Saturday, January 26, 2013

Vegan apricot pie!

It only occurred to me after the pie was half gone: there were no animal-based ingredients in this pie.

Crust (source:
I used to use the Joy of Cooking recipe, which used 2c flour and 2/3c shortening split in halves. You'd cut half the shortening into the flour until it was the size of corn meal, then cut in the other half until "pea size." This often seemed to produce not enough pastry for two crusts, besides involving more steps. So this one is my new favorite pie-crust recipe, even though it makes a little too much pastry.

Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F.
Sift together:
  • 2½ cup flour
  • scant 1 tsp salt
Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in:
  • 1 cup vegetable-based shortening
until it looks like sand. Large sand.
  • 6 Tbsp cold water
and sprinkle it into the flour mixtrure, a little at a time, while lifting ingredients with a fork. Stop when the dough ball just sticks together. Roll half the dough-ball into a pie pan and put the other aside.

Filling (source:
In a mixing bowl, combine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
  • 4 cups (1 pound) fresh or frozen sliced apricots
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
and toss to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.
Turn fruit mixture into pie pan.
Roll out the other half of the pastry to form a top crust.
Cover the pie with top crust, pierce top crust with fork (or cut slots); flute edges.
Bake 35-45 minutes, until crust is browned and filling is bubbling.
Cool on a rack.

Praying for Indifference

I've been reading Ruth Haley Barton's marvelous Pursuing God’s Will Together, whose 2nd chapter mentions three kinds of prayer I want to remember before trying to make decisions. In other words, I want to be praying these all the time.

The first, Barton says, is the prayer of quiet trust (Psalm 131). This brings to mind the verse in Psalm 23 that says "he makes me lie down in green pastures." In A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Keller says that sheep won't lie down if they're hungry, fearful, or uncomfortable. The point, then, is to quiet myself, to ask God to bring me to that place of quiet trust, like a contented child.

The second is the prayer of indifference, the attitude of Mary when the angel tells her what's about to happen to her (Luke 1:38 "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.") or Jesus in the garden, when he says, Yet not my will but thine be done.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Chambers says, "To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth." Which is a frightening concept, but doesn't the Bible already tell us that (Proverbs 27)? And Jesus told us about this too: "If anyone wants to do God's will, he will know whether I'm speaking from God, or just making all this stuff up" (John 7:17).

I need to be in a place where God's will is what I want—the place of surrender. This is really hard, because I want what I want, and I think it's a good idea. If I thought it a bad idea, I wouldn't want it.

But I need to lose the attitude of "Be reasonable; do it my way!" and instead pray sincerely, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, and in my life, and in particular regarding this decision." This is something I can't do on my own; I need God's help in getting to that place.

The third prayer mentioned is the prayer for wisdom (James 1:5, etc.); we sometimes go straight to this third kind of prayer, without first getting peaceful or surrendered. When that happens, I may not be trusting God and I may experience unrest, because I don't really want God's will; what I want is for God to give a thumbs-up to my will.

Sorry to say, I have a great deal of experience in this area. I mean of asking for wisdom without first trusting God and surrendering to him.

If I'm considering alternatives, or arguing for why my chosen alternative is better, there's a temptation to have a perfunctory prayer and start writing down advantages (of my way) and disadvantages (of yours). And therein lies the problem: when I want my will, I can come up with all kinds of "reasons" why my chosen alternative is "better" than the way you prefer. I can be very convincing and sincere about it too—I've convinced myself that my way is better, and I'd never lie to you about something unless I'd lied to myself about it first.

Of course I can't tell I'm doing this at the time. But I have seen very smart people come up with really lame reasons why thus and such is a good idea, when it's clearly not.

Quiet trust first, then surrender, then asking for wisdom. May the Lord remind me about this sequence when I get the order wrong.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The "Self"?

I've been thinking a lot about the "self" lately. Not myself in particular, but about what the concept means.

At Christmas, the lovely Carol gave me a copy of Hood's The Self Illusion, which doesn't quite prove what the blurb says it does.

But what I want to write about today is something I heard on NPR, maybe on Talk of the Nation: it was an interview with Daniel Levitin, who wrote this fascinating article about what remains when memories of the past are gone.

In response to something I've already forgotten, Levitin said that what we call the "self" has four, um, aspects. Or something (I don't think he said "components"). Parts, maybe? Anyway, here they are, to the extent that I remembered them:

  1. Self-awareness.
    For example, you can recognize yourself in the mirror
  2. Agency
    You recognize that you're mostly in control of your body and can decide to do things with it.
  3. Tastes, preferences
  4. Our stories.
    Our history, the struggles we endured, the obstacles overcome, this sort of thing. This is what's lost when long-term memory is lost.
If we lose our stories, Levitin said, we lose a big part of ourselves. Indeed we do! But that's not the whole story. Levitin concludes his article with this observation about "Tom" and his brain tumor:
When I saw Tom, something fundamentally Tom was still there. Some of us call it personality, or essence. Some call it the "soul." Whatever it is, the tumor that took Tom's memory had not touched it.
Amnesia and the Self That Remains When Memory Is Lost
from, December 2012
Isn't it interesting that Levitin, a neuroscientist, talks about personality or essence or soul (as does Thompson in Anatomy of the Soul)—whereas people like Hood and Pinker say the self or the soul (what Pinker disparagingly calls the ghost in the machine) is an illusion?

Though some people say there's no such thing as a "self," nobody can actually live as though they're just an illusion.

I'm not sure where I was going with all that, but I wanted to share Levitin's list of four aspects of the "self" with you. And I also wanted to note that God tells his people over and over to remember—something important in many relationships. More on that in a future post.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Eve Party

One of my great pleasures is that of preparing food for people I love and enjoying it with them. There were 21 of us enjoying appetizers and dinner and dessert last night: neighbors from down the street, parents of one of Sheri's classmates, friends from decades ago, our small group, another family we know from church.

There was sushi from Suruki Supermarket—51 pieces (including six rolls) for $48.25, an incredible deal and (to my unsophisticated palate) delicious.

But that's not mainly what I mean by "prepare"—and neither is the antipasto pack from Costco®. And neither is cooking too much rice in the rice cooker. Let me start with

Shoyu chicken, sorta

… a variation on this recipe.
About 6½ hours before suppertime, mix
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 1½ cup water
  • 2 tsp or so minced ginger
    (or fresh if you prefer; we have minced garlic in a jar)
  • a similar amount of garlic (not sure if I did this or just thought about it)
  • 2/3 cup vinegar (omitted from the recipe)
and pour into crockpot or stock pot set over medium heat.
Optional: lightly brown in oil; alternately, just drop into the pot from the packages:
  • 15-18 chicken drumsticks and
  • a similar amount of chicken thigh meat
If you brown the chicken, you'll probably need to do it in shifts. In any case, add chicken to the stock pot. Reduce heat.
Slice thinly:
  • ½–1 bunch thinly sliced green onions
and add to the stockpot.
Simmer 5-6 hours.

Korean-style grilled beef (not really 불고기)

So I went to Whole Foods to get meat from a humanely raised cow or bull. I saw a boneless cross rib roast, about 5 pounds, and asked them to slice it for me. "We can cut it by hand, but we don't have a meat slicer," the butcher said. Well, it's a first-world problem. I don't have a machine for slicing meat, either, but I do have sharp knives. I cut it thinly, stacking the pieces in a 4-quart Pyrex® mixing bowl. Since this cow ate mostly grass, I figured it would need a little tenderizing, so I poured a little cooking sherry over the stack and a little between. And a little soy sauce. OK, now let me try to recreate the "recipe" such as it was:
  • ~½ cup soy sauce
  • ~4 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • a similar amount of vegetable oil (if I remembered)
  • garlic? (6 cloves would not be excessive, but I think I forgot the garlic altogether)
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted crushed sesame seeds (you could certainly use more)
  • ~½ bunch green onions, sliced/chopped/whatever
  • ~5 lbs. thinly sliced beef
    (How thin? I had about 40 pieces, not all of which were perfect slices.)
in a marinating dish like this one, with at least a little of the marinade between each piece.
Let soak an hour or more if you can, turning occasionally.
Grill over charcoal.

Spinach nah-mool (sorta)

I keep qualifying these names because they're like movies whose plots were "inspired by a true story." Here's what we did for the spinach.
Boil very briefly, then cool:
  • 2 lbs. fresh spinach
  • ~½ cup soy sauce
  • ~¼ cup vegetable oil (if I remembered)
  • ~4 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • (I probably forgot the garlic again.)
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted crushed sesame seeds (you could certainly use more)
  • ~½ bunch green onions, sliced/chopped/whatever
Mix all marinade ingredients.
At least an hour before suppertime, but probably not the day before, add about half of it to the spinach, and mix well. Let it sit in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes, and taste it. If it's bland, add a little more of the marinade.
Serve with steamed rice (brown rice if you're health-conscious) and kimchi/kim chee.

Cho jang

I didn't serve this last night, but I wanted to write down what I remembered from last time.
  • 1 Tbsp. go chu jang (hot pepper paste)
  • 1 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
Whisk all ingredients together. And that's all there is to it.