Love is never wasted

Some time ago, I came across an anguished post by a devoted mom. She had spent an entire week teaching her kids an in-depth, hands-on, cross-curricular lesson on the major watercolorists of western art. Her kids were enthralled, and seemed to really internalize not only the beauty of the work, but also some of the history, the technical side, and even the biographies of the artists they studied.

Next week? They said, “Watercolor? What’s watercolor?”

Poor mom. Kids are crumbs, and that’s just a fact. But the thing that struck me is that the woman berated herself over having wasted so much time with the lesson.

How wrong she was! There is no such thing as wasted time with your children. There is such a thing as time spent badly — time you spend belittling them, for instance. But there is no such thing as loving, attentive time that is wasted. This is true even if the kids have no conscious memory of the event, even if it’s only five minutes later (see: Kids are crumbs).

As I’ve said before, kids are “not empty mason jars waiting to be filled up with the perfect combination of ingredients. We’re making people, here, not soup.”

There are two related mistakes we can make when we’re raising children. One is that we can imagine that it’s all within our control, and that if we simply add in all the right elements, we’re guaranteed to end up with a happy, confident, faithful, moral, self-sufficient, grounded, hard-working, honest human being. (It doesn’t help that a lot of self-styled experts make a tidy living by all but promising success if you just follow their guidelines.)  The truth is, we can do ev-ry-thing-right and guess what? Kid still has free will. Kid still has specific brain chemistry. Kid still runs into a unique set of experiences, and kid processes them in a unique way according to ten thousand unpredictable variables.

So the first thing to remember is that, when we make parenting choices, we’re not putting in a customized order. It’s a much more delicate and artful and hazardous and beautiful process than that, because it is an act of love, and love can’t be reduced to supply and demand.

The second mistake is to imagine that, if we don’t see the immediate, expected results, it was a wasted effort. This is the folly the mom above fell prey to. She thought, when she was teaching her kids about Winslow Homer, that she was just teaching them about Winslow Homer. I love me some Winslow Homer, but I know that it’s much more important for the kids to learn about other things — things like, “Beauty is important and worth spending time on.” “Your mother loves you and thinks you are worth spending time on.”

Please note that these are things that you can teach by following an intensive Montessori-based course on the history of watercolor, or you can teach it by hanging around on a trampoline telling stupid jokes, or you can teach it by driving the kid to all his hideously tedious T-ball games all weekend long, or you can teach it by . . . well, you get the idea. Time and attention. These are the two things that kids need, and there are a million different ways you can provide them. This is also because time and attention are acts of love, and you cannot count all the ways that love can be expressed.

The child may be the kind of person who accepts and recognizes your love and attention immediately, saying things like, “I had a nice day with you, Mama.” Or he may be the other kind of kid, who doesn’t seem to care at all.  He may not think twice about these things until he has children of his own. He may be the kind of kid who thinks you’re a terrible parent, until one day, at age 50, he had a sudden recollection of a thing you did, and realizes, “She loved me so much!”

There is so much mystery in the human psyche and how it develops. We can work ourselves into a panic fretting that we haven’t given properly, and that our children aren’t receiving properly; and half the time, we’ll be right. Truly, the only way we can be at peace is if, along with doing our best, we remember to turn our children’s lives over to God, over and over again. God’s generosity works both ways: He is generous in what He gives us, and He is generous in how He receives, as well. When we turn our children over to God, He will not let our efforts go to waste. This is because God is love, and when we show love to the people in our care, God will not let that love go to waste. 

***

This post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2016.

Radio! Theology on Tap! Adult Faith Formation! Awards! Consent! BEARS!

Busy little week for me! 

Tonight, at 10 Eastern, I’ll be on my old friend Mark Shea’s new radio show. I have some bear stories to tell, so this is important! Listen here, and call in with your own bear stories. 1-866-333-6279
 
Second, tomorrow I’m flying to Princeton, NJ, where I’ll be speaking at the Triumph Brewery at 7 PM for a Theology on Tap.  The topic: Catholics and Consent! What’s the Deali-o! (working title) But seriously, Catholics are kind of allergic to talking about consent in sensible ways that acknowledge both our spiritual life and the actual fixes we find ourselves in, and I am to fix that.
 
Then Wednesday the 26th, I’ll be delivering a speech to the adult faith formation program at the St. Paul Spiritual Center at 7 p.m. at 214 Nassau St. in Princeton at 7 PM. It’s a sort of companion topic, building on what I discussed the previous night. The topic: When Women Say Yes: How Mary Invented Consent. I happen to love this speech, and last time I gave it, two theologians personally told me that they didn’t think it had any heresy in it at all!

Finally, I’m honored and delighted to announce that I won a first place award from the Catholic Press Association for my column in America Magazine this year. Here is what the judges said:

The author’s great gift is drawing up very lucid philosophical arguments and connecting things one might normally not. A lot of great imagery, too. “Jesus Knew” was one of the best columns in the entire competition. (And one of the best on the abuse scandal, as well.) “On Suicide and Abortion” was also excellent; very thoughtful and very sensitive, but also very strong.
 
It is an absolute joy to be writing for America. The editorial team is one of the best I’ve ever worked with, at every level. 
 
P.S. The picture is a picture of a dog in the sidecar of a motorcycle, waiting for the Blessed Sacrament to pass by. If your parish doesn’t have a Corpus Christi procession, tell your pastor you won’t stop crying until you get one. And then buy him ice cream afterward!

What’s for supper? Vol. 175: The rain it raineth every day

So, last time I did an AMA, and every time, a few people ask about how to get kids to eat better food and how to cook decent food when you have little kids. It is clearly a constant source of worry and frustration for so many parents; and oh how clearly I remember that worry and frustration. I remember reading about other moms who were always trying new and exciting recipes and serving side dishes that don’t come out of a greasy bag with a comical pig on the outside, and wondering what was wrong with me. 

So I just wanted to remind everyone:

I have two adult children and four teenagers living at home right now. They all help me cook, or help me with other stuff while I cook. My husband works from home, and he often helps me cook, or helps me with other stuff while I cook, or he cooks dinner outright. He even looks up recipes and shops for ingredients. 

I don’t have any babies, and am not massively sleep deprived; and I’m not nursing anyone, so I can regularly sit down and do a task from start to finish without a thousand interruptions. 

