With Marcella #3 & #4 (of 466)

Today, I met with three women. One with cause to celebrate. One with cause for concern. One with cause for grave concern. The concerns were matters I could do little or nothing about. Nothing but listen, try not say anything stupid, and pray with them.

I came home to cook dinner. Thankful for the reliability and ease of Marcella Hazan’s recipes, I settled into the task at hand: making Marcella’s ‘Pesto by the Mortar Method’ to be used with her ‘Pasta and Pesto with Potatoes and French Beans’.

I did pause to wonder if I could justify some ‘cross-crediting’ as I had covered these recipes in alternative forms in previous culinary visits with Nigella and Anna, but my internal rule-abiding would not allow. Besides, it was a comfort to approach a not-so-challenging challenge after the day that was in it.

I once met a pastor who had taken up the hobby of making bird houses in his spare time. He did it to have something that he could complete and perfect in the midst of work with people – work that was never complete or perfect – not entirely.

I have taken to cooking through cookbooks. Nice neat lists. Pages to mark. Recipes to complete, to note in my book, date and tick. Not to mention the joy of tasting something that results from careful attention given to a prescribed collection of ingredients. So neat, so tidy, so satisfying and, in today’s case, so delightfully green!

I’d not made pesto in a mortar before today. As I pounded away with the pestle, the pesto slowly took shape (or, I should say, the leaves and pine nuts and garlic surrendered their shape). I reflected briefly (as I can rarely reflect and cook at the same time – hence the therapeutic value) on the challenges before those women – challenges that would not go away anytime soon. Their challenges are messy and pressured – but I trust that God can bring something good out of it all.

I know I can’t.

But I can now make pesto by the mortar method. I will, however, revert to the food processor for the next adventures with this bright green treasure. Not only is it easier – but it will count as another of Marcella’s recipes completed!

Today: #3 ‘Pesto by the Mortar Method’ and #4 ‘Pasta and Pesto with Potatoes and French Beans’ with Helen at my table (she is leaving tomorrow morning and is therefore currently trying to ‘pestle’ her belongings into her suitcase – another challenge I can do nothing about).

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