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The Cross & Cleaver: The Good ‘Ol Days

Every time I write this refection, and a recipe, I hope to come across as a passionate Christian minister and a guy passionate about cooking. Not necessarily in that order. I believe that preparation, sharing, and eating of food, is essential to what it means to be a community. It is not just a Christian perspective. Many cultures, and religions, regard communal eating as sacred. Something not to be trifled with. In other words, I mix cooking and Christianity.

I am thinking now of the American theologian and ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, named “America’s Best Theologian” in 2001 by “Time” magazine. He proposes frequently that: “the greatest enemy of Christianity is not atheism, it’s sentimentality.” Let’s take it outside of the Christian, or even religious, context. Whining about the “good ol’ days” and proclaiming that “we have always done it that way” never really helped anyone. Simply because, as Facebook© meme reads, “nostalgia is a liar that insists things were better than thy seem.” I am yet to come across a person missing the outhouse or waking up in the middle of the winter’s night to add wood to the fireplace. We all miss bits and pieces of the past; just not all of it.

Most of us, just as Israel people on their exodus journey, remember the food of our past. Some of it we still cannot get enough, and some of it we wish we would never see again. Many can recall dishes we either loved or hated, perhaps still do. Except … things change, we change. Haven’t you ever uttered the phrase “good, but not like mum used to make”?

How do we reconcile yearning for the past, with inability to “enter the same river twice”? Well, here are two menus, from my past, that taste different yet the same. Like with Christian identity and worship of my tradition … trying to recapture the past, while acknowledging the advance of time.

Variation on a memory (ingredients for one … simply multiply as needed):

Hard boil 2 large eggs. Cut in half and scoop out, leaving half-shells intact. Chop the eggs and mix with tsp. of mayonnaise or oil, tbsp. of finely chopped chives, and season with salt, pepper and a touch of cayenne powder or dash of hot sauce. Gently but tightly, stuff the mixture back into half-shells (level with the edges). Brush the top with oil or melted butter

and sprinkle generously with breadcrumbs. Gently fry in butter, open side down, on mid-high, until heated through and breadcrumbs are golden-brown.

Serve with “A” or “B”:

“A” Boil 8 baby potatoes. When cooked, drain, and put in small bowl, throw in some butter, tsp. of lemon juice, and handful of chopped parsley. Cover tightly with clingfilm. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

For the veg. cut half a cumber into slices. Mix in a bowl with tbsp. of sour cream (or buttermilk, or cream), tsp. of dill, and season with salt and pepper.

“B” Boil 2 large potatoes. When cooked, drain, and mash the way you like it. Mine are never peeled, with knob of butter, tbsp. of sour cream (or buttermilk, or cream), seasoned with salt and pepper.

For the veg. cut a large tomato into slices, and arrange on a plate, side-by-side. Top with a tbsp. of finely chopped onion of your preference (white, yellow, red, green, or even chives). Add a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of vinegar (of your choosing once again). Season with salt and pepper.


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