And even despite all these advantages, if I took a few weeks off writing about food, my routine would slide really quickly back into chicken nuggets and frozen peas, and I certainly wouldn’t be arranging it on the plate so it looks as pretty as possible. Part of the purpose of Friday food posts is to force me to try harder with food. It propels me to find new and interesting things to cook, so I don’t die of boredom or shame.

Just a little disclaimer, in case you needed it. Here is my explainer for why I refuse to worry about what my kids eat for dinner. In general, I firmly believe that if you’re keeping your family alive and no one has rickets or scurvy, it is perfectly okay to have other priorities besides making pretty plates and mixing up adventurous marinades. Sometimes, there are other things that are more important than interesting food, and you can’t make everything a priority. You just can’t. 

Okay, now on to the food! Which was decent this week, but not especially adventurous, except for Sunday. 

SATURDAY
Fish tacos

I get home pretty late on Saturdays from shopping (which takes 3+ hours and often includes confession, haircuts, shoe shopping, etc.), so it has to be something fast, but I’m awfully tired of serving grilled ham and cheese or hamburgers on Saturdays. Fish tacos is fast, as long as you use frozen fish and don’t get too fancy with salsas and slaws and whatnot. 

Looks like I forgot a picture, but mine had sour cream, salsa, avocado, shredded cabbage, and fresh lime juice on a tortilla with batter fried fish of some kind. Please don’t ask if I got scrod. That information is private, and open only to subscribers.

I heard this thing on the radio about mango salsa, and I forgot all about mango salsa. ‘Tis the season, isn’t it! I think next week will be mango week. Just not on Saturday.

SUNDAY
Fadder’s Day cookout!

My own fadder was out of town visiting other family members, so we had a nice quiet day at home. By which I mean Benny had a fever, so Damien got up and went to the early Mass so he could stay home with the little guys while I took the others to a later Mass, because Elijah was serving. Hey, it was better than the father’s day he spent scrubbing poop out of the mesh sides of a port-a-crib. We did have a nice little brunch.

For dinner, one of the kids bought two enormous steaks for Damien and me — one a sirloin, and one a flank steak, which we’ve never had before.  Damien made a rub for the sirloin out of kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and a little chili powder.

So, flank steak is lean and somewhat tough, so it needs marinating, but it has an extraordinary flavor. After it marinated several hours in olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and brown sugar, he seasoned it with kosher salt and pepper, then he seared both steaks on the grill in the rain. I don’t know if rain was a necessary ingredient, but it always seems to be present on grilling days. 

The sirloin was great. The flank steak was out of this world. The texture was startling to me — very lean and fibrous, but you cut it across the grain thinly and it has a very intense flavor I can only describe as . . . meaty. I know that’s not helpful, but it’s like ever-so-much-more-so beef.  This is not a great photo, but you can see the texture:

We also had little rolls, guacamole and chips, and strawberries and cream on angel food cake. 

The guac turned out okay (recipe card at end), although the store had put up a sign that said “avocados ripe today!” but really, agreed the lady in the store and I as we sorted and squeezed, they meant “avocados ripe yesterday;” so it was a little mushier than I like it.

The strawberries and cream were just as one would hope. Lightly mashed strawberries with a little sugar, freshly whipped cream with a little sugar, and store bought angel food cake.

Moe gave Damien some good chocolate and a gift card for a cigar shop, but he wrapped it in a “live animal” box from Petco. Because if you can’t almost give your father a heart attack, is it even really father’s day?

Also on this day, Corrie helped herself to no one knows how many chocolate-covered espresso beans, so it was ever-so-much-more-so Corrie until pretty late at night. 

Oh, to make the day even more special, we rearranged the living room so we could settle the piano in.

Did I tell you I bought a piano? I know you’re supposed to never pay for a piano, but what if it’s a nice lady raising money for Kiwanis and she delivers, eh? We still had to rent ramps and Damien still hurt his back (this was last week), but it’s a lovely little instrument in good condition, and it fits into our miniature living room, which is close to miraculous. I bought the Bastien book for Older Beginners, and I finished the first unit last night. I’m excited! There’s life in the old dame yet.

MONDAY
Bagel sandwiches

There was also tons of leftover steak, so, for duty and humanity, I had cold flank steak over baby spinach for lunch. 

For supper, we had bagel sandwiches with sausage, egg, and cheese. 

A cozy little meal for, you guessed it, a rainy day.

TUESDAY
Berry chicken salad

Just a great summer dish, and good for those days when everyone comes home to eat at different times.

Chicken breast roasted in the oven with olive oil and lemon pepper seasoning, and then cooled and sliced; mixed greens, strawberries and blueberries, feta cheese, and toasted almonds. 

I bought some kind of fancy pants berry vinaigrette, which disappeared long before Tuesday. No one ate it; it just disappeared. So I had balsamic vinegar, which was fine. I hope balsamic vinegar is good for you, because I have it on everything. 

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Last day of school! It was a half day and then the school has an unofficial final field trip to the local beach. I spent most of the time standing on the shore, thinking about how much easier life is now that the kids are older, and I don’t have to freak out and panic the entire time they’re in the water.

Then we got home and, my voice hoarse after shouting, “Corrie, come back, that’s deep enough! Corrie, come back, that’s deep enough! Corrie, I said COME BACK NOW!!!!” forty-six thousand times, I collapsed. Actually, come to think of it, it’s fricking exhausting to be at the beach with kids, even if they are older. It would have been easier if I had gone in the water with them, but my body positivity project hasn’t gotten up to the chapter where you’re okay with taking off your clothes in front of all the other parents. 

Then we came home and had hot dogs and chips. Actually Damien made them. I was too busy still collapsing hoarsely. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, curly fries, coleslaw

We haven’t had pulled pork for a while. I meant to start it in the slow cooker early in the morning, since the cut I had was not the most tender. I forget what I had, but it’s the kind you get from Aldi all cryogenically wrapped so it looks like a Sandworm.

But suddenly it was afternoon. So I hacked in half and chunked it in the Instant Pot, had Corrie dump in a can of Coke, and, after a fruitless search for some kind of pepper or whatnot, I just sealed up the lid and pressed the “meat” button. When it beeped, I shouted at someone to press the “meat” button again. Close to dinner, I got a “burn” message, because I didn’t put it enough liquid. I opened it up and it looked awful. The liquid was all gone, and there was this dark sludge on the bottom. I nervously pulled the meat out with tongs and sniffed it. Okay, not actually burnt, but surely it will be tough as leather.

