Carrot Hummus

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One of my favourite theological authors is Robert Farrar Capon. His insistence on the miraculousness of ‘being’ has made room in my faith for delight in stuff. In the preface of An Offering of Uncles (found, somewhat unexpectedly, at the end of said volume), he insists on our need to “drink [our] reality neat” (p153) by resisting the repeated urgings to disregard ‘real things’. We are told that the “table over there … is actually not a table at all. It is really a cloud of electrons” (p153) that, “the true substance of the world is the tasteless subatomic tapioca out of which it is made” (p153). But, Capon insists, deep in our hearts we know better than that. Decent poached eggs are worth celebrating, they are delicious. And if we care, more than we’d like to admit perhaps, about how well our breakfast is cooked, then perhaps, there is something a little deeper to this whole materiality business. Capon goes on to declare that, ultimately, materiality matters because …

“The proclamation of the Gospel is the announcement of an embarrassingly concrete and material piece of work by God in history. The salvation it offers operates by the assumption of humanity into the Person of God the Son and by the incorporation of humanity into the Person of God the Son and by the incorporation of the rest of the race into the sacred humanity so assumed. It is a bit to crass and earthy to rate as a gorgeous piece of spiritual philosophy” (p155).

God is keen on physicality, materiality. His good idea in the first place, it appears that somewhere along the way we managed to lose our sense of the creation’s goodness. Regent’s focus on the whole of the Biblical narrative has gifted me with a much more adequate theology of creation – and offered me a more spacious way to live in this very physical world as a very physical being. And, so, this is a legume-less version of hummus. While I am technically all-onboard with the recommendations to eat more plant-based proteins for ecological and health reasons, beans don’t really agree with me (what were we saying about crass and earthy?!). However, I love hummus and thought I’d share this bean-free version that we’ve been enjoying lately.

Ingredients:
3 large carrots (or 6 skinny ones – approx. 480-500g)
3 garlic cloves
3-4 tablespoons of tahini
juice of one lemon
paprika and salt to taste
sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180oC.
2. Wrap the carrots in foil, and roast till soft – about 40 minutes (depending a bit on the size of your carrots)
3. Place the (slightly cooled) carrots, crushed garlic, tahini and lemon juice in a tall container.
4. Use a stick blender to blend till combined – if the mixture is a bit thick you can also add some water.
3. Adjust the seasoning, taste and see that the Lord, and His creation, is good!

Material expression: the Lamb slain

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The following reflection was written to accompany one of my creative projects at Regent College. The class is called Christian Imagination and focuses on the connection between Christianity and the Arts. As well as reflect on art work and write a theological paper, we were asked to produce something, to ‘make art’. This piece was made for that assignment.

A Heritage: Covered by the Lamb, Slain
“… the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” Revelation 13:8

“If you offer a lamb, you are to present it before the Lord” Leviticus 3:7 … as sin offering (Leviticus 4:32) and friendship offering (4:35) for guilt (14:21) and atonement (5:6) … (among other references)

“… the lambs will provide you with clothing”  Proverbs 27:26

“… he was led like a lamb to the slaughter” Isaiah 53:7

“the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” John 1:29

“… with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”  1 Peter 1:19

” ‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ ” Isaiah 1:18

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony … ” Revelation 12:11

“And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’” Revelation 7:14

“For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'” Revelation 7:17

My grand mother made woolen cot blankets for my younger cousins, heirlooms embroidered in wool thread. Flowers, furry critters, their initials – often in a wreath shape – a little bit of their story, stitched in time.

A few years ago Loren Wilkinson, one of my lecturers at Regent, brought that verse, Revelation 13:8 to my attention. The lamb slain – for forever, from the beginning. There was something deeply poignant and almost poetic about the phrase that has kept it coming to mind.

As a lover of textiles, I began to wonder about the different metaphors we use in describing salvation and sanctification. Many of them seemed to me rather closely associated with the textile medium. We talk about washing, wool, whitening, having stains removed in a manner similar to the way we would speak regarding clothing. While I realise that the discussion is far deeper than a lesson in doing the laundry well, there seemed to be a way of speaking to the physicality implied in these words by engaging this especially tactile medium. I wanted to tell this story, our story, in textiles, in wool.

