Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was mixing up some dough for Thanksgiving turkey shaped sugar cookies for the kids, and Mr. Sundberg was away, down in Louisiana giving a talk on gratitude, and volunteering some of his time to help out with a Habitat for Humanity project. I like this about Mr. S. He loves to give of his time and energy, loves to help people especially when there are hammers and saws and drywall involved. It has been our hope along the way to do some kind of volunteer mission type trip together, and now that the kids are gone, it’s a topic of conversation pretty frequently, I’d say.
I have to say also I was glad to be alone for the weekend, as I wouldn’t much know what words to share in a conversation about what happened in Paris last Friday night. Stunning. Really. So much emotion and pain and awfulness — it brought me back to the morning of 9/11 when I was in that same kitchen making breakfast and listening to the news. The sun was out that day, too, and I had no idea that morning that I’d spend the afternoon in a church.
I’ve had to tune out a bit from all forms of media this past week. Not that I’m not interested or without compassion. It was tempting to rant and rage, tempting to argue, tempting to be plugged in every possible moment. Which I was for a while. And then I returned to the kitchen after a few days, and to the new custard pie recipe I’m trying out, and to thought. I’d heard it all, it seemed. How prayer is silly. How we must bar the door. How terrible it really was. Who was to blame. Who was not to blame. I’d heard people arguing in the lobby at the post office, people disagreeing in the paper, family members shouting at each other on Facebook and in the house down the street.
Then the phone call, from one of the kids. Such fear, and what to say? I remembered, then, words I read along the way in Frank Herbert’s book, Dune: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Always did like those words. Which then called to mind Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his declaration, in his first inaugural address, that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
I’ve always been of the mind that good prevails, and I’m stickin’ to it. I believe it, and that was my reply to my fearful child. Fear not. Don’t hide yourself away. To live out of fear is not a life; to live out of love is all of life. Call your friends and go to the mall. Take a walk in the park, or a road trip up the shore. Be out in the world, and make of your life an adventure, not a prison. And, as Mr. John Wesley said with such perfection and grace, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
And now there is pie for everyone, and everyone gets a piece. At least one. And if we run out, we’ll bake more. Together.
Here’s a delicious recipe from an amazing woman and friend, and a version of hot chocolate I think you’ll enjoy, all for a blustery day. Time for comfort, my friends, and what better than a bowl of homemade stew for dinner, and hot chocolate and popcorn by the fire later on. Make enough to share, and do so, and enjoy!
Peg’s Beef Stew
3 T Olive Oil
1 T Butter
2 lbs Stew Meat
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 can (12 oz) Beer
4 cups Beef Stock (or 4 Cups Water + 4 Beef Bouillon Cubes)
2 cups Water (additional, if needed)
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
2 T Tomato Paste
½ tsp Paprika
½ tsp Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1½ tsp Sugar
4 whole Carrots, Washed, Unpeeled, And Roughly Sliced
4 whole New Potatoes, Quartered
Minced Parsley (optional)
Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown meat in two batches, setting aside on a plate when brown. Cut pieces in half. Set aside.
Add diced onions to the pot. Stir and cook for two or three minutes until softened, then add garlic for another minute. Pour in beer and beef stock, then add Worcestershire, tomato paste, paprika, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add beef back into the pot. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours.
The liquid should cook down and get a bit thicker. If it gets too thick/reduces too much, add a little more water as needed. Add carrots and potatoes, then cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes. (If stew gets dry, just add one cup of hot water at a time to replenish the liquid.) Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Serve in bowls with some crusty French bread or good ol’ sourdough. Sprinkle with minced parsley, if desired.
Some Fine Hot Chocolate
3 cups whole milk (2% works)
1 cup half-and-half
¼ cup good quality cocoa powder (Dutch is a favorite)
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp vanilla
Place milk and half-and-half in a saucepan and heat to a simmer over medium heat.
While that’s happening, stir together the cocoa powder, sugar, and cinnamon. A few teaspoons at a time, stir some of the hot milk into the cocoa mixture to make a smooth paste. Scrape the cocoa mixture into the saucepan with the milk and simmer 2 minutes; do not let it boil. Stir in the vanilla and serve with marshmallows or whipped cream.