Dude, it was perfect. It fell apart with the mere thought of a fork. I scraped up all the sludge from the bottom, and dumped in a bottle of Carolina BBQ sauce, and it was moist, tender, and delicious. 

So remember: Dump, meat, meat, burn, sludge, scrape, glug. That’s my recipe, and I’m sticking to it.

I also made some quick coleslaw with cabbage, carrot, mayo, vinegar, sugar, and pepper, and we had seasoned curly fries, and I ate outside in the rain, which was just a little rain.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese, string beans

I’ve been avoiding these string beans all week, but I think the time has come. Dora brought me home a treasure trove of cheese ends from the deli. Some of that cheese has speckles in it. Speckles! And it’s barely even raining today. 

***

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

In which I answer anything, vol. 4

Off we go!

Why does everything in the house break at the same time?

It’s because of that thing you did. You know what I mean. 

Your take on Lino Rulli and the Catholic Guy Show. Would you consider appearing as a guest if asked?

I would consider appearing on anything, including a five dollar bill, an ass tattoo, and a special story hour designed to reassure children that even though they’ve been told repeatedly to listen to their gut and stay away from tricky people, they should make an exception for things with hashtags because we’re building bridges or something. How dare you. Jesus died for people like you, and you won’t even show the new girl where the terlet is!

What is the strangest game your toddlers have played?

I’m torn between Puppy Sacrifice and Scissor Toss.

What is a mother of littles and no bigs supposed to do when she’s sick? What did you do?

Just suffered. I remember crawling on my hands and knees to the bathroom to violent throw up while three kids watched, impressed. I’m sorry. I think it’s possible I could have called people for help, but it didn’t occur to me; so if there’s anyone you can call, do so. 

Have you considered coming to the Catholic Press Association convention? I ask because then I could meet you and fanboy out about it.

It literally never occurs to me to leave the house when I don’t absolutely have to. How press do you have to be to go to the convention? Do you get disqualified for doing AMAs and talking about throwing up when you’re completely out of stuff to write about?

Did you always feel like you were going to have a big family and be a writer or is this completely different than what you thought your life would look like when you were younger?

I definitely always wanted a big family. We were thinking eight kids, but I honestly can’t remember when we decided that number was adjustable. I did toy with the idea of being an author after I won an award for my first book, The Day It Rained Piano Keys, and was given a certificate and a kiss by Tomie DePaolo (I was seven). When I started having kids and I thought we’d homeschool forever and be desperately poor forever, I assumed with dread that I would eventually end up cleaning homes or driving a school bus to make ends meet. So I am immensely grateful that it’s turned out this way. 

What is the greatest city in the world?

The greatest city I’ve ever been to is Rome. Although the whole thing smells like poop, both dog and human. The cobblestones are worn to a kind of luminous pewter which fills the air with a light I’ve never seen anywhere else, and the Roman pines hang over the sky like giant fans. You feel like you’re in a palace all the time, even with the poop smell.

What’s for breakfast and who made/is making it?
I don’t eat breakfast. Corrie has whatever the hell she wants. The kids have cereal or make themselves eggs or french toast. My job, as I see it, is to bring home food and walk away. 
 
 I’ve been looking for a certain charging cable for two days now. Where is it?
 

Once I found a missing charging table in the giant toy bucket. One end was tied around a stuffed penguin’s neck, and it had been cut in half. I never found the other end. Here’s hoping the people in your house are less monstrous. 

How does life with kids in the summer look different for you than life with kids during the school year?
 
It doesn’t look like the inside of a car, which is how it looks during the school year.   
 
Why does that one eyebrow hair always grow longer than the other eyebrow hairs?
 
I don’t know, but I have often envied unwanted facial hair for all its wonderful qualities. It’s so vigorous, so glossy, so well-rooted, so bold. Why can’t anything else in my life or on my body function that way? Had I the ambition and singleminded purposefulness of that one hair that thrusts itself so confidently out of the side of my chin, I could rule the world. 
 
Tom Servo or Crow?

Tom Servo captured my heart forever when he hit that high note in the very beautiful “Patrick Swayze Christmas”

How did you manage to cook food when you had only little kids? I’m pretty sure 90% of our caloric intake at this point is crackers, fruit, and ice cream. And cooking ahead doesn’t work because the kids still live here on weekends.
 
When we had only little kids, we also had far, far less money to cook with, so I don’t know if it would have been different if we had had a bigger budget. That’s how I started the habit of planning out a weekly menu and buying exactly what I needed ahead of time: I would realize, “I have $23 for food this week. What’s my plan?” So we had a lot of hot dogs, pasta, English muffin pizza with cheese from WIC, eggs, and noodle-heavy casseroles, and occasionally things like oat soup, which costs about 4 cents per serving, and then I supplemented with vitamins and apples. 
 
My nutritional goal was the same as it was for our homeschool day: Three things, and one of them not brown. But having a bunch of little kids is just plain exhausting, and trying to make a nice meal while shaking weeping people off your leg is no way to live. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and settle for keeping people alive, and believe that this very intense season is truly just a season, and thing loosen up later. They really do. 
 

What’s your favorite movie?

Roadhouse. It’s my regular Saturday night thing.

Is this Simcha’s kids posting on her behalf?

No, but Corrie did manage to unlock my phone this morning. It has a six-figure lock code. I am alarmed.

We just came from a school Mass where the visiting priest took questions at the end. One kid asked, “have you ever sneezed during prayer?”

If he hasn’t, he’s not praying enough! I’m always baffled when people think it’s somehow not appropriate to pray while doing . . . anything. Like, is God going to be grossed out or offended that you’re using the body and mind he made for you? It’s just weird. Who are you trying to impress, and why do you think it will work?

How do you deal with, ahem, highly selective eaters?

I just let them be. I make reasonably tasty and nutritious meals, and I try to offer meals that you can pick and choose, whenever possible; but I don’t go out of my way to cater to fussy people, and I definitely don’t engage in battles over food. Cereal and milk is always available. 

What are you doing this summer, big plans, small plans, day to day, I wanna know everything!

