Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Big, Old-Fashioned Country Pile-Up

"Bless the Lord, O my soul:  and all that is within me, bless His holy name....
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things..."
Psalm 103:1, 5

When I was a teenager, I remember carpooling 
with a few other families to the Christian school I attended.
The lady who usually drove us home was Mrs. Cromwell, 
the mother of a boy named Bob, who was in my class.
She would drop me off in our driveway,
and wait to see that I made it safely up the walk and inside the house
before she would leave.
On my way to our front door, 
I always knew right off when Mom was cooking 
my favorite meal....
pinto beans, 
fried potatoes,
and cornbread...
because the kitchen window would be fogged up,

from the inside kitchen heat hitting the cold, afternoon Ohio outside air.

I would see that steamed-up window, 
and it would warm my heart.
The first thing I would think of,
is "Mom is in there to welcome me home from school,
and she is cooking beans."

I guess I didn't realize it then, 
but probably the main reason we had 
beans, fried potatoes, and cornbread so often,
was that it didn't cost much at all to make.
You could probably make the whole meal for under $5.00,
and there would be plenty of leftovers.
I can't think of too many creative ways to
make $5.00 stretch more than that!

I wasn't thinking of any of that then.
I just knew we had it often, and 
it had become my childhood comfort food,
I loved it more than any other meal I could think of.

We didn't eat rice where I grew up.
It was potatoes...
all the way.
It was only after I left Ohio that I realized anyone ate rice
like we ate potatoes.

This morning, I took a pound bag of pinto beans out of our kitchen cupboard,
and I cooked them....
just the way Mom used to.
She had a special way of getting the soup to just the right thickness.
Sometimes, I've made them, and they didn't resemble Mom's beans at all.
They were either too watery
or not watery enough.

Today, thankfully, they turned out just right.
Through much experimenting,
I've found that one of the secrets is to add some ketchup 
to the beans towards the end of cooking them.
It thickens the soup quite nicely,
and it adds a special dimension of flavor.

As I started cooking them this morning, I added some "Orrington Farms"
ham flavoring and later threw in some leftover bacon slices from breakfast.
The combination of it all was just mouth-watering.

Zach came in to the kitchen, as he often does,
to see what I am into in there.

His face lit up with excitement,
"Beans, Mama?"

"Yes, Zach."

He waited.

"Well, are we gonna have anything else with 'em?"

I knew where he was heading with this.
I had thought maybe I would forgo the fattening fried potatoes
and cornbread this time...
they don't exactly fit into my weight loss aspirations.
I thought maybe we could just eat a bowl of beans for supper...
what with all the fiber they provide,
it could actually be quite healthy
(if you ignore the fat from the bacon!)...
without all of the added calories.

That just wouldn't do...
not for Zach.
His logic is....
 what are beans without fried potatoes and cornbread???
He loves my favorite childhood meal 
almost as much as I do.
Now that I'm older and realize how Mom must have had to pinch pennies,
I am thrilled Zach is content with such meager fare!

"Okay, Zach, do you really want fried potatoes and cornbread, too?"
I knew what his answer would be before he opened his mouth.

"Welllll, Mama....if it's not too much trouble."

Who could resist his melted-chocolate brown eyes??

Not me, obviously.

"Okay, Zach."

I cast a furtive, wistful glance towards my sewing machine
sitting quietly in the room next door.
I really wanted to get back to the quilt I am almost finished with.
But, then there he was....
looking so hopeful.

It was not a hard decision.

Without a drop of hesitation, I turned away from the quilt that was beckoning,
and I went to work.
I made the cornbread muffins, stuck the pan in the oven, started peeling potatoes,
and I thought of Mom.

How many times did she do that for me?
When her back was aching?
Her feet were tired?
When she felt like doing something else?

I guess you never realize the sacrifices someone else is making on your behalf,
until you are making those same sacrifices for someone else.

Then you realize that they really aren't sacrifices at all....
when you perform each task with love.
The element of love removes the hard part.
I feel sure that is how she looked at it, too.

His eager appetite made me glad I neglected the quilt project.
We sat down at the table when everything was done,
and we filled our plates with what Zach refers to as
"A Big, Old-Fashioned Country Pile-Up".

Allow me to explain.
It is important that you get this just right.
First you put a pile of brown, crusty fried potatoes in the middle of your dinner-size plate.
Next, you crumble a hot, steaming cornbread muffin that just came out of the oven, 
on top of the fried potatoes.
(You can split it in two first and put butter on it, if you wish.)
Next, you take what Dad referred to as "big ol' slab of onion" and plop it on top of the potatoes.
Then, you squirt ketchup over the entire concoction.
Last of all, you take a big dipper-full of pinto beans, 
soup and all, and you pour it over everything on your plate.

You mix it all together, just right, until all of the flavors are well-blended,
and here's the best part....
you dive in.
Table manners aren't really top priority, at this point, 
if you know what I mean.

I sat there tonight, 
at our kitchen table, 
and I watched Zach eat.
He relished every, single bite
of his Big, Old-Fashioned Country Pile-Up...
right up until the last morsel was scraped up with the spoon....
and his tummy almost hurt from being so full.

As I watched him,
I realized it is sheer joy to see someone enjoy their food that much...
especially when you have put that much love into it.
Seeing him relish every bite,
then hearing him say, 
"Thank you, Mama!"
made it all worthwhile.

It made me think of how God is so faithful to provide good things for us.
He puts a lot of love into every gift He bestows.

Psalm 23:5 says,
"Thou preparest a table before me..."

It takes effort to prepare a table before someone.
To carefully include all of the things they love and enjoy 
takes work and time and effort.
Each morning, God gently wakes us to see a new day.
He sends us reminders of His love all day long.
He blesses us with what we need and many times what we want.

How it must fill God's great heart with joy to see us enjoy what He gives!
Seeing that...
knowing that....
must make Him glad He blessed us.

How many times do we turn and thank Him?
Do we lap up the blessings, only to take them for granted,
never considering Who sent them?
Never giving thought to the sacrifice that was made on our behalf?

Or do we faithfully acknowledge that it is He Who sends it all?
It is He Who distributes the right combination of rain and sunshine in needful amounts...
just enough to make the crops grow.
It is He Who blesses the farmer with strength to plow 
and sow and harvest the ripened grain.
It is He Who bestows health and aptitude and ample work 
to provide funds to purchase the finished product.
And it is He Who lands it on our table for us to enjoy.

I think God likes to see us happy.
I believe it fills His great heart with a sense of fulfillment and joy
to see us utilizing and enjoying His gifts.
He is a gracious Heavenly Father Who cares about us 
in a very real way.
I find it hard to comprehend, but God loves us
with an even deeper love than the love we feel for our children.

He satisfies our mouth....
and life....
with good things...
on the table He has gone to great effort and lengths to prepare...
just for us.

It does His heart good to hear grateful words coming from our lips.

Why not stop what you are doing right now....
turn your face upward...
and tell Him "thanks"?

I just did.

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