Friday, December 28, 2012

Concerning Hobbits...

If brilliant, skillful yet un-regenerate film-makers with some remarkable aesthetic taste, using a superb cast and crew, take a classic work of fantasy literature composed by a masterful storyteller with a compelling plot, endearing and vivid characters, strong (albeit distorted) themes of generational faithfulness, home nostalgia, dominion, personal courage, self sacrifice, good versus evil and keen wit along with good measures of pragmatic moralism, humanism, paganism and the occult and, throw in their own twists of humor, humanism, morality, violence, environmentalism, emotionalism and social justice while remaining surprising faithful to the obvious qualities of the original work you get...

In this sense I was not disappointed.  My expectations were, in fact, met and surpassed on all scores.  Now will someone make a truly “good” film?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Variations on What Theme?

Is Musical Taste Perception or Principle...or Both?

Musical talk these days is heated.  Likely it always has been so; but now the debate takes on the flavor of a society which is fiercely committed to humanism.  Even among Christians, the banter can become surprisingly pragmatic and presuppositionally trite and many are nearly rudderless when it comes to the principles of the matter.  Most Americans prefer to maintain the anonymity of our principles under the guise of preference.  Many of us, on one level or another, have accepted the constraints of a culture dogmatically loyal to tolerance...ultimately the worship of human wisdom.  We consistently refer to taste in musical style as an issue of personal preference.  And I suppose in one sense you could say it is.  But when did you ever hear of a preference that wasn’t born out of principle? As Christians, we should have preferences based upon that which is principally right and true.  We are required to take our preferences captive to the obedience of Christ, along with every other thought. A lawful Christian preference is perforce born out of the word of God, not our own imaginations.  We are supposed to be equipped saints, prepared for kingdom building: 
"so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."
~Ephesians 4:14
To have this kind of “preference” is an obligation...a necessary result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  By this, I mean no more nor less than that, as we grow more and more into the image of Christ, the things which God loves and calls beautiful will be the definitions of our personal taste...our comprehensive aesthetic. Aesthetics and the cultivation of certain tastes are a part of our nature…a nature created to worship. Since we are worshiping creatures, the god we serve must and will dictate the manner in which we worship.  This is a chilling reality.  It brings the mirror of truth to bear on our labels and categories.

One simply cannot deny the nature of music.  It is a lucid reflection of the thoughts and emotions of man’s mind as he reflects the creative nature of Him in whose image he is created. Down to the very wavelengths of the notes, music acts obediently to its Maker.  Consequently, it cannot be other than powerful and communicative.  For this very reason, one cannot appeal to the topic’s supposed neutrality.  Granted, the music itself… that is, the notes, the tools, the function, is not the source of our definition for musical morality. There is after all nothing inherently sinful in a violin (perish the thought) or an electric guitar.  The depravity of the human heart is the source of the morality or immorality we find in music; harboring an infinite variety of wrongs which it can cause inanimate tools to express.  Since men’s hearts are desperately wicked, apart from miraculous regeneration they produce all kinds of evil…and the world of music is no exception.
"If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air."
~1 Corinthians 14:7-9

This is why men like Bach are fascinating to me.  Regenerate and submitting his will to Christ, he recognized the mortal danger of taking the power and wonder of music lightly.  He is the kind of man whose music still speaks about the glory of God, even after he himself has long gone to his eternal reward.  To this day Bach exacts a kind of awe and applause from even the most nihilistic and degenerate audiences.  A kind of noblesse oblige drags the modern musical world to its feet in reluctant ovation.  Bach himself admitted to no genius, but only adherence to the rules of the created thing; which rules he uncovered through painstaking study.  Like a surgeon delving into the uncountable wonders of the human body, Bach probed with single-mindedness through a perfect creation long twisted by sin; inexorably demanding everything from it, and consequently unveiling the undeniable fingerprints of God.

Christians need to stop imagining that they are not bound to do the same as he.  When he said he was obliged to work hard, he said no more than was strictly true .  We are not given the option of neutrality any more than he was.  We are not even allowed to "do it just like Bach" because that would abrogate the principle.  Because of this, Christians tend to allow the issue to slide.  The idea of working as hard as Bach makes our flesh, well, balk!