I want to replace the kitchen floor, and if there’s any money left over, I want to hire someone to replace the subfloor in the laundry room so we can have [heavenly choirs] a second toilet again.

I want to watch some good movies with the kids and read Narnia with the little kids and Frank Sheed with the older ones. We may or may not do Totus Tuus this year, but I didn’t sign anyone up for any other camp (and three kids, and I hope soon four, are working, so they have their own schedules).  I think one kid wants to continue gymnastics, and another takes violin through the summer. We want to hit some Free Fun Fridays in Boston, including at least one art museum, this year, now that Damien works from home and we can actually make it happen. I want to start learning to play the piano.

I want people to turn off their screens and go outside, including me. I want to hit the town beach at least twice a week. I want the kids to play Dungeons and Dragons, and I want to drive out to the old section of town, with no streetlights, and go stargazing a least a few times. One of the kids has vowed to get me into Hamilton this summer.

MOST EXCITINGLY, back in January, with great terror, I pulled the trigger on something I’ve been wanting to do my entire married life, which is I rented a house by the ocean for a week! We got a wonderful deal on an AirBNB within walking distance of the beach, and I have literally dreamt about it, one way or another, every single week since then. I know it’s a terrible idea to pin all your hopes and dreams on a single week, but I can’t help it. 

 Is this 3?

Sure?

If you jump from an airplane and have a very long Slinky, can throwing one end of it upward while holding the other slow your fall so that you can hit the ground unharmed?

Trick question! I forgot to get a Real ID, so I’m not allowed on airplanes.

What do you think will be different about the Catholic Church in the US in fifty years?

Ever read Walker Percy’s Love In the Ruins? Like that. 

Who sleeps where? How do you arrange the bedrooms with many kids in a small house?

Inequitably.  We have the two boys in one room, the oldest kid in one room, the second and third in another room, and two sets of bunkbeds in the middle room, and one kid currently camped out on cushions in the hall with a sheet tacked across the corner. If they don’t like it, they’re welcome to figure out something better, because I sure can’t. 

Jennifer fulwiler 👍🏼👎
 
Love her. She helped and encouraged me so generously and enthusiastically when I was first starting out. I haven’t been following her lately, but I know she works hard and tells the truth, which is all I ever ask of anyone (except my husband, who also needs to bring me a drink).
 
What books do you recommend for talking to kids about the birds & the bees? Non-icky books that middle school age can read on their own (and then discuss with parents)
 
Will you feel better if I confess that I have completely dropped the ball on this in various ways with each of my kids? Damien has conversations with the boys. For the girls, I like The Care and Keeping of You, and then we just have conversations. 
 
***
Okay, that’s it! It’s the last day of school, and one kid took this final chance to forget her lunch at home, and guess what? I didn’t care. (It’s a half day. She can wait. We’re going to the beach.) 
 
 

One size fits most

Readers may not be aware of how heavily writers rely upon reference books, such as encyclopedias, thesauruses, Wikipedia, Dickeypedia, and of course a rhyming dictionary, which often reveals hidden truths about language through a kind of mystical game of word association which posits that synonyms come in triads, or what Carl Jung used to call “threeness envy.” Nobody knew what he meant by that. He has a really weird accent.

Read the rest of my latest for the long-suffering Catholic Weekly

Image: Luigi Cherubini and the Muse of Lyric Poetry by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (Creative Commons)

The doctrine of the trinity describes love

So, how was Heresy Sunday at your parish? Maybe you know it better as “Trinity Sunday,” but, well, you know. One minute, you’re standing there sweating behind the pulpit, trying to give your flock something solid to chew on, and then next minute, you’re a modalist. Or an arian, or a partialist. (If you’ve somehow never watched St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies, take a few minutes! It’s funny and good.)
 
On the other hand, you also have people complaining on Twitter that they’re pretty tired of hearing from their pastors that they’re just too dumb to understand the trinity, so he won’t even try. 
 
On the other hand . . . wait, that’s three hands now, and we’re about to veer into heresy again. What I’m trying to say is that the theology of the Trinity is pretty intense, and I have a lot of sympathy for priests who are trying to steer a way in between teaching something false, and just performing some vague hand-waving about the mysterious mystery of it all.
 
However, the theology of the trinity is a lot more knowable than I was led to believe as a child. I had the impression that it was simply so far beyond our human experience, it would break my brain if I even tried to figure it out. This is false. If you want to know more about the Trinity — and you should! It’s VERY COOL — I most ardently recommend Frank Sheed’s Theology for Beginners. I intend to read it again this summer with my teenagers. It’s very lucid and exciting, and, surprise surprise, it leads to a better understanding of, well, everything. Because it’s about who and what God is.
 
However however, it would be hard to get into it in a single sermon. Some of the best sermons I’ve heard are less about defining doctrine and more about helping us understand why it’s important and what it has to do with us. As Chris Damian says in another context
 
We tend to think of arriving at belief as a straightforward process. We think of belief as something that exists on the level of syllogism, where my rational assent is always the result of a clear logic unfolding from the circuitry of my mind. But coming into deep belief does not involve a mere continuation of syllogistic progression. Rather, it involves the mysterious integration of a complex constellation of experience, context, affection, habit, longing, rationale, and choice. Often the assertion of belief is a last step, the articulation of something which already exists within the person but which has taken time to develop into words.
So yesterday, Trinity Sunday, we heard a sermon with less doctrine but plenty of the rest of that complex constellation, and I appreciated it. The pastor at this church tends to deliver shaggy dog sermons, and sometimes you never do arrive at the punchline. But when you do, it’s always about the immensity of God’s love, and how personal it all is. Which is why we keep going back to this church, even though it’s forty minutes away! Here’s how I remember it:

He described how his grandmother and grandfather met at a town dance in 1922. They spotted each other across the room, and she thought he looked like a troublemaker and he thought she looked stuck up. But somehow they got together anyway, fell in love, got married, and came to know each other as they learned how to love each other. They had children, and those children had children, including the pastor himself; and by the time they had been married for several decades, they could complete each other’s thoughts. Gradually, over the years, they revealed themselves to each other more and more.
 