Instead of a wreath, I used the circle of a Celtic cross. The ‘cross at the centre of the world’ is the central piece of our heritage as children of God. First there were the fiery sacrifices teaching us that though sin brings death, death can bring life. God designs atonement. Then there was the language of God as shepherd, teaching us what true, costly love can mean. God makes a way, protecting and providing. Then there was the perfect, unblemished Lamb, Jesus, slain and risen. He was crowned with thorns in death, but is now enthroned in Heaven. His death made a way for our stained lives to be washed, fresh and new. Instead of staining, His blood was the most effective whitener the world has ever seen. His innocence has renewed our own. This is our heritage as His children, for “this is what we are” (1 John 3:1).

Latent: of apple muffins and baby blankets


It is, my blogging software informs me, a great many months since I published anything here online. I have officially been quiet since October last year. Which is, coincidentally, almost as long ago as my last ‘summer break’ (a break that extends from April to September is one of the great perks of studying in the Northern Hemisphere – school from September through April does, however, have its low points!). As I emerge from the cocoon of books, scarves, boots and papers that has been my head (and body) space of the last few months, consciousness of things apart from the-very-next-thing-I-must-do has been returning and have found myself looking at a rather old list of ideas for blog posts. However, there is something right about them too. The apple muffins I made and re-made when the trees were heavy with fruit last September I have made again with some, still-frozen, left over fruit in the bottom of the deep freeze (see the recipe below). Apples for muffins ‘in season and out of season’.

It is not apple season now. After an unseasonably cold Vancouver winter, we have been waiting for the clouds of blossom that have finally burst onto our streets for a very long time. Our slow-coming spring has brought yellow daffodils, a rainbow of tulips and a new flock of babies too – I can count six new additions to families connected to our college and church community with at least one more to come along later in summer (not counting those back at home in Australia!). We watched bellies grow, wrote due dates in our calendar and made baby blankets. Now, we watch on as our friends fall in love with these wee ones who have come along to join their families. We too are in awe of the labouring that brought them forth, their tiny limbs, the hours of sleep their new parents are doing without. We try to make dinners for families feeling the way through the fog of odd sleeping routines and the huge responsibility of keeping a new human being alive.

This is the season we are in now. A privileged season of watching on as our friends become parents. A precious season of sunshine after many months of winter. A time to celebrate beginnings and the end of labours past (both physical and academic!).

And so below I am sharing the recipe for apple muffins, out of season but right in time for feeding some families with new arrivals (they make good school snacks too – whether or not your classes are done for the year yet!).

Ingredients:
2 cups of grated raw apple
¼ cup sugar (I used brown but I am pretty sure it would work with white, castor/berry or even coconut)
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup milk (cows/almond/rice … you choose!)
¼ cup oil (I used avocado this time, something relatively neutral in flavour is ideal)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup wholemeal flour
½ cup quick oats
1 cup plain/all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon

(Approximate amounts of) Extras for topping:
½ cup oats
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp of cinnamon
1-2 tbsp of sugar

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200oC and grease the muffin pan well with butter or oil, a layer of flour over the grease also makes popping them out at the end easier.
2. Gently combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Spread the muffin mixture evenly between the 12 pans, saving about ¼ cup in the bowl.
4. Mix the ‘extra for topping’ ingredients into the remaining mixture and then spread over the tops of the muffins.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or till golden and cooked through.
6. Enjoy!

This recipe is a modified version of one from Diana Linfoot’s Muffin Magic Book.

Marking and Measuring Time : in grace and gratitude

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This summer I attended a course at college called The Meaning of the Sacraments – which I really enjoyed. Mostly we talked about what baptism and communion mean – the two common sacraments the church celebrates all over the world. However, one of the texts we read was For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann – who is an orthodox priest. His theology has a whole-of-the-cosmos-focus and he works hard to challenge the modern separation of the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’ realms of human life. After reading his chapter ‘The Time of Mission’, I felt invited to conduct my own reflections on the sacramental nature of time.

