Cassette Dissasembled

One of the surprising things that has emerged from our ‘season of transition’ these last few months is an album! Inspired (but also daunted) by the 100 days of creativity movement, my husband decided to set himself the challenge of producing a song a week for all of Term 2. Ten songs in ten weeks resulted in an album, ’Ten’, which he is selling online at Bandcamp as a digital download and a cassette tape! With skills and interests elsewhere, it was a great delight for me to be able to help, not with the music side of things, but with the lyrics for a few of the songs.

I was really happy with the way this one turned out. The piece reminded me of a lullaby and I liked the idea of trying to write lyrics to match. I had also been listening to Eugene Petterson speak on prayer – particularly about how the church used to use Mary and Zechariah’s ‘song’s’ in daily prayers. As we wrote our lullaby, infused with truths from Zechariah’s song, we realised that what we were singing was true not just for Zechariah. Isaac, John and Jesus were all born as answers to prayers, as promises kept. Thorough the ages our hope has always been in God, coming through for His people, bringing light in the darkness. Today we walk in Abraham’s footsteps, following a God whose mercy and love guide our feet and call us to Him. Hope you enjoy it as much as we loved writing and playing it!

Abraham’s Child

Night falls fast
Eyelids droop
Heart beats slow
Day draws closed
Moon on high, haloed
Shadows on the door
Dark all around me

Stars shine through
We watch on
Count each one
All from You
Faithful to this house
We watch for Your dawn
The Son from on high to come

You my child
Are one of his
Our answered prayer
Now walk for Him
May His tenderness
Mercy and love
Guide our feet in peace

In the dark
A light shines forth
Our hope came in the morning

A promise kept
A babe is born
Our hope comes in the morning


Vegan Christianity?

As I mentioned a few posts ago I have just finished the coursework involved in my Masters of Arts (Food Studies) course. The final essay I worked on involved retelling the history of a particular ‘food movement’, my lecturer suggested veganism. I am so glad she did – studying the growing interest in vegetarianism (focusing on a completely plant-based version) was very stimulating. Although the motivations behind choosing a vegetarian, or indeed vegan, diet often overlap, merging into one larger compulsion – the ideological positions that motivate the move are quite distinct. It was also interesting to note just how early our conversations around eschewing of meat products began – with Pythagoras in the sixth century BC! Porphyry (234-305 AD) is the first to suggest that perhaps meat isn’t enough; that use of milk, wool and honey by humans as also unjust. He did however, decide later that this more extreme position was not necessary. The earliest follower of a vegan diet seems to be Dr William Lambe (so many commentators enjoy that irony!) – although his completely plant-based diet was motivated by health alone. It was not until one of his patients, also following the diet, John Frank Newton, wrote Return to Nature that Lambe’s medical motivations were expanded to include ethical concerns; such as environmental benefits and alleviation of animal suffering. Percy Shelley (the famous English poet) later built on Newton’s work, drawing attention to humanitarian concerns for the human poor (hungry because grain was fed to ‘food animals’ for the wealthy, at their expense). I found it fascinating how similar early motivations for following a plant-based diet were to modern arguments for a similar lifestyle. Religion provides another powerfully motivating reason to follow a vegetable diet – Ancient Hindus, Buddhists and Jains all concerned with ahimsa (non-harm) and the purity it achieves for its followers. Western religions seem more motivated by the purity achieved by a life of acetistism and abstinence.

Most of the vegetarian/vegan discourse seems to occur between England and America – with perhaps a slightly higher focus on the connection between spiritual and physical health occurring in American circles. The influence of Sylvester Graham (think ‘crackers’) and John Kellogg continues in our shopping isles today. Both were heavily involved in church communities and made significant contributions to the development of modern-day nutrition. On the other hand – the history of vegetable diets also introduces us to people like Amos Bronson Alcott and Francis Newman (an Englishman in this case) who appeared to hold a Christian faith, as well as deep social concern for things like the abolition of slavery, equal rights for women and animal rights.

By no means do I want to deny any connection between spiritual and physical health; however, I found other aspects of vegan ideology more compelling. We are placed at an interesting time in the West, food choice is abundant, overwhelming and unguided. Unlike France, we are no longer led by a specific, prevailing food culture. We do not have a specified system of eating that provides the scaffold for our shopping, preparation and consumption. We are adrift in a sea of cafes, processed food, fast food outlets, petrol stations full of junk food, Coles and Woolworth stores, BBQs, gourmet farmers markets, kids parties, gourmet delis etc. and have no guiding compass. Veganism, while extreme, offers an elegant solution to our increasing concern for the atrocities of factory farming (for meat, milk and eggs), environmental sustainability (less animals for food requires less energy and less land), the hungry (1 in 9 across the planet) and eating healthily (less education and more information has led to increasing ambivalence on this issue). It is not hard to understand the modern attraction to plant-based diets.

As a Christian, I am very sympathetic. My lived life, enacted choices should demonstrate my concerns and values. I believe that as it’s Creator, God cares about the world; about its environments, its animals and its people. I do believe that God has a special relationship with people, His image bearers, and that this relationship calls us to care for His world, the environments, animals and other people, as He would. To steward well the world given to us as a gift. Perhaps less discussed is the principle of life-given-for-another God seems to have embedded deeply into the nature of His creation. Both physically (we need food and water to live) and spiritually (we needed Jesus to offer His life for ours) we are dependant on something or someone dying so that we can have life. As Christians we are then called to offer our own lives – our energy, time and love – back to God and for the good of others. We are called to ‘eat and be eaten’ as C. S. Lewis says. The physical and spiritual reality forces us to comprehend the interdependant complexity of life. Passover demands we watch the lamb killed, the blood splashed on the door frame, the meat shared, the people saved. John tells us that Jesus is that Lamb, slain for the sins of the world.

Does that mean that as Christians we have to eat meat? Like the Swedenborgian Bible Christian Church in vegetarian history who insisted on ovo-lacto vegetarianism because the Promise Land was ‘flowing with milk and honey’! I don’t think so. However, I do think that it gives us permission to consider (thoughtful) meat consumption appropriate within Christian practice. On the other hand we still must face the call to consume in line with our call to steward well. To treat the land, the animals and other people with dignity. In light of those concerns I outlined before; feeding the hungry, the cruel realities of factory farming and environmental sustainability in the face of devastating land degradation, I can understand why some Christians choose a vegetarian or even vegan diet. Our human systems developed to nourish, clothe and equip bear the signs of deep brokenness. The very clothes we wear and food we eat implicate us as part of the problem.

While far from having answers to this extensive systemic challenge, I was delighted to engage with an example of embodied expression of belief as I wrote this essay. I want to keep walking here, in the middle of the mess, despite my desire for neat solutions. I imagine that for my family, this will, at the very least, involve quantitatively less meat, and the need to seek out more ‘thoughtfully’ raised animal products. I hope that it also means many more conversations about how to live a life that demonstrates my deep concerns and cares.


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A plaited loaf



This is my new favourite bread recipe. It’s from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef cookbook slightly adjusted. You get two loaves for your efforts – which is always a treat and the texture and flavour are both lovely. I particularly like plating the loaf and then tearing apart to share and eat. The lower one was shared in communion with my mum-and-dad-in law, sparkling grape juice and all, whereas the top one was shared among a crowd over the Easter weekend as we celebrated another broken in our place. I love that bread is simple and complex, physical and spiritual all rolled up together.

500g white flour (ideally ‘strong’ bread flour)
430g spelt flour (the top photo has wholemeal spelt, the lower one had white spelt)
70g gluten flour
625mL water
30g dried yeast
2 tablespoons of water
2 tsp salt

1. Place all dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mix master (if you don’t have one, a big mixing bowl is fine, you’ll just need to get ready to do some hand mixing and kneading).
2. Start adding the water and combining the dough, the dough hook for the mix master is a great help here, otherwise a wooden spoon gets you going if you are doing a ‘hands-on’ version of the recipe. Continue to add the water till a smooth dough forms – let the mix master start the kneading process for you. If you are doing without the mix master, once the dough starts to come together you may need to knead it by hand to make it smooth (either in the bowl if its big or on the bench adding flour if its sticky).
3. Knead for 4-5 minutes adjusting flour and water to ensure you have a smooth uniform dough.
4. Allow the dough to prove in the bowl, sprinkle some flour on top to stop it from sticking to the clingfilm as it grows. It will take about 30 minutes to double in size.
5. Punch the air out of the dough and divide into two. Plat each loaf and then set the loaves aside to rise again. It will need at least another 30 minutes resting and growing.
6. Bake at 180oC for about 30 minutes, it should sound hollow when tapped and will be golden and gorgeous!
7. Bless, break and eat.