So how does one even begin to form a right opinion on music?  It would be easier indeed to call our taste in music a preference in the neutral sense of that word.  But I believe this position denies the Lordship of Christ over this as well as every area of life.  We must begin by study; identifying the sources and purposes of each musical style and holding up every note to the mirror of God’s perfect word to judge whether it meets the standard.

There are such things as excellence and truth in music principle.  They reside first in the nature of God, and appeal to nothing and no one for their authenticity, identity, or authority.  If one cannot acknowledge His authority and comprehensive dominion of this matter, one does not even have a logical basis on which to base any kind of knowledge or opinion on the topic at all.  If we believe this, we can draw at least two conclusions about music.

First, from infancy music, like any other element of culture, has discipled us. Music teaches men a manner of thought and speech.  It formulates an attitude, and a bearing towards our fellow man; and ultimately, strongly influences the nature of our thoughts and emotions towards God.  Consider other forms of communication which can be analogous: speech, dress and carriage.  No wise man uses slang or street talk before a king.  No pure woman wears the garments of a prostitute.  No honorable soldier ambles in a slovenly gait.  No just business man hangs his head like a coward.  And no Christian brings impure, slovenly, disorderly, excessive, insolent or ungainly music into the presence of the Most High God to offer it as a sacrifice of worship with the excuse of preference, ignorance, neutrality or perception.

Secondly, music was not primarily created for our comfort or even our benefit, but for His own pleasure and glory.  Of course, in as much as we are submitting to Him, we will find His pleasure becomes our own.  However, the moment a man begins to rely on His own skill, taste, judgment and perceptions for a standard of music, so soon does he raise his own will up over the authority and pleasure of God.  Music cannot be the expression of the un-bridled human will; otherwise it becomes in every sense most vile and ugly.  Only as it reflects the divine image and will of God can it become truly beautiful and right.  In one sense, one cannot expect music to excel beyond the sanctification of the men who are using it.  It speaks the words of the heart which the mouth cannot utter.

If this little essay has hardly scratched the surface of the issue, then let it insight others to further study. I do not believe there can be such a thing as neutrality of aesthetics in music.  Its myriad diversity embodied in infinite continuity is awash with the splendor of the Most High.  Don’t let us become confused with our muddied perceptions.  The variations that exist within beauty are variations that originated in the mind of God.  So let our work in this field of God’s kingdom be variations on a Theme: the Theme of the Creator.

O be careful, little heart, of the music you make.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Peanut Soup...

On Thanksgiving this year, we started what we expect will become a favorite tradition: peanut soup! Peanut Soup is as much a classic southern American food as pasties are British and we think it tastes a thousand times better. :o)

Some say George Washington and Thomas Jefferson ate it daily, and others insist it nourished the Confederate army till Sherman discovered it and won the war. In any case, this food is an aesthetic custom that figures in the story of a nation over two centuries old; a nation founded on the principles of Christian liberty and justice for which we are forever grateful. As we relish the peculiar taste of savory peanuts enjoyed since the days of our founding fathers, we call to mind God's faithfulness in preserving His people and once again thank Him for His bountiful providence.

Our family first tasted peanut soup in 1999, when we visited Kings Arms Tavern in Williamsburg, VA. We have dreamed ever since of incorporating it in our Thanksgiving Feast. Thanks to several online sources, (particularly this one) we arrived at a recipe that satisfied our expectations.

In the first place, it was necessary to acquire quality ingredients, particularly peanuts and peanut butter. I used roasted and salted Virginia peanuts and smooth natural peanut butter made from 90% peanuts preserved with just a bit of sugar, salt and palm oil.

Chop 3 cups of peanuts and 2 onions and saute them in 1/2 cup of butter till soft.

Chicken Stock boiling down for extra flavor...
Add 3 1/2 cups heavy cream and bring to a boil adding 3/8 cup of flour and whisking till blended.

Add 16 cups of chicken stock (I used a combination of skimmed drippings and broth from when we cook our chickens) and puree the mixture in a blender.

Stir in 2 cups of peanut butter and heat thoroughly but do not boil.

