Good Salsa And Other Reasons I Enjoy Cooking

meryl julia

I just made some of the best salsa ever.  I borrowed a recipe form my friend Larry and adjusted it to my liking.  Basically, I took half a bag of assorted peppers from Costco (red, yellow and orange) added about 8 serrano pepers, 24 cherry tomatoes, a big handful of cilantro and a clove of fresh garlic.  Then added a touch of salt, pepper and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice.

My favorite part, and this is ironic since I’m not really detail person, is the preparation.  It’s critical that before I put an ingredient in the blender, I have to really, really finely chop all of it.  This takes a lot of time, and I have to be careful not to slice my finger off (close call today btw).  The garlic has to be peeled down to it’s moist center, cilantro has have leaves and stems separated (but not completely). It’s highly detailed and repetitious.

There’s something calming, peaceful and highly fulfilling about the process.  I love to take a couple chips and taste-test along the way.  Add a little more garlic, maybe a few more tomatoes, etc.  The tactile nature of it all engages all 5 senses, taste, touch, sight, hearing and especially smell.   Knife in hand, cutting board beneath the ingredients and with each crunch and slice of the knife the pungent garlic, the unique spicy smell of cilantro and the the peppers waft up from the countertop filling my mind with memories of past recipes.

Each ingredient reminds me of other dishes, and the satisfaction of the final product, savoring each bite of the newly amalgamated dish and realizing that I don’t have quite the appetite I thought I did because of all the quality control testing along the way .

All of this is so satisfying for me, I don’t even mind doing the dishes after – and if you know me, that’s a big deal.  Sometimes it’s just nice to forget about the other cares of life, work, finances, projects, etc. and just engross myself in a simple process and harken back to simpler times. Plus, I really, really like good food.



Proverbs 28:20a says “A faithful man will be richly blessed.”  I hope that I am a faithful man, but regardless of my faithfulness, God has been gracious to me.  I believe, although we aren’t wealthy by American standards, I am richly blessed. I have a wife and two sons whom I love profoundly and who love me.  I sit in an office that provides constant reminders of God’s goodness.  Pictures of family and friends, decorations and trinkets that have value not only in their aesthetics but in their meaning, their shared history with me.

Looking around my office this morning I took the time to briefly remember the people who matter so much in my life, the experiences that have enriched my time thus far on earth.  I see all of these things and I am so thankful for my life.  I am so thankful that Jesus rescued me all those years ago, and that he continues to rescue me from myself, and from situations that could harm me or my family. I am thankful, and I hope that remaining thankful helps me to be faithful.

What is Calling?

What is God’s will?  What is the right thing to do?  How does one know that one is doing what they were meant, or made to do?  Are these are intrinsically American questions, rife with comfort so we are able to even examine ideas? Or is there something bigger, something deeper in all of us that, by ignoring, puts our fulfillment, and perhaps the help of others, in peril ?

Yes. No.  And maybe some grey.

I think that as long as I can remember I’ve felt like I was made to do certain things.  As a boy, adolescent, and young adult being an athlete meant a great deal to me.  As a result, I often thought or said things like, “I was born to do this.”  The rush of adrenaline, the thrill of winning, the feeling of a well-timed, well-executed play in hockey or volleyball, were for me the very elements of a life well-lived.

Similarly throughout my life, the resonance I’ve felt with music has often left me speechless, which for those of you who know me, is something.  I often relate to the moment in Chariots of Fire when the main character Eric Liddel, a missionary with great athletic prowess, tries to explain to his sister why he runs.  “When I run, I sense God’s pleasure.”  Liddell is saying that he senses calling, meaning, fulfillment, and great results when he does what he was built to do.  I often feel that way while playing music.

Which brings us back to the question of whether that feeling is legitimate or not.  It’s been said that human beings make decisions based on emotion, and justify using reason.  If that’s the case, what is to be made of this idea of calling?  What do we do with the things we dream of doing?  Are we merely justifying our own aspirations in the name of some greater good, or greater force?  Are we blaming God for what we simply want to do?

Or is there something deeply, intrinsically a part of us that resonates when we act upon it?  Is there something, unique to each of us, that causes us to act in a manner that another might not?

And if so, what are we to do about it?  Certainly we ought not throw up our hands and radically redirect our lives in a way that allows us to pursue dreams over our responsibilities.  Or is it our responsibility itself that drives us to pursue our dreams?

This last week I was in L.A. to sing in a close friend’s wedding.  I was impressed by my friend’s friends.  Each of them, in their own way, seemed to be acting upon something that drove them.  All of them were very successful.  All of them were doing things that sounded dreamy.

Over the course of a few days’ interaction these things became clearly apparent.  And over that period of time, I also ran into old acquaintances, and met new ones. It seemed to me that the people I met fell into one of three very stereotypical and generalized categories.  Dreamers, Settlers and Undecideds.

The Dreamers, were much as I’ve already described, they seemed alive, energized (not that they weren’t ever tired or stressed) but the seemed peaceful and fulfilled.  And they also seemed to each have acquired a measure of success in their field of influence.

The Settlers also seemed dreamy, but in a different way, they seemed to reminisce, to remember, and even commiserate.  Each of them also seemed to have acquired a certain standard of living (it was L.A. after all) but it seemed hollow, as if it could collapse at any given time.

The Undecideds were often younger, but not always.  Some fresh out of college, some in the workforce for years.  But each of them seemed to have the hint of both dreaming, and settling within them, as if one might pop out and blossom at any moment, given the right (or wrong) opportunity.

All of this has caused me to reconsider.  What am I doing with my life?  Am I doing what I ought to?  What I should?  What I might be able to do?  Am I fully alive?  Am I simply settling for the trappings of an average, middle class American life?  Of course there’s nothing wrong with an average, middle class American life.  But for me, and I hope for you, this causes more reflection, and ultimately more intention and follow through.

I guess the good news is that on the flight back I wrote a song.  The bad news, I haven’t finished it yet.