We sometimes think God has changed since the Old Testament. It seems like God used to be so harsh and angry, always smiting and getting vengeance; but then Jesus came, and taught us about love, even loving your enemy — and this seemed like something so new and different. But then we heard in the first reading how God has always been:
 
from of old I was poured forth,
at the first, before the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth. . . 
There are some intimations of the Trinity here, of a God who isn’t lonely and solitary, but is in a fruitful relationship. And it was a relationship not only of love between the persons of the Trinity, but between God and us:
 
then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race.
 
The pastor reminded us that God was perfectly content in himself, perfectly complete. He didn’t need anything, certainly not human beings. But because of his overflowing love, he did want something . . . and so he made us. The responsorial psalm says:
 
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
 
God made us to love us — and, as you do when you are in love, to reveal himself to us.  That that is what you do when you love someone: You open yourself, you reveal yourself to them, just as the priest’s grandparents did with each other over the course of many, many years of fruitful marriage. And that is what God has done for us.  He is fruitful, and he reveals himself because He loves us. 
 
The Gospel reading from John was very short, and quite Greek:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”
 

To me, this speaks of the hope we can have of coming to know God more and more, as we become more and more confident in his love for us.

Knowing God better is . . . well, it’s not always a delight. Sometimes it’s terrible, for a while, just like marriage can be, as you come to know each other better and better. But unlike in a human marriage, we can know  with complete certainty that there is always delight on the other side, if we keep pushing through. Or at least we can hope, until we know.

 
So we should not be afraid of trying to understand mysteries. God wants to reveal himself to us. But we have to start by consenting to be in a relationship with him. Doctrine is simply the description of how it is that God loves us.
 
***
 
Image: Detail of 17th century Holy Trinity Russian icon, painter unknown, from Icon Museum Recklinghausen [Public domain]

My dear graduates . . .

Graduates, as I look out over your bright, eager faces, my heart wells with emotion and a single phrase springs into my mind: Better you than me.

Gee, I would give anything to not be you right now. What a horrible time this is for you. I mean, think about it: You’re on the verge of starting a new life. The possibilities are endless—what the future holds is bounded only by the limits of your imagination. You can be anything you want to be, if you only believe in yourself. You can shoot for the stars!

I’m so, so sorry.

Because that’s what people have been telling you, right? Isn’t that what your guidance counselor said—that there are no limits to what you can achieve?

You know that’s crazy talk, right?

I mean that literally: Only people with a mental illness would truly believe that you can achieve anything. People who actually get things done are the people who look at themselves and say, “Okey-doke. There are some things I’m good at, and many thousands more things that I am and always will be utterly unqualified to do. Starting tomorrow, my job is do the least amount of thrashing around and wasting of my parent’s tuition money as possible, while I figure out the difference between my very few strengths and my billions of weaknesses.

“Then, I need to figure out if there’s any possible way I can do what it turns out I’m good at, and also be a decent human being. If possible, it would be wonderful if the things I’m good at, and which allow me to be decent, are also things which will earn me a salary.”

And after you have that conversation with yourself, and preferably after you come up with a better plan than scrawling “FIX LIFE” on your memo pad, then you can go out drinking with your buddies.

Because here’s the deal, you poor deluded masses of inchoate ambition: Freedom is for something. Freedom is so that you can get something done. Yes, it’s valuable and precious in itself—but it’s not a resting place. Having potential is like being hungry: You want to resolve that in some definite way. All the best things in life come when you tie yourself down in one way or another, when you accept some limitations.

Think about all the things that make life worth living—all the things that people you admire are proud of. A huge project achieved? They neglected other things—fun things!—to get it done.  A happy marriage? They forsook all others to remain faithful. A vocation of any kind? Saying Yes to one thing always means saying No to a dozen more. It doesn’t mean that all the rejected opportunities are bad. It just means that you’re only one person, and are here to do one person’s work.

This doesn’t mean you have to rush into it. There’s nothing especially admirable about going whole hog for the wrong thing (just ask the guy with the Betty Boop tattoo on his forehead). So take your time, look around, and don’t be rash. But for the love of mike, remember that this stage of your life is supposed to come to an end some day. Even if you never end up with a career at all, you will eventually have some huge choices to make.

Or you know what? You might not even get to make a choice: You might find yourself faced with some horrible situation, and guess who’s the only one who can fix it? That’s right, the guy in the mirror, the one who fell asleep in a trash can and his friend drew cat whiskers on his face with permanent markers. The lives of others may someday depend on you, Mr. Fluffy. Try to make at least some of your current behavior reflect that fact.

So congratulations, graduates! You did it. Some of you worked moderately hard to be here today, and I applaud you. Now go forth, act decent, call your mother from time to time. And remember, nobody’s life ever got better after drinking Jägermeister.

***

(A version of this post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2011.)

Photo by beltramistudios via Flickr (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 174: Tiramisu! OH!!!!!! Tiramisu.

Another birthday! The birthday girl asked for Damien’s tiramisu. Without even having to ask, he got plenty of help from Corrie. Here, I ask Corrie about the ingredients she’s using:

And now you know. (If you need it to be more specific, here is the recipe he uses.) He made it without shaved chocolate out of respect for my migraines. I forgot to take a pic, but here is a slice from ages past:

We love tiramisu, not only for the heavenly taste, but because we get to sing the song. When Irene was little, she used to sing the Kalamazoo song from Wonderpets — only she would go, “Tamazooooo . . . OHHHHHH!!!!! . . . Tamazoooooo . . . ” and on the “ohhhhh” part, she would tip her chin up and close her eyes and howl like a little wolf. So all day long, there was a lot of happy howling. 

SATURDAY
Cumin chicken with chickpeas and tabbouleh

I’ve had a hankering for tabbouleh for weeks now. Unfortunately, this meal did not dehanker me. I couldn’t find any bulghur, so I used couscous. That would have been fine, but I didn’t drain it properly, and it was soggy. The flavor was good, though, and I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t have it for lunch the rest of the week. I made it with lemon juice, kosher salt and pepper, tomatoes and cucumbers, and lots of fresh parsley and mint. And yes, that was me saying “Wait a minute!” out loud in the produce aisle, quickly googling “is wild mint edible” and then thriftily putting back the store-bought mint. Take that, invasive species. 

I also put mint in the lemony onions, because I forgot to save back parsley; but I forgot to eat any onions, so I don’t know if it was good. 

