Our church body has been going through I Corinthians since September. I have to say that it's been a wonderful & fulfilling process digging through this letter. It hasn't been a quick study, which makes me feel like I have bypassed those awkward first couple of dates and now I'm building a relationship. One thing we as a large body are doing is memorizing this passage in the Lenten season:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Just the night before I was talking to Ben about stuff in my life revolving around this verse. One of those things was on food and the ability to use it as an idol of sorts, or even use it to snuff other people. What got me thinking about it was my friend Talia asking us moms at our Thursday morning playgroup about advice on cooking a steak. I found myself desperately wanting to give my input and mainly so I would continue to be known as the person who is most knowledgeable about food. I recalled different instances to Ben that I have done this in the past month.
Most of this was due to pride. However, what got me thinking a bit further was how easy it is to turn on a snobbery about food. Not only food, but places I will shop, items I will buy, mantras I will endorse. Food is such a sticky subject when you get right down to it. It serves a basic need and provides a creative outlet. It nourishes & sustains; as well as, stimulates & binds. I love food for all these reasons. I am convicted by what I choose to buy for my family, trying to ensure quality while maintaining a modesty, if you will, for those who are starving. I also understand that as you eat more food, your palate broadens and you become more picky about what you will put into your body.
In Bellingham, we have been a "Green" city long before it was vogue. Composting, buying local, grass-fed, organic weren't just marketable clichés, but a way of life for many. And as we've been studying the church of Corinth and some of their issues it has got me thinking about how as a Christian our issues may be different, but attitude has not. In looking at my culture in my town, these "organic, buy-local, free-range, farmer's market from the Earth" values are good. It is both the Christian and the non, seeking to be stewards of the Earth. However, where I feel like I personally have gone astray is when I've taken these inherently good values and made them more important than the person giving a gift. Let me break it down into a simple story if you're not tracking with me.
My mom said to me about four years ago that she could get some gift cards from her work (due to some reward thing) for Wal-Mart, which could go towards anything I needed for our first child (I was pregnant at the time). Now, many people shop at Wal-Mart, but at this moment in time, and then, I don't--due to moral convictions. However, what I said in response to my mom is what I would define as a snobbery, which is putting my "values" ahead of the person. I told her that I wouldn't really want the gift card, because I don't want to support Wal-Mart and what they stand for. In my ignorance, I was thinking I was stomping on feet of injustice. But really--I was stomping on the generosity of my mother trying to give anything she had for me. I was putting what I would call a good value ahead of the person. I was lacking love.
It's exactly as the writer says in the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." Whenever I put my own agenda, values, or convictions (even if they're good) ahead of a person who is created in the likeness of God, I defecate on them, because I lack love. When I snub off a gift of factory farmed chicken, tasteless steak, plastic made toy, dessert from a box, or even (shall I say it) coffee from Folger's, if I have let these stand above the person, I have lacked love.
But...I don't want to end with you (or me) thinking it is never okay to hold to standards we've set forth. For me, I have a standard of eating cake from scratch for instance. However, if my friend invited us over for dinner and she made it from a box, I'm not going to say, "no thanks," because of it. Instead, I'm going to delight that my friend loved me enough to prepare something for me; regardless, if it meets my standards, because she meets God's standards and that's what love is. Because I want to receive the gifter more than the gift (yes I know gifter is not a word).
So as any good friend (that I hope to be, even if we've never met), I want to share this tangible gift, which comes in the form of creamy, semi-modest, yet flavorful tomatoey (c) goodness. I have made it a couple times, but the most memorable was for a group of graduating college Seniors for their banquet. The director of the group had been to many of these banquets over the years and told me this main dish (and the dessert Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries) was the best Senior Banquet meal he had ever had (that's at least 20 years worth).
Creamy Tomato Sauce with Pasta (printable recipe)
This is an easy gift to give and I doubt many people would refuse it. It has depth of flavor, creamy, great texture and invites you to serve up another bowl. Recipe is adapted from Cooks Illustrated.
- 3 Tb unsalted butter
- 1 ounce prosciutto, minced (about 2 Tb)
- 1 small onion, diced fine (about ¾ cup) [I used shallots this time around]
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tb tomato paste
- 2 ounces oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped coarse
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tb dry white wine
- 2 cups plus 2 Tb crushed tomatoes (from one 28-ounce can) [I used whole tomatoes and crushed them in the pan]
- 1 pound pasta (use a short pasta, ziti, penne, or fusilli)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
1.Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add prosciutto, onion, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is very soft and beginning to turn light gold, 8 to 12 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add ¼ cup wine and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
2.Add 2 cups crushed tomatoes and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
3.Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add pasta and 1 Tb salt and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water; drain pasta and transfer back to cooking pot.
4.Remove bay leaf from sauce and discard. Stir cream, remaining 2 Tb crushed tomatoes, and remaining 2 Tb wine into sauce; season to taste with salt & pepper. Add sauce to cooked pasta, adjusting consistency with up to ½ cup pasta cooking water. Stir in basil and serve immediately. Top with Parmesan.