Thursday, February 26, 2009

Soul Food

Tuesday was Donut Day at the Steiner-Roses, and I challenge anyone to point me to a more rollicking good time than was had here in our little, very crowded rowhouse. On the menu was chicken noodle soup (we participate in a local winter farm share in which we place an on-line order each month -- kale, spinach, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, yogurt, milk, buttermilk, cheese, eggs, chicken, sweet and spicy beef sticks -- yum, yum, yum! -- which we pick up each week at one of numerous locations around the city. The problem is that we cannot alter our order until the end of the month. The other problem is that my oven has been broken for a REALLY LONG TIME ((which is its own blog post soon, I think, when I'm not so frustrated and despondent that every other word would be blasphemous)). So each week I get a frozen chicken, but I haven't been able to roast them, and on the Monday before Fat Tuesday, there were four or five of them in my freezer ... so I stewed up a couple to make soup for the masses. Another is going in the pot today, because I foolishly thought I would have left-overs from Tuesday ... not so much.)

Where was I? Right -- the menu. Chicken noodle soup, clean-out-the-vegetable-drawer vegetarian soup, Julie's homebrew (the Belgian tripel was especially popular), some fruit from Suzanne, leftover from Meg's 7th birthday, and a salad courtesy my dear ones, Woody and Joey, who came all the way from New Jersey and used up a lot of Weight Watcher points to wup it up with us.

But of course, soup, salad and fruit were all side dishes to the main attraction: home made donuts! Usually we use Edna Ruth Byler's potato dough recipe for 100 donuts out of the Mennonite cookbook More With Less, but we had an overstock of buttermilk in the back of the fridge (we apparently overestimated how many blueberry pancakes we could eat each week when we put in last month's winter farm share order), so Jane, who came all the way from Lancaster to help (and "help" is really a euphemism, because truth be told she did most of the work on the donuts; thanks Jane!), modified the recipe, to everyone's benefit it seems safe to say, because those were The Best Donuts Yet (and we've been doing this a lot of years). Then Jane just whipped up some lemon zest glaze and, well, let's just say that the kids weren't the only ones leaving with a sugar high.

But now it's Lent. Last night we sat in silence and candle-lit darkness, sang Taize chants (accompanied by oboe, piano, flute and trombone -- gorgeous), listened to Bob's thoughtful reflections on Isaiah, and had our foreheads smudged with ashes. I actually love Lent. Adore it. It may be my favorite season of the liturgical year. And here we are. Big sigh of contentment.

I usually try to take things on in Lent, rather than give them up. This year I'm taking on food -- eating better, feeding my family better, extending hospitality to my community more. I'm almost done with Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and I may explore some of this year's Lenten discipline in my upcoming book review. But I'm also taking on the Psalms this year, in a more systematic way than my usual scattershot reading of them. I wish I could have you ALL over for chicken noodle soup tonight, but until we can make that work, here's some food for the soul:

Psalm 1 (from the NRSV)

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked;
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.


Anonymous said...

I often get tears in my eyes reading your posts, Marta. I have been having a crisis of faith for the last year, and I do not know where I might end up on the continuum of Christianity. I recognize that I had been using Jesus very much as I had other relationships throughout my life, which is to say a replacement for feelings of adequacy that are prompted from within.
But you are good at showing how the story can be a source of peace, regardless of whether we buy into it in its entirety or not.
I thank you for that. And for the feelings of community I see you building. And also, for what might well be my blog post for the day :)

Kate Haas said...

Marta, your donut bash sounds so joyful and fun - and the lemon glaze, mmm. I commiserate with you about the oven! I would add that I know how hard it is because our dryer broke a few weeks ago, but I recall that you don't use a dryer (you are The Woman). Although, I must say, I'm enjoying a certain sense of accomplishment in managing to line dry in winter in the Pacific NW.

Marta said...

Jennifer (barelyknittogether): I think things can be true that aren't factual. Perhaps the most true and meaningful things are story and metaphor. Courage, dear! And thanks for your kind and supportive words, they mean a lot.

Kate: NOT The Woman. not. at. all. If I didn't like hanging laundry, I'd have a dryer in a hot second! And how on earth can you line dry clothes in a climate that is always dripping wet???

Kate, are you blogging somewhere? I think my subscription to your zine ran out (Jennie always got it for me), and I miss reading your stuff.

Patrick said...

"Happy are those who do not... sit in the seat of the scoffers..." That phrase in particular rang out for me.
What a joyous occasion that sounds like. And was that Jane M whipping up the magic in the kitchen? Facebook has me back in touch with her as well, much to my delight. I may have to do a tour of my EC Pennsylvania folks very soon (you and Julie, Eric, Jane). It's lovely to read of people bringing ancient rituals to life in their own ways. Another phrase that keeps resonating with me, I assume it was Gordon T who said it to you "I like saying ancient words"... I don't know that I've had that experience, or that I will necessarily find myself part of a more strict tradition in future (the DIY aspects of my spirituality still fit best), but this feeling makes all the sense in the world to me. I know a number of people, yourself included, who have found themselves deeply nourished by connecting with a specific tradition.

Ellen said...

The donut bash WAS amazing, and even though I ate more donuts than I have in the past ten years (and the lemon glaze really was to die for), what was most memorable to me was the sense of joy at connections and community -- among both kids and grownups, among spheres of life (someone I didn't know well went to a college where my dad used to teach), and across time and space. More than 20 years ago, I used to see Marta everyday. Now, my kids see her kids every day at school. Cool. As a preacher's kid and an adult Quaker, I have built my growup spirituality by carefully avoiding the traditions I grew up with. They seem so dangerous. Metaphors have mattered more than liturgy in my path back to a faith community. I love reading the ways that you embrace the actions and movements of particular times of year in the liturgical calendar in such grounded, meaningful ways, but I can't imagine what it would mean for me to move toward liturgy rather than away from it, how I would find my own authenticity in it. On the other hand, when I read your writing it makes me feel like I'm living without an oven in my spiritual life, that I have lots of frozen chickens in the freezer, and fewer ways to heat them than I really need so I can be fed. Thanks for your writing. It's a gift.

Marta said...

Patrick: Yes it was Jane in the kitchen and Gordon saying the ancient words! And I have it on good authority that Jane does NOT like saying ancient words, and that Gordon does NOT enjoy time in the kitchen! Ha! I'll be in touch soon. smooch.

Ellen: Thank you thank you thank you. You should be writing and sharing it more too, because you write beautifully as well.

I think I love tradition and liturgy and ancient words precisely because I don't have much that was passed down to me. Most of my life is my own invention, with no road map, and there's a lot of freedom and wonder in that, but it is also tiring sometimes. I want to write about that soon, actually -- how I feel like I live my life in the intersecting oval of multiple ven diagrams. Can't wait to talk on Tuesday!

Marta said...

Ellen: Also, I would not distinguish between metaphor and liturgy. Liturgy IS the metaphor that helps me keep track of my life. It's just not the metaphor that works for everyone.