Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Discovering the Secret Recipe of Life


Both of my grandmothers were good cooks. Because they cooked from memory and left little written instruction, much of what they created seems like a secret recipe to me.

They held jobs in corporate kitchens, long before it was in vogue for women to work. 

I grew up eating delicious meals made by my maternal grandmother, who worked in the kitchens of Westinghouse creating salads.

But my dad's mother died long before I was born so I've heard of her cooking expertise only through family stories.


My grandmother is second from left, standing with her Nabisco baking friends in the 1920s.

She honed her skills working as part of the baking crew in the kitchens of a Nabisco factory in Pittsburgh during the early 1920s. 

According to family legend, she made a scrumptious lemon pie. 

I'd like to think that both of my grandmothers would be pleased that I'm taking a cooking course.


My maternal grandmother in the 1920s, who worked at Westinghouse.

Halfway through my cooking classes, I've already learned far more than I thought I would. 

I wasn't sure what to expect since the course description was kind of vague saying only that we'd learn basic knife skills and various ways to prepare meat. 

But I felt as if I were in real culinary school when we learned about the "mother sauces" of cooking {the foundation of all other sauces} and how to whip up {literally} our own dressings.

Making theses recipes reminds me of my grandmothers.

Of the tomato sauces my Italian grandmother must have made, and the homemade dressings my other grandmother used for her salads. 


I'm excited to learn these cooking secrets.



My classmates and I don't really have much of a choice about the tasks we do. The chef chooses us. He says it's completely random, but I'm not so sure.

He points to a pile of lemons on the counter and hands me a citrus juicer. “Here’s your job,” he said. “Squeeze these lemons for our dressings tonight.”

I imagine he handpicked me for this job since I didn’t have to use anything sharp or dangerous. Even now in the middle of the course, I'm still in awe of the knife.

But he rolls two more lemons my way and asks me to cut them in half.

“Just in half?” It seems there's a particular way to cut everything so I want to be sure.

Of course, he says. I slice them in two. 


“Everyone! Look here," he announces. "Valerie just cut a lemon in half. Kudos to her!”


My classmates cheer for me as my lemon juice is poured into the bowls.

As we mix oil and vinegar into a vinaigrette dressing, we watch it separate after a few minutes.

We slowly whisk egg yolks into our mayonnaise mixture with some oil. 

The chef says it's this slow process that's the secret to make the ingredients stay together in condiments.




I happen to think most of God’s work in my life is a slow process.

I want the work that changes me to be lasting instead of a stop-gap measure that recedes on the wave of the next challenge.

I ask God to be changed then I quickly lose heart when the opportunities arrive that could bring the very changes I want.

Experiences that ask me to persevere and be patient.

Friendships that require my thoughtfulness and trustworthiness.

Adventures that call for me to be brave and determined.

Difficulties that demand a calmness I don't feel and peace I can't understand.

These experiences season my life.




And I realize that over time and in just the right measures, something profound has happened.

In the midst of my uncomfortable circumstances and the insecure experiences that I'd like to rush through, comes a steady stream poured out.

Of grace and faith and love and hope and peace.

God pours it all out and it sinks to the very bottom of my heart.

This is what stays. This is what is permanent. 

This just may be the secret recipe for a life filled with joy and gratefulness.



I know the grandmother I grew up with would have loved talking to me for hours about the recipes I'm learning to make.

I'd like to think the grandmother I never got to know would have shared all her favorite recipes with me too.

I think they would have cheered me on in my clumsy attempts at cooking.

And maybe they might have told me that the flavor of my experiences only seasons my life to make it all the richer. 


I think this just might be the secret to a life lived with purpose and meaning. A life spent knowing God and encouraging those around us, because it's through pouring ourselves out that we are filled with all that God has for us. 

Isn't that the secret recipe we're all looking for?




I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Will you stop over and read more encouragement?







14 comments:

  1. Beautiful post! My maternal grandmother was a fabulous cook and I wanted to attend culinary school when I was younger. I love cooking extravagant meals but now that I have three children those don't happen often! Lovely message of God's goodness. Visiting from Holley's today.

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    1. Sarah,
      I love how our families often pave the way for our dreams as we follow in some of their footsteps! Thanks so much for your nice words and thanks for stopping by!

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  2. My grandmother would put a large tablecloth down on the floor of her kitchen and let me make an absolute mess while she taught me how to cook various foods, and then let me display what we made in her best dishes. When I would tell her how I was nervous about breaking them she would ask me "Whats the use of having pretty things if we cannot use them!". Thank you for bringing back some nice grandmother cooking memories!

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    1. Brittany,
      I love your grandmother stories! And what a way to instill a love of cooking in you -- and love her vintage dishes too! :)

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    2. Valerie, what a great thing you are doing reminding people of their roots. I have told Brittany that my grandmothers will always be alive as long as they are in my memory. As I progressed in my cooking my grandmother would remind me the kitchen had to look like it did when I started. One Christmas I covered a large dinning room table with iced cookie. What fun!

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    3. Hi Brittany's grandmother!
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your sweet comment about Brittany -- so appreciate you reading!

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  3. Valerie, I love all of these cooking themed devotional thoughts. Its so very Julie and Julia esque. I love it. I can smell that zested lemon and taste that zing of lemony citrus juice. I'm sure both of your grandmothers would be proud of the brave woman you are and are ever more becoming. I especially enjoy this line, "And maybe they might have told me that the flavor of my experiences only seasons my life to make it all the richer. " Thank you for the sunny outlook on life served up on a plate next to your slivered onions and from scratch dressing...yum!

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    1. Summer,
      Oh, I love your encouragement of my cooking posts! :) Soon my cooking classes will be over and I'll have to find new inspiration! Thank you for your beautiful words!

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  4. You have a beautiful way with words. "God pours it all out and it sinks to the very bottom of my heart." Beautiful!!!

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    1. Lori,
      Thank you so much for reading! So grateful for your visit!

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  5. I love the way you tell stories. I want to sit and listen with a cup of coffee :)

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  6. Valerie, the way you use words is so beautiful, descriptive and inspiring. No matter what you are writing about!

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement -- I'm so glad you enjoy reading! :)

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