“Our Lord left us a command to remember and receive him in the act of eating bread and drinking wine. Things matter. The physical is holy.”
Eugene Peterson, Answering God, p72.

Beginner Bread maker





I grew up watching my dad experiment with bread recipes. He is a very methodical baker, taking notes, always trying to better the recipe. We happily watched on as he baked, knowing that at the end of the session, we’d be called in as tasters – and we’d be ready with the butter and jam, peanut butter and cheese – ready to try the hot loaf, as soon as it was not too hot to hold! In the last few years I’ve realised that I’m quite different in my approach to cooking – recipes are more like guidelines right?! Except I like being able to replicate yumminess I’ve managed to channel at one point, so I’m trying to be better at the keeping records thing! I’ve also realised that I really, really like bread. I like that it is basic, plain, substantial, nourishing, sustaining. I like that it is so basic to the nourishing of so many people throughout history that the word bread is often used to refer to food generally.  I love that at every level, bread points us to God. Psalm 104 talks about the way God provides bread for people, through their participatory interactions with His creation. He is; however, not limited to this type of provision and sometimes in the bible God provides bread in more spectacular ways; think manna in the wilderness. Jesus Himself nourishes His followers with bread both physically (think the feeding of the 5000) and then spiritually; when He reveals Himself as the Way that God will provide real life for His people. Then, poignantly and beautifully, Jesus shares bread with His disciples the night before He dies as a tangible picture of His imminent sacrifice. This He intends as a pattern. That we, His people, would gather. Serve each other. Remember His life, death and resurrection. And, together, look forward to the wedding supper of the Lamb, where God will welcome us to His table, as His family, and we will be His people and He will be our God. Forever.

I love bread.

I want to begin to be like God, to share my bread with others, because He wants to share bread with me. And so, like my earthly father, I want to be a baker. I want to make good bread to share with others.

My dad’s best bread success is a variation on Jamie Oliver’s Moroccan Chickpea bread. He’s really made it his own. We, my mum and I especially, love this bread so much that there is a joke in our house that it should really be called ‘Chick’ Bread (never mind the chick peas)!

14g of dry yeast (2 sachets, 1 (20ml) tablespoon works well too)
550mL luke warm water
50mL olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1/2 vitamin C tablet

450g plain White flour
480g wholemeal/stone ground flour
70g gluten Flour [86% protein]
16g salt
6g sugar

1 tbs coriander seeds (as finely/roughly ground as you like)
1 tsp/1 tbs tablespoon cumin seeds (as finely/roughly ground as you like)
410g can chickpeas

1. Take the racks out of the oven, then preheat the oven to 200-220˚C.
2. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the vitamin C tablet up.
3. In a tallish container place the luke warm water, yeast, olive oil, sugar, vitamin C and a sprinkle of flour. Allow this to sit somewhere warm till you begin to see the bubbles grow and develop!
4. Add the dry ingredients you have decided to use (drained and mashed chick peas included) into a large bowl, preferably one that fits in a big electric mixer with a dough hook.
5. Once the yeast has begun to bubble, add the liquids to the flour and mix till combined.
6. Watch the mixture – it should be moist but not sticky (either add more flour, or more water depending on the texture).
7. Once the dough comes together it can be removed from the bowl and kneaded for 10 minutes on a floured bench.
8. Divide dough into 12-18 pieces and roll out each piece to about 7-10mm thick. Dad tends to use various shapes: round, elongated, with or without “docking” or cuts etc. I like the fatter round ones best!
9. At this stage you can leave to rise for anywhere from 10 mins to 40 mins – when I made them recently, I just cooked them straight away. They were great!
10. They are cooked directly on the racks you removed from the oven. If you want, you can dust with flour (or cornflour for a golden colour) to stop sticking but they work okay without as long as your dough is not too sticky!
11. Cook for 8 – 10 mins or until golden and they have reached the desired softness/crispness!
12. Enjoy with pretty much any topping (infused olive oil, balsamic vinegar and dukkah are pretty great!). If you didn’t use the Middle Eastern Spices, they are can be used more widely, but they are so good that nearly any topping works!

Share with friends and family and remember Who breaking bread points us too.

Did you know that the word ‘companion’ is extracted from Latin and actually means those who share bread together?

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry …'”

John 3:65