We served it hot (though I have heard it can also be served cold) in small servings as part of our first course.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Voting:

Ultimately, there is no authority that has not been instituted by God (Rom. 13:1), by Him kings reign (Prov. 8:15), He establishes kings and removes them (Dan 2:21), and He reigns over all with supreme authority demanding allegiance from all nations and rulers(Matthew 28:18-20, Ps. 2:9, Ps 67:4, Dan. 4:17, Ps 22:28). God has sovereignly instituted every authority over man for His purposes whether it be judgment or blessing.
The Christian’s duty, in every nation, in every circumstance, is obedience and faithfulness to the Word of God. We are to only elect men of wisdom, discernment, and experience (Dt. 1:13), able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain (Ex. 18:21), not men who are complete strangers to the authoritative ways of biblical justice and righteousness (Dt. 17:15), or who have proven themselves dangerous in using the legislative apparatus to harm the innocent (Ps. 94:20, 21). In 2 Samuel 23:3, King David declared: "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God."
If a candidate is not qualified, we do not cast a ballot in their favor, calling what is evil “good” (Is 5:20, Mal. 2:17). If there is a qualified candidate we courageously vote for him regardless of his chances of winning, trusting God to appoint whoever He wishes, who in His good time will bring most glory to His name.   The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. – Prov. 16:4 (Also Ex. 9:16) “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Ps 56:11

Articles that may interest:  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Through a glass, darkly..."

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1Corinthians 13:12

The verse has troubled me for some time.  Or rather, I should say, its common use in contrast to its true import has troubled me.

Culturally, among Christians, it is quoted often with the ennui of a common truism and dressed up with the sparkle of interest and a butterfly that identifies references as “inspirational” and worthy of featuring on a Hallmark Card.  Read sonorously at uncountable weddings, it becomes the part of tradition which we hear without once bereft of any but superficial meaning and tied up with the perfunctory bow of an enigmatical concept called love.

In any case, one gets the vague impression that being really known would be uncomfortable, so this verse must be referring to that best-buddy kind of knowing that makes you feel “understood” without baring more than a few select extracts from the heart censored for security of pride.  After all, if someone really knew us what room could there be for love?  There we often let the verse lie.
I remember vividly the day I understood.  For perhaps the first time, I was consciously remembering and it frightened me.  A circumstance, itself inconsequential, settled a new yoke of responsibility on my seven or eight-year-old self and because I could recall a time when I was free of it, I was unaccountably terrified of going any further in my short lisp of a life.

Every child comes to this time...where childishness becomes conscious, even while it has yet to become maturity.  A mother mourns that first loss of the baby lisp, the stumble over a word.  Then others will watch in vain for childish communication with all its frank, winsome naiveté and haphazard rambling.  The three year old hardly knows what he means when he presents his three chubby digits for your smiling inspection, and no one grudges him the privilege of ignorance on that score.  Soon enough the five year old will be proud to tell you how big he has grown and you will almost unaccountably miss the unpretentious baby in the self-conscious boy.

To our dying day, every one of us has the same insatiable desire to understand, and a dread of what will happen when we do.  The thought of knowing brings with it the shrinking of our childhood from the brink of understanding because we only know in part.  Our human heart, peering through the grand score of God's Word as an amateur musician, struggles to trace out the infinite scope of power and complexity with finite eyes seared by the burning glory of it.  The indwelling Spirit leans over our shoulder and points out the feeble lines of our own parts with surety and love, humming the music until it fills our being with its beauty.  Shut the score, though, and the thought of remembering your part in the symphony with all its intense import and and excellence can cause any one of us to throw aside our sheets of music in despair.  

This is the knowing in part.  But partial knowing carries a heavy responsibility.  The reflection in the glass, dim though it may be, was never meant to be a high thought set aside for moments of euphoric reflection on the swing at sunset.  Jarring as the thought may be, far from moving us to apathy and futility, 1 Corinthians 13:12 is an imperative call to maturity.  The Father did not give us the promise in His Word and send us His Spirit to bear witness to the fulfillment of His promises so that we could languish in the waiting.

