting alone at a table for four. In the absence of any empty tables, I approached.

Me: Do you mind if I share your table?

Man #1: You’re welcome to sit here.

Me: Thank you

And I start clearing old cups and plates from previous customers and must therefore look…reliable?…matronly? or just careful?…which I am at that moment (careful, that is) as I don’t wish to inadvertently tidy away his coffee cup. But, as it turns out, he doesn’t have one…

Man #1: Actually, could you do me a favour?

I wonder what.

Man #1: Would you mind my bag while I go and get a coffee? I’ve been waiting for someone to come to the table so I can go order a coffee.

And I think, “He looks reliable, tidy and orderly with his jacket neatly hung over the handle of his cabin bag, wearing neat, casual business attire. There’s a possibility he could be neat but dangerous – but I’ll throw caution to the wind”

Me: Sure!

By now I’ve finished the long and involved task of clearing cups from the table and then he, in what I can only assume is a repayment of my kindness, takes the crockery-laden tray away.

Me: Thank you!

While he’s away, I dutifully keep an eye on his bag and protect his chair from a determined lady gathering chairs for a party of five. There are now two chairs left at our table. Mine and Man #1’s.

Then along comes Man #2. A little less business-like in appearance, but neat, tidy and polite, nevertheless.

Man #2: Would you mind if I sit at this table?

Me: That chair there (indicating Man #1’s chair) is taken. But if you can find another chair, you’re welcome to share this table.

And he does (find a chair) and he does (sit at our table).

And Man #1 returns to the table with a coffee.

And Man #2 (carefully) opens his newly purchased novel.

And Man #1 (neatly) opens his newspaper.

And Me, I place my Kindle (precisely) on the table.

And we all read and drink coffee in solitary, companionable silence.

That is until the party of five sit down at the table next to us. The silence is broken by the story of meeting the Queen. And the story is loud…..

But then (finally) they leave and the three of us are, once again, in comparative silence.

No exciting stories at out table – or if there are, we’re not sharing them – just courtesy, company and quiet.