The cumin chicken with chickpeas and yogurt sauce and pita is a reliably yummy meal, and once again I must emphasize that if you never have the chicken skin that’s been roasted after marinating in cumin and yogurt, your life has been a sham.

I also intend to roast many more chickpeas this summer. These chickpeas in the picture are a little less crunchy, which is how the kids like them, Little olive oil and whatever seasoning you like, and if you take your time and roast them until they’re crunchy, they make a wonderful snack. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese pita pockets, strawberries, fries

This is an ideal childhood meal. Adorable round sandwiches, fried gently in butter, cheerfully patterned like a giraffe, and stuffed with melted cheddar and a slice of ham. 

So of course they all acted like I was serving them garbage stuffed with garbage. Ingrates! 

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips, raw broccoli

As you can see, I was eating a hamburger in bed. I had a reason, but I forget what. 

TUESDAY
BIIIIIIIG SANDWICHES, party mix, tiramisu

One morning, when Clara was a toddler, she was having a bad day, feeling sick, screaming at everything. We finally just put her to bed, and she slept for hours and hours, all day long. Clara was this teeny, weeny little person. Her middle name is “Petra,” but her sisters used to call her “Clara Paper,” because she was so fair and slight, with enormous grey eyes, a heavy mop of dark gold curls.

When she finally woke up, it was almost dinner time, and we asked what she would like to eat. She said in her squeaky little voice, “I want . . . I want BIIIIIIIIIIIG SANDWICHES!” and pointed straight up to the ceiling. So that’s what we call it now, when we have sandwiches with everything possible on them. AND TODAY, THAT LITTLE GIRL IS GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL.

So this Tuesday was Dora’s birthday, and she modestly asked for Big Sandwiches, party mix, and tiramisu for her birthday meal. For my big sandwich, I had roast beef and capicola, provolone, tomatoes, and bacon.

It turns out I can’t eat party mix unless I want to spend the rest of the day listening to my heart try to escape from my chest, so that’s exciting. The bacon stays, though. 

Here is the birthday girl admiring how well her new salt lamp deionizes things and whatnot. 

WEDNESDAY
Faintly gingery pork, peppers, onions, mushrooms; corn on the cob

I cut up a bunch of pork, Corrie cut up a bunch of peppers, and then I called Clara and told her to cut up a bunch of green and sweet peppers and onions and mix it all together with a bottle of ginger salad dressing. This is how most meals get made at my house: as a group effort, over the course of many hours, with phone calls. It’s a miracle we don’t all just eat hamburgers in bed every day. 

So I spread it all in some shallow pans and stuck it under the broiler.

I had it in my head that everyone loves this meal, but it turns out I love it and everyone else has been barely tolerating it. OH WELL. To be fair, the marinade turned out to be extremely bland, and did not produce the gingery wonderland I was anticipating. 

I also boiled up some corn on the cob. Shucking the corn helped Corrie through that awful, painful transition between watching TV (happiness) and not watching TV (intense and intolerable suffering).

THURSDAY
Drunken noodles with beef

I’ve made this once before, after modifying a Jet Tila recipe. My recipe card is at the end.

I did all the chopping and stuff in the morning, and had it all laid out in separate bowls like on a cooking show

so it came together really quickly when it was supper time. You boil up the noodles and set them aside, then brown up some garlic, add egg and peppers, then add beef and onions, then put the tomatoes, sauce, and noodles back in, and heat it all through. I made TONS of it, because I can’t help myself. Happily, it’s good cold.

I’m not sure if it was better this time, or if I was just hungrier because I didn’t snack on a full meal’s worth of ingredients while I was still cooking. Either way, it was delicious. A really zippy, flavorful sauce, but not too terribly spicy (and some people added red pepper flakes). The fish sauce mellows out just enough and is right at home with the beef and tomatoes. 

A great all-in-one meal, and you could use different kinds of meat or seafood. One of my kids put parmesan cheese on it. I don’t even freaking know what to say. Don’t do that. 

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, smiley fries

According to tradition, we’ll be going out to eat with the graduating senior, while the people at home toil with tuna. I’m not sure what I will order, but she chose an Italian restaurant, which is always good, and someone else will be cooking, which is always always always always good.

Okay, here are the recipe cards!

 

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

Drunken noodles with beef (after Jet Tila)

This is a less-spicy version. For more heat, use jalapenos or other hotter peppers, leave the membranes and seeds in and add red pepper flakes before or after cooking. 

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 9 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha or hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 6 oz fresh basil leaves in a chiffonade (sliced into thin ribbons)
  • 30+ oz wide rice noodles

canola oil for cooking

  • 8 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 8 eggs beaten
  • 6 serrano chiles or jalapeños, seeded and sliced thin
  • 2 lg onions, sliced thin
  • 4 oz fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3-4 lbs roast beef, sliced as thinly as possible

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice noodles according to directions, and set them aside. 

    Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. 

    Heat a very large sauté pan with oil and brown the minced garlic. Add chiles and beaten eggs, and scramble in the pan until the eggs are in cooked bits. 

    Add onion and sliced beef and cook until beef is barely browned. 

    Add cooked noodles, tomatoes, chopped basil leaves, and sauce. 

    Keep stirring and combining until everything is saucy and hot. Serve immediately. 

Fr. Luke Reese loses court appeal after savage beating; still calls himself priest in good standing

Fr. Luke Reese’s wife-beating conviction stands. Reese, Indiana’s first married Catholic priest, has lost his court appeal to overturn his conviction for confining and beating his wife in a jealous rage. Reese’s priestly faculties are suspended, but as of January this year, he is still referring to himself as “a priest in good standing,” according to court records we obtained.

A.G. Stockstill, Business Manager for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which ordained Reese, stated in an email on Tuesday that Reese’s faculties were suspended in 2017, soon after his arrest. 

“Father Luke Reese was removed from ministry in the Ordinariate by Bishop Lopes on September 27, 2017, at which time his faculties were suspended.  Any further or permanent determination of Father Reese’s status as a priest is the competency of the Holy See,” Stockstill wrote.

But in recent court documents we obtained, Reese still describes himself as “a priest in good standing, although he is not active at this time.”

Reese was an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism with his family and was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Ordinariate in 2016. He served as Parochial Vicar of Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis until September of 2017, when he was placed on leave after assaulting his wife.

Reese was employed by the church as a priest for another six months after the arrest, until his conviction in March of 2018, according to court documents. In August of 2018, the Ordinariate said in a statement that “steps are being taken to change Reese’s status as a priest.” Parishioners of Holy Rosary said on social media that they believed Reese had been “defrocked.”

There has been no public announcement regarding Reese’s canonical status. The Ordinariate, which functions like an archdiocese, does not have a legal or canonical obligation to report or publicize the status of a priest. There may be an exception if a laicized priest is not complying with the requirements set out in the decree of laicization — for instance, if he is dressing as a priest or publicly celebrating sacraments after he has been barred from doing so. In that case, the bishop would probably inform the parish that the priest has been barred from functioning. 

The Ordinariate did not confirm or deny that there is an ongoing canonical penal process against Reese.

Reese is currently working as the manager of a seafood restaurant, according to court documents.

Reese was found guilty of one felony and two misdemeanors: One count of criminal confinement with bodily injury, one count of domestic battery, and one count of battery resulting in bodily injury. He appealed his conviction, and the appeal was rejected on May 22 of 2019.    

“The whole thing is my wife’s fault.”

In his appeal, Reese argued he was only trying to protect his wife because he thought she was suicidal. According to court documents, “Reese asserts that he was justified in committing the offense because he was simply protecting [his wife.]”

In other court documents we obtained, Reese stated, “I have never been
violent or abusive in any of my relationships or to my wife.”

Reese argued in his appeal that the court denied him due process by not preserving “photographs and text messages as evidence” that “could have been used to impeach [his wife’s] testimony as to the causes of her injuries and credibility in general.”

According to various court records, the photographs and text messages were on his wife’s phone, which he confiscated during the protracted assault. He gave the phone to his superior, Fr. Ryan McCarthy, pastor of Holy Rosary, when McCarthy visited the couple in their home after the assault, according to the appeal. McCarthy reportedly returned the phone to Reese’s wife a few days later. 

In his appeal, Reese argued that that the court “failed to establish that he had committed the offense knowingly.”

During the course of the assault, which lasted over twenty-four hours, according to court documents we obtained, Reese hit his wife in the stomach and head and punched her in time to heavy metal music while he drove her to her grandmother’s house to make her confess to wrongdoing. He hit her in the eye, confiscated her keys and phone, drove her to a cemetery, pushed her onto her knees on the marble floor of the sanctuary of the church, violently pulled her hair, applied pressure to her neck and threatened to choke her while they were in front of the altar, and shoved her against the church wall, according to the documents. He reportedly continued to punch, degrade, threaten and otherwise assault her when they finally reached their home.  According to court documents we obtained, Reese’s wife sustained permanent eye damage from the assault. 

Reese asserted in various documents we obtained that he was merely defending himself from aggression by his wife, and attempting to protect her from herself. Shortly after the assault, he stated, “This whole thing is my wife’s fault,” according to the documents.

Reese also argued in his appeal that “the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his conviction for criminal confinement” and”failed to prove that his actions were done without [his wife’s] consent” and “failed to prove that he had caused any bodily injury to [his wife].”

The court rejected his appeal and affirmed his conviction on May 22, 2019. Reese was sentenced in August of 2018 to three years of home confinement with electronic monitoring. Two years of his sentence were suspended, and he will be on probation for one year.

Reese filed for divorce from his wife on December 19 0f 2017. The Reeses have been married for 26 years and have seven children, four of whom are minors.

Reese’s lawyer, Oliver Younge, did not respond to my call or email. 

How did the church respond to Reese’s behavior before and after the assault?

According to documents we obtained, Mrs. Reese said that, some time before the assault, Reese shared a website containing pornographic and white supremacist material with his then-teenaged son, and directed him to share it with his friends. The church responded by sending Reese to counseling. It’s not clear whether the Ordinariate, which is based in Houston, was informed of Reese’s behavior, or whether Holy Rosary of Indianapolis made decisions about how to manage Reese before the assault.  

According to the court documents, his wife says he psychologically abused her and their children and sexually abused her throughout their 26-year marriage. Mrs. Reese said her husband has been ousted from three churches due to his behavior. She said that he holds white supremacist, racist, and misogynist views which he has attempted to pass on to his older children, and she submitted to the court “letters from other individuals who supported these concerns about Mr. Reese’s character, beliefs and temper,” according to court documents.

According to the same documents, Reese had a long history of hitting his wife, making his children sit alone in a dark basement as punishment, threatening them with hell for not praying the rosary correctly, and subjecting the family to constant harsh criticism and ridicule.

According to court documents describing the assault, Fr. Ryan McCarthy, the pastor of Holy Rosary where Reese was Parochial Vicar, went to the Reese house the day after the assault and saw Mrs. Reese’s black eye and swollen mouth. In response, McCarthy “recommended that [Reese’s wife] stay somewhere else.” He also accepted the phone that Reese had confiscated from his wife. Days later, he returned the phone to Mrs. Reese.

After Reese was arrested, Fr. McCarthy announced in the church bulletin that Reese would go on “leave” that would last “at least a few months.” He admonished the parishioners, “mind your own business.” Although he had  seen clear evidence of a violent crime against Mrs. Reese, he announced “I am very grateful for Father Reese’s service to our parish. He will be greatly missed during this leave.” The day Reese was convicted, his parish offered Mass to commemorate the anniversary of his ordination. Reese’s name was not removed from the parish directory until after we broke the story of his arrest.

Although he defended Reese during and after his criminal conviction, there is no evidence that Fr. McCarthy faces sanctions by the diocese of Indianapolis or by the Ordinariate for his response. Parishioners on social media referred to McCarthy as a good and holy priest and called him a hero.

What has the Ordinariate learned?

The Ordinariate can ordain its own laymen as priests, but it primarily receives former Anglican priests and then forms and ordains them as Catholic priests. This was the case with Fr. Reese.

If an Anglican priest wants to join the Ordinariate, it’s not clear whether the Catholic Church does its own vetting process, or if it relies on the vetting the Anglican Church has already done. Because there is a dire need for priests, and perhaps as a courtesy to the Anglican Church, the Church may be tempted to hurry through the process. 

According to court documents we obtained, Reese’s wife asserts that, before he was ordained in the Ordinariate, “he has been ousted from three different churches due to his behavior.”

According to those document, “Ms. Reese reported [to the court that] Mr. Reese holds white supremacist and misogynous attitudes and that he is racist … Ms. Reese submitted letters from other individuals who supported these concerns about Mr. Reese’s character, beliefs and temper.”

I asked the spokesman for the Ordinariate whether the Ordinariate vets or screens candidates for the Catholic priesthood who have already been through the Anglican seminary, or whether it relies on the Anglican Church’s vetting process. 

I asked whether, in order to avoid future debacles like the Reese one, the Ordinariate will change its standards or process.

No one from Ordinariate responded. 

 

***

Our previous coverage of this story:

 Why the Fr. Luke Reese scandal is everybody’s business.

Will Holy Rosary be reconsecrated after desecration by Fr. Luke Reese?

Bishop Lopes’ statement on abuse fails to mention Luke Reese

No jail for Luke Reese after wife beating conviction

Luke Reese, married priest, convicted of beating his wife

Indianapolis priest charged with beating wife inside church

****
Image: Mug shot of Luke Reese courtesy of Fox 59 News; Coat of Arms of the Personal Ordinariate of the Seal of St. Peter via Wikipedia Alekjds [CC BY 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)]

What’s for supper? Vol. 173: The pineapple gets the works

Today, I bought dental insurance. That has nothing to do with what’s for supper. I just wanted to tell someone. I’m pretty excited, as this is basically me and Damien:

SONY DSC

(Image by William Murphy via Flickr )

Why dental heath is not included in regular health, I’ll never know. I guess it’s because teeth are just inside your head and your skull, so how important could they be. Anyway. Onward! 

SATURDAY
Regular tacos

This is my meal when I’m feeling merciful toward the kids. No fermented vegetables, no sprouts, no seasonings with diacritical marks in their names. Just ground beef with orange powder from a little packet, sour cream, salsa from a jar, and shredded cheddar cheese. Completely unchallenging food has its charms.

I had to put greens on mine because I am a mom and that’s the rule.

SUNDAY
Spiedies, raw peppers, blueberry tart

This recipe is really, really good if you have the time to zest lemons and chop fresh mint and such, marinate the meat overnight, skewer it, and cook it over the coals. It’s still quite nice if you just slosh in a bunch of stuff, chop some cheap pork into chunks, let it marinate for a few hours, and shove it under a hot broiler.

Serve the meat on toasted rolls with a lot of mayo. It comes out tender, juice, and a little spicy. 

The original recipe is a NYT one which is currently behind a paywall. The quickie one I threw together was olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, oregano, crushed garlic, red pepper flakes. Basically Italian dressing but with extra lemon juice and red pepper flakes. 

For dessert, Clara made a blueberry tart. Every single last damn time I go to write “tart,” I type “tard” first. I choose to believe this is because I have watched so much Dr. Who, and not because I don’t deserve to live in the 21st century. Anyway, here’s the picture.

If you zoom in, you can see that I accidentally sprinkled yarrow pollen all over it while trying to get an Instaworthy photo. If I could figure out the right SEO for this post, I could probably form a partnership with Gwyneth Paltrow and pass it off as a cure for yarrow allergies, uterine prolapse, and ennui. 

Clara and I worked on this together, and it certainly did highlight the difference between our cooking styles; it certainly did. She is more of a “wait, stop, what is seven eights of a cup times two and a half?” baker, and I’m more of a “just mash faster, no one will know” baker.

Between the two of us, we came up with something tasty, anyway, although it was reluctant to leave the pie plate. To appease the Visigoths, we chose the kind of whipped cream that comes squirting out of a can.

I’ll get the recipe link from her when she gets home.

MONDAY
Chicken enchilada rice bowls, corn chips, pineapple

This meal looked better than it tasted. I was going for a “all the ingredients you love in Mexican food, but without a tortilla, for some reason” kind of meal. So I cooked up a pot of rice, then roasted some chicken with lots of chili lime powder. Then I cut up the chicken and cooked it again in green enchilada sauce from a can. I mixed together some black beans, chili beans, and diced tomato with chili peppers in it. We had limes, cilantro, sour cream, and shredded cheese, and corn chips.

It was. . . fine. I will just go ahead and make enchiladas next time. 

The exciting part was I finally bought a pineapple corer from Aldi for like $3, and it was so cool! I thought it would just extract the core so you can peel it and get rings, but it cores and peels it, and leaves you will a continues spiral of pineapple. Corrie and I made a video, and we hope it blows your mind. 

This is my first attempt at including a food video, and I hope it’s not terrible, because people keep telling me this is the only way to make some money, and if you can’t make money sharing a video of yourself testing a $3 pineapple corer, than is this even really America? 

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday was the final school concert of the year. If you wish to hear my views on school concerts, I can make that happen. This time, I dropped the kid off, nipped over to the liquor store and picked up some liquid courage in small bottles, and zipped back to my seat before the curtain. And now I have a brand new plan for school concerts.

I made a few pizzas before I left. There was a limited edition “everything dough” available, so I got some. It wasn’t everything, per se, but it certainly had poppy seeds in it.

Oh. You know about the “Make me one with everything” joke, right? This remains my favorite moment ever recorded on video. Especially the part where he leans in and goes, “Know what I mean?”

It’s so beautiful. 

Oh, here are the pizzas. I only made four, for some reason. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers

What was I even doing on Wednesday? I think I was writing like a maniac while Damien brought Lucy to the pediatric endocrinologist and then rock climbing. And that’s what chicken burgers are for. 

THURSDAY
Deli sandwiches, fruit salad, chips, cookies

Actually, that was lunch. I had planned cumin chicken thighs, yogurt sauce, pita, and tabbouleh for supper, but in lieu of that, I took a nap, and everyone just ate more lunch. But what a lunch it was! One of my favorite families in the whole world, John and Aletheia Herreid and their wonderful kids were in town. The weather was great, Clara made a ton of cookies, we have a trampoline for bouncing and stream for floundering, John and my older kids swapped sketch books, Aletheia brought sunshine to the whole world as she so often does, and they brought cheese and beer and a luchador mask, and it was just swell. 

FRIDAY
Ravioli

Just frozen ravioli. Not one of my most thrilling culinary weeks, but it was a good week. And thorough.