 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer,
he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
James 1:23-24

To be in the midst of assembled believers and shudder over the raw grating dissonance and muddiness of the collected notes is to look in the glass and see the shadow of our natural face with all of its flaws and scars.  What natural man wouldn't wish to forget that natural face?  How easy it is to say then, “I saw the music once, and that is enough.  It is in my heart, and this is all that matters.”  How great a travesty is the secret of the eternal song carried about as a shadow in the depths of Christian souls and never learned or played simply because we all knew that in this life we could never perfect it.

The truth is, we are so concerned with the natural face peering out of the glass at us, that we forget the glass itself.   If we are honest, our sin, when held up to the light, fascinates us; not always, we can flatter ourselves, with the hardened inclinations of a dead conscience, but with the secret pride that says, "Mine is truly ugly."  The rehearsal is full of discordant sounds, and the first one to look up from the jungle of notes before him and say, "I can't possibly do this, it is too horribly difficult," has essayed to raise his "I" to a higher level than the symphony.  There is a great measure of pride in the one who indulges in self-deprecation by believing the music must stop because he has deemed his part to be beyond help or recall.

“For as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:11

The perfect law of liberty was not composed for our especial benefit.  The divine artist writes to His own pleasure and glory, and His work does not exist merely so we can enjoy its sublime beauty on the mirror in our closet.  It is not the kind of symphony that can be made futile merely because we prefer not to participate, or play our part in secret so that no one may observe the wavering our touch makes in the reflection.

Any student of music can tell you that it does no good to dabble in music with self-fulfillment in mind.  There is no place for neutrality or, ultimately, the expressing of your own will.  In the same way, you must rest in the assurance that you can only begin to know your life-part because you are already fully known by Him.  Your heart must so submit to the hand of the master that you no longer know your hand to be pulling the bow, but you are at once certain of His hand pulling yours.  The beating of your own time must cease to wander stumbling off the steady rhythm of His music and instead be bound to it by His sure hand. 

This is to look into His perfect law of liberty, to see the reflection of true freedom in very submission and to continue in it.  
The compelling reality about the music of the perfect law of liberty is that one must not only hear, but listen... and not forget, but play.  
The overpowering weight of the score, after all, does not rest in our hands, nor even is the completion of our part given into our keeping. 
The secret to playing a symphony is to simply play the notes before us in obedience and 
trust the author to make the symphony.

In the waiting for completion we cry out with Paul:

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

A girl of especially stormy passions and vivid imagination, I cried the day I knew what I could never forget again.  I told my mother with an almost pettish desperation that I wanted to go back to being a little girl.

My dear mother...from my earliest memories the sensible, sympathetic constant that anchored my tempestuous emotions.  I will never cease to be grateful that she was usually undaunted by the wild outbursts of joy or sorrow that rocked my self-aware little world.  That day my tears brought a quiet smile to her face, not unlike the smile I imagine God harbors over our knowledge-bereft wailings.  Before she said a word, I knew she understood, and then she spoke comfort that I didn’t entirely understand, but accepted with the faith that children have in good mothers.  “When you have grown up, you will be glad that you were never able to go back.  You will learn to love growing older.”  And of course she was right.
To this day she still reminds me early and late of the words another wise woman, Elizabeth Elliot drew from this poem, “Do The Next Thing:”

"At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'
Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing.
The little girl in me no longer casts longing glances over her shoulder.  There can be no mourning for imperfections done away when every look into the mirror is a brush with the perfection that we long for.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:10

The time darkened glass, serene and expansive, unerringly casts back shadows of the light from timelessness.  The fading of it as it shifts away from a touch awakens the painful longing for it to be still it forever.  Here stands the briefest sliver of time, yet this space, thin enough to shatter at a brush from eternity, stands yet adamant before the mortal, an impenetrable testimony to a sure fulfillment...fulfillment that will engage the whole being un-impaired by sin.  At last to know as we are known, to truly commune with God, face to face.  What joy it will be to no longer reach out over the deep waters of His glory and see the muddying of our sin-tainted hearts obscuring them.  So into this glass, “this substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen,” we look again and again.

"But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty,and continueth therein,
he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work,
this man shall be blessed in his deed.
James 1:25

Monday, October 15, 2012

A return to the delights of food...

Some of you may not know, our brother Benjamin is ministering as an intern for Vision Forum Ministries in San Antonio, TX for 6 months. Here he is pictured with the two other interns on their first day. 
While we are delighted at this opportunity for Benjamin to serve alongside godly men for a ministry that has blessed us in so many ways, we sorely miss him. 
One specific downside to his being gone was a temporary apathy towards food. Ben was one of the most appreciative persons in our family when it came to food and his daily encouragement provided the inspiration we didn't even realize we were getting... till now. A reminder to be always thankful!

In spite of our lack of posts on the subject, we have still been eating... :o)
 and putting away fresh food in anticipation of winter cold.
A particular Lenz favorite is Pesto:
Our basil was wonderfully productive this year. Just 15 plants yielded several bushels!

We process 2 cups of basil, 1 cup walnuts and 4 cloves garlic, and then add 1 cup olive oil in a slow steady stream. Add 1 1/3 cups of fresh grated parmesan cheese, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and process. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup hot water and process briefly again.

You can freeze this for basil pesto all winter:

Or eat it fresh mixed with 2 lbs. of noodles. We recently found some whole wheat spaghetti noodles made with just water and whole wheat. I thought they were delicious. I expect we'll be making our own noodles eventually.

Another unexpected blessing this year...
We have several apple trees on our farm but unfortunately we had a poor yield this year due to a late frost. The apples we harvested from our trees were all promptly turned into pies and crisps or eaten fresh. 
Our family loves applesauce; we spread it on our pancakes and it features in many of our cakes and sauces adding sweetness and zest without processed sugar. You can imagine we were thrilled when Sam brought 6 bushels of Haralson "thirds" home from the local orchard!

I think I underestimated my project time a bit. Sam came to my rescue at midnight to help run the last few apples through the Squeezo, which, by the way, is a marvelous machine. We simply cut the washed apples in half, boiled them in 1/2 cup water for 20 minutes and run them through the sieve extricating the seeds and peels and yielding ready to process sauce.

The two bushels we didn't process should keep well in the root cellar for at least 3 months. 
I am not picturing the 75 quarts of tomatoes and V8 so you'll have to take my word for it.
Enjoy the excitement and joy of this changing time of year, celebrating the provision of our Creator in every season.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Romans 1:20

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse..."

Have you ever balanced on the brink of a lake and gasped when the wind at your back to swept your breath from you out over the dancing foam and then tossed it back in your face filled with the living scent of spray and sun?  Has your heart ever burst in praise when the sun fits a dawn-shaft to his bow and pierces the eastern edge of a gray blanket of water with a flash of gold?  Did you ever sit next to limpid waves and try to count every myriad shade in the rolling dip of the noontide swell?  Have you ever lifted your paddle to let a canoe rest on the glowing mirror of water at dusk and made dimples in the glass with your fingers?
Every such lucid testimony to the nature of God has served its purpose well if it makes the human heart cry glory His name.
The old hymn says it well:
“Shout to Jehovah all the earth
Sing to Jehovah with gladness
Before Him come with singing mirth
Know that Jehovah He God is.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Not lacking in zeal, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord…

Have you ever had a conversation with someone about the authority of Scripture and felt yourself buried by the acceptance of infinite caveats and pleas to contextualization of every mandate or command? I have been contemplating this recently and just last night read Numbers 25 with new eyes…  

“He was zealous for my sake among them…Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.” Numbers 25:11-13 

These verses are speaking of Eleazer’s son, Phinehas, a ruler of the Korahites and a civil authority in Israel. The Israelites were afflicted with a plague because they joined themselves with the daughters of Midian who worshiped Baal. One man, in direct defiance of God’s command presents a Midianite woman to the congregation. Phinehas could have waited for someone else to say something; he could have reasoned with this man about the negative consequences of his choice, he could have threatened to neglect his own responsibility somehow in an attempt to compel the man to change his mind…. But no, he rose up to do his duty as a civil magistrate under a more than common emotion of spirit and slew both of them, possibly taking the sword from the hand of Moses to execute justice as some of the Jew’s records say. God is pleased and gives “unto him My covