Friday, June 27, 2008

Another Brick in the Wall

It feels appropriate to say that food is now my calling. I've felt that way for quite a while now. It gets me some strange looks from people, though. Well, among the other strange looks that I somehow manage to earn. People aren't used to thinking of food in those kinds of terms. At least most people aren't. Some folks get it. Sharon gets it. She recently said this in an email exchange and I haven't been able to get it out of my head: "I find it impossible to separate my food life from my spiritual life. For me, they are the same." Bingo.

I think that the reason some have difficulty with this idea is that we've bought into the idea of a demarcation between the "sacred" and the "secular." Certain jobs are sacred and certain jobs are secular, right? It would follow that our being is divided up, then, into sacred (the spiritual) and the secular (the physical). I've seen a lot of folks use this kind of parsing to dismiss their food choices. It really doesn't matter what we eat, because that's only temporal, right?

For some years now, I've developed an increasing belief that the small and insignificant jobs that consume my day have a spiritual significance. An aura of the holy. I've wondered, from time to time, if this wasn't just a grasping search for meaning in a life mired in the mundane details of drudgery. And some days, I'll admit, it did and does feel that way. But I keep coming back to this core sense that this is what I'm called to do. And even though it doesn't earn me much respect, if any, and probably would earn me contempt from any movers and shakers that might happen to glance down and notice my existence, it still returns to me that this isn't trivial. These are the bricks upon which all is founded.

I've been doing a great deal of thinking about Nehemiah...the guy who was called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Who gave up a cushy job as food-taster (there we again!) to go and stand on the rubble with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, to re-erect the walls that had lain in ruins for 150 years. Sounds like a secular job, right? Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, maintains that "work, by its very nature, is holy." Otherwise, why would it matter to God whether or not there were walls around a city? This was a holy calling.

I'm reminded of a conversation I was engaged in a few years back. The mom was consulting a noted nutritionist for her children. Her daughter had eczema and other symptoms that weren't responding to the usual treatments. The nutritionist pointed out the breakdown in the girl's digestive processes. "L's having trouble with her 'walls,'" she said. Indeed. Lots of us are having trouble with eroded walls and we are being called to rebuild them. Our contemporary food supply isn't designed to do that. We're going to have to do that on our own. Time to pick up a trowel and sword and put another brick in the wall.

The biggest stumbling block in this food issue is bread. I have acquaintances, even relatives, who won't consider making changes despite all of the indicators because of that one block...that one brick...bread. The most trafficked recipes I have are the bread ones. And the most requested of the Hobbits are bready things. It's a foundational food in our lives, even though we can live very healthy lives without it...sometimes even healthier lives without it. But it still comes down to wanting good bread.

The latest that I've been twiddling with is tortillas...working on achieving the penultimate tortilla. I'm getting closer. I noticed that the oh-so-delicious-but-ever-elusive-and-yet-corntaminated Food For Life rice flour tortillas have rice bran in them. So I acquired some rice bran and am now stalking their own perfect tortilla. One step closer.

Grilled Tortillas

1 1/2 cups rice flour
1/2 - 3/4 cups tapioca starch flour
2 T rice bran
2-3 T melted lard
3/4 - 1 cup warm water
2-3 t guar gum
1 t salt
Extra lard for cooking

In mixer, using a dough hook (one of the rare times that gluten free baking requires a dough hook), mix the dry ingredients with the melted lard and slowly work in the water until incorporated. The dough should be dry enough to work with your hands. Break off a ball of dough and roll into a ball. Using sheets of baking parchment or wax paper, flatten in a tortilla press or roll out with a rolling pin.

On a grill preheated to approximately 400*, gently lay tortillas and grill about two minutes per side, with the lid closed.

Nehemiah left a legacy that he restored the walls of Jerusalem and made it a safe place for a culture to flourish again. That's how I want to be remembered. As someone who made food something that nourished my children again so that they could flourish and become all that they can be.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God."


Anonymous said...

beautifully written, as always.

FoodAllergyMom said...

I noticed you use lard in all of your totilla recipes. My daughter is allergic to beef. Do you think spectrum shortening will work just as well?

Loztnausten said...

Lard is from pork, but if you don't have a good source for that or don't feel comfortable with it, Spectrum would be a good substitute. :)

Anonymous said...

How can you be so wise and amazing? :) I talk your blog up all the time and this post is a perfect example of why. Thank you.
Hey.. you said you cooked these guys on a grill. Did you use literally a weber charcoal grill, or do you use a grill pan on the stove? It's BBQ season here in Portland OR and I'm always looking for other fun things to throw on the hot grill. Maybe some tortillas are in my future...

Loztnausten said...

::blush:: Thanks for the kind words, Alyss. This is one of those posts that rolled around in my head for a while before I found the words for it. I'm glad it is an encouragement...we all need all of the encouragement we can get, right? :)

We use a propane grill--and I'm sticking my fingers in my ears and lalalalala-ing about grills right now, lol!--since it is the easiest to use year round. Tool Guy loves to have grilled stuff when the spirit moves and propane is the best way to do that in the six inches of snow that we experience more often than the BBQ kind of weather. ;)

The grilled tortillas were a bit stiff at first, but after they cooled, they softened up. When they are fresh cooked, they serve as an edible plate more than a wrap. Still yummy though.

We're meditating on a smoker next... ;)