Soul Food

We served up a different kind of nourishment in the kitchen today. The sustenance didn’t come from any of the five food groups, but from each of the senses. My children have grown fond of a phenomenal folk musician named Eric Bibb. Earlier this week I happened upon a new CD and we’ve been singing along to Judge Not Your Brother for a couple of days now. The song sings a parable about a street confrontation with a panhandler. The children recognized the story was about one of the men who live under the bridge near our church we pass several times a week. Why these men are begging for money is often the subject of discussion. As is why I sometimes give money and sometimes do not. Although not completely foreign, the subject matter in Bibb’s profound lyrics still needed explanation to my children of 6, 4 and 3 years.

The questions the children were asking were tough for me to explain, so this afternoon we used crayons, markers, and paint to express what the song meant to us.

Judge Not Your Brother (lyrics by Eric Bibb)

Passed a young man on the street dressed in rags couldn’t have been more than 25
Lying on the sidewalk in a sleeping bag and a sign that read:
Your kindness keeps me alive
I remember I stopped and turned around couldn’t hold my tongue saying something about that sign bothers me
So I asked him, “Why’s a guy like you healthy, white and young living off working folk’s charity?” He said,

Judge not your brother
Walk a mile in his shoes
You see he’s doing the best that he can do
Like me and you

My mouth fell open wide shocked by the truth
The look in his eyes was wise and sad
He said, “Brother, I was born a rich man’s son, but I gave it all away, every last dollar I ever had”.
He wanted to know how it felt to be humbled by disdain, pity and indignation.
He asked me if I’d read the book Black Like Me. He said it was his inspiration.

Judge not your brother
Walk a mile in his shoes
You see he’s doing the best that he can do
Like me and you

Just when we think we know what’s really going on
Life serves us a surprise
A lesson to learn again and again
‘Cause we’ve all been victimized by prejudice and lies

Judge not your brother
Walk a mile in his shoes
You see he’s doing the best that he can do
Judge not your brother
Walk a mile in his shoes
You see he’s doing the best that he can do
Like me and you.


I started the afternoon project thinking I would teach the children something. From their illustrations, they gleaned a thing or two. But, as always I am humbled by my role as a mother and I realized the lesson Eric Bibb was teaching was for me. I have been judgmental lately and this song struck a chord. It fed my soul, nourished my heart and plated up a hearty reminder that we are all just doing the best that we can do.

Comfort Food

When paired together the words comfort and food conjure up all kinds of possibilities in my culinary imagination. Generally, I think of homey favorites like garlic cheese grits or a warm chicken spaghetti casserole with crunchy garlic toast. Really stick-to-your-ribs kinds of dishes that come from my mother, mother-in-law or lately Paula Deen. We’ve all got our favorite comfort foods. When I am sick I immediately wish for my mother’s Matzo Ball Soup. For birthday breakfasts we always have pigs-in-a-blanket. My nephew turned three this weekend and I have never seen so many pigs-in-a-blanket before in my life. I must have eaten a baker’s dozen myself. After all it was a birthday party and the taste of the flaky biscuits and the salty sausage was expected even before the pigs were in sight. During the first few weeks of one of my pregnancies all I wanted was avocado & tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Unfortunately for my waistline, during my last pregnancy my comfort food consisted of PB&J sandwiches and large quantities of milk. Hmmm….

So, when Husband asked me to make him Strawberry Shortcake I looked at him quizzically. This was not something I expected him to request. He went on to explain that Strawberry Shortcake was his father’s favorite dessert. Pawpaw (as our children affectionately called him) died two years ago this month. And husband has been missing him a lot lately. With this in mind, the children and I set out to make Daddy the best Strawberry Shortcake ever. We washed our hands, mixed the dough, kneaded the dough and used an old mason jar to form perfectly shaped biscuits. For afternoon snack the children begged to taste the biscuits hot out of the oven with butter and honey drizzled all over. We sweetened the strawberries and let them rest in their vanilla-sugar bath in the refrigerator.

Dinner was delicious, a healthy and simple affair. Inspired by the cookbook Pace of Provence, I served artichokes for a first course. I found the most beautiful purple baby artichokes at Whole Foods this morning and couldn’t resist. Little Bit ate the most. She quickly mastered the tooth scraping technique and savored the nutty flavor of the purple gems. The main course called for Monkfish. My fishmonger, Brayden, didn’t have Monkfish today and recommended the gorgeous fresh sea scallops instead. Not a cheap substitution, but the scallops delicately wrapped in basil and prosciutto then steamed on a bed of green onions were delicious. With a dollop of Farmer’s Cheese atop each scallop our dinner was perfect.

Finally, after much anticipation the children revealed to their Father the big surprise for dessert. Brimming with excitement they retold the recipe and how each of them participated in a special way to make the shortcake. While we were all indulging in the decadent dessert I briefly imagined Pawpaw at the table with us. Oh how his eyes would have glistened at the sight of his grandchildren measuring, kneading, baking and tasting his ultimate comfort food.

Reflecting on memories and savoring the present joy of today, I’ve added Strawberry Shortcake to my list of Comfort Foods.

Just Because…..

Have you ever been given the most perfect gift for no reason at all??? I was the recipient of such a treasure today.

I was at Mom’s house today picking up some platters for a soiree chez moi tomorrow and out of the blue she hands me a package. I ripped into it and tears welled up in my eyes with joy as I pulled out…..

You guessed it! Damon Lee Fowler’s Classical Southern Cooking.

Ah! The joy. The surprise. And it’s not even my birthday. I’m still skipping around like my children on Christmas morning.

Thank goodness Mom reads my blog. And, that I shamelessly begged for the cookbook a couple of posts ago.

Thank you, Mom. If I ever write a cookbook it’ll be for and because of you.

SWEET SURRENDER

For the record I went AWOL on some far fetched attempt to try the Fat Flush Regime. Who was I kidding??? I’m sure it’s a great alternative for countless folks attempting to not only lose weight, but more importantly dramatically improve their health. Let’s just say I failed. After one week, I felt fine. But after two weeks without caffeine (decaf is taboo too), carbonation, wine, dairy, wheat or any kind of fat other than 2 T of flaxseed oil, I was feeling well…bored. And a little pissy too.

Have no fear. I’m back in the saddle again. And with a vengeance. To celebrate my epiphany tonight I dressed the table with a sensuous fare from my Barefoot Contessa. Subconsciously, I must have been planning this meal for several days. I happened upon a Chefography Show on Lifestyle featuring Ina Garten. I knew most of her success story from reading her cookbooks cover to cover and watching her FoodTV show. But, this show was all I needed to pull my head out of the salt-free sand I’ve been buried in.

It doesn’t get much better than the Parisian inspired meal I made this evening. Allow me to elaborate….

Filet of Beef au Poivre
Herbed New Potatoes
Baby Mixed Greens tossed with blue cheese, sliced roasted almonds and Jamie’s Dijon Vinaigrette
Paired with a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon

Simple.
Elegant.
Decadent.
All on a Tuesday night.

No gut(s), no glory. Literally.