What followed was my major paper*. I followed the line that rather than seeing time as a wearisome burden, perhaps we are invited to understand the times and seasons given to us by God as gift. If so, perhaps there are ways we can ‘mark’ time regularly and cyclically – using repeated rhythms and rituals as well as moments of special attention and celebration.

These photos are of homemade lavender cake – a late birthday gift for a lovely (and patient!) friend. I know I have written about cake so many times but I after researching my paper a few years ago they seem so important as a way of marking a special day with special food. We put the best of our ingredients together to make something beyond basic fare because the people we have been given to walk with are gifts to us, we want to mark their milestones, to party with them, to be thankful for them.

Writing this paper was such a gift to me – I had always had a hunch that there was more to birthdays than what met the eye – the cake, the presents, the balloons – these matter because they are a way of delighting in God’s gifts to us – in particular, the person we love and are celebrating.

If you too would like a theological reason for partying – or if you have always felt called by the mountains on your horizon to look to God for help – this paper may also interest you.

*A pdf of my paper is below:
tomarknotmeasuretimeasagiftofgrace

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Sure and certain starlight

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We just finished a series on Revelation at church recently by reflecting on Jesus’ bold but seldom discussed statement, “I am the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). The speaker, Darrell Johnson, convinced me that this tiny statement is a powerful and important truth for today. In the midst of the darkness and confusion that seems to mark our lives both corporately and individually, the starlight that speaks of dawn is what we so desperately need. Apparently the morning star appears in the sky when the night is at its darkest, about 2 or 3 o’clock, when there is still a way to go till the sunrise. However, it speaks powerfully into the darkness, telling the truth that, despite the depth of the darkness, morning is indeed on its way. It is now only a matter of time before the morning star will most certainly pull the morning in behind it. Darrell felt that Jesus was using this image to tell us something crucial about the sure and certain nature of His coming kingdom. Seeing Jesus, the light in the darkness, is enough for us. We do not need to fear the night any more because His kingdom will surely follow His own arrival, as sure as the dawn follows the darkest night.

Political unrest seems to have become our new normal; the Presidential elections in America have revealed fear and uncertainty that seems mirrored in the Brexit movement and the newly hung parliament of Australia. We watch on and are unsure just how the Middle East will move forward, will heal. We watch as environmental disaster seems inevitable without enormous change in consumer mentality and the western understanding of freedom. It feels dark, oppressive and hopeless at times. Instead of despairing though, with Abram, God calls our eyes upwards. “’Do not be afraid … I am your shield, your very great reward … Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them’” (Genesis 15:1-5). See what I have done, trust what I am doing. The morning will come, because, there, you see – the morning star is shining, though faintly, through the darkness. Abram was called to look, to look up, to look up and trust, in spite of fear, in spite of what was happening around him.

I know that the cry of my heart often ends up similarly to that of the Psalmist – “Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger with held his compassion?” (Psalm 77:8-9). We look out at the night sky and can not see how it fits with the God we know, with the kingdom we long for. We lose hope as we feel the darkness crushing in. There is another old man though, and he teaches us the unspoken answer to the Psalmist’s questions; ‘No!’. Like Abram, he too was waiting, waiting for the restoration, the consolation of Israel, Luke 2:25 tells us. But as the baby Jesus was brought to the temple, Simeon knew he did not have to wait any longer. He knows that seeing Jesus, even as a tiny child all wrapped up and cradled in his mother’s arms, was enough. Simeon does not need to see any more – he knows that in that little person he has seen God’s salvation; “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of … Israel” (Luke 2:32). Simeon’s trust in God’s rescue plan was complete and I imagine, that like Abram, it was “credited … to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

Yes, the darkness is at times very deep, but “we see Jesus” (Hebrews 2:9) and so we know that the morning, His kingdom, is sure as the dawn.

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Baking and blooms

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I have had a growing sense over the past few years that I needed to pay more attention to herbs and spices – particularly to the use of flowers – in cooking. I am always drawn to the variegated dunes of spices in the markets, find myself picking rosemary leaves from the bushes by the gate at my grandparents on my way to the door just to smell them and, this past summer, fell in love with culinary bouquets at the farmer’s markets (posies of edible flowers and herbs, yes please!). I think that it may have something to do with my romantic invocation of old English kitchen gardens, medieval spice caravans and poems about herbs for healing. Scents have stories it seems. Not that long ago I did find a little illustrated cookbook of recipes (the best kind) that revolved around incorporating the diverse flavours of ‘herbs de Provence’ into sweet and savoury dishes. I have also used rose petals to dress cakes a few times this last year – but I have had this sense that there was more than could be done. Even though school work takes up most of my creative energy, these ideas have been simmering away, so to speak, on the back burner in my brain.

All that to say, when my friend Lauren presented ‘Lavender’ as a plant and product in our community group a few weeks ago (presentation complete with lavender scones to sample!), I finally made my first move. After a Wholefoods excursion I was ready to start – I experimented with a butter cake recipe from the Vintage Cakes cookbook – a birthday present from my grandmother. The cake book is a delight and the cakes (one loaf and several-many cup cakes) turned out so well for a first try. I added 3 tablespoons to the classic birthday cake recipe and made vanilla butter cream as the frosting. It was very decadent – but such a treat. All in all, I feel my lavender explorations have only just begun – the cake called for ‘cake flour’ which incorporates some corn starch into the mix – something that I am quite unfamiliar with. I think it makes the grain of the cake quite fine – not necessarily my favourite texture. For now I will count this as an excellent first attempt and will keep exploring the exciting world of herbs, spices and flowers in food. I will keep you posted!

On Apple Tea Cake, art making and embodiment

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I made this pretty cake a week or so ago for the lovely couple who couriered my electric scales from Sydney to Vancouver. It is an old recipe from a church community cookbook that my mum has had in our family collection since I was tiny. Simple but pretty with the cinnamon crusted apple slice topping, it has graced many an Election Day school cake stall. I doubled it – the original recipe fits one of those tiny 50s style cake tins you may recall from older Home Economics classrooms – and added the alternative apple stripe pattern. I also swapped milk for milk powder – otherwise it remains true to the version Margaret Lack shared with the St Mattew’s Anglican church community in my childhood. I was glad mum could find the recipe for me and imagine that it will be making a few more appearances in the next little while.

One of my classes at the moment is called ‘Christian Imagination’ – it is the first of the Arts courses at Regent. We have been reflecting on the Ash Wednesday call to ‘Remember that you are dust’ – considering the nature of our dusty-‘flesh’-clothed humanity. We are makers of art, collectors of ideas, broadcasters of beauty, fixers and joiners of ‘stuff’ – because first and foremost we ourselves are ‘stuff’. Embodied, we ‘do life’ in this world, interacting and engaging with other bodies, other things, other stuff. Food is just one aspect of our everyday-walking-around-lives, and this recipe is just one example of gratuitous* human creation … but I hope that you’ll try it and that it will bring you (and those you share it with!) nourishment and delight in all senses of the words! .

Ingredients:
2 cups plain or all-purpose flour (300g)
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup castor or fine granulated sugar (240g)
4 tablespoons of milk (80ml)
50g butter
2/3 cup water (170ml)
2 eggs
1 green apple (granny smith)
1 red apple (try and choose a variety similar in size to the green)

For Finishing:
20g butter
1 1/2 tbs castor or fine granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbs cinnamon

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180oC (350F).
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar.
3. Melt the butter, and once cooled slightly, combine with milk, water and egg. Whisk to combine.
4. Gently mix the wet ingredients though the dry.
5. Grease (and line if that is your preference) a 23cm (9 inch) round cake tin. Pour the batter in.
6. Slice the apple very thinly (I quartered mine then sliced the quarters so they were still fine wedges but each slice was of a similar width). Arrange the slices on top of the cake alternating red and green slices.
7. Bake for 50-60 minutes or till golden and ‘done’ when tested.
8. Melt extra butter and paint over the surface of the cooked cake while it is still warm.
9. Combine the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the cake.

*things that are non-necessary, we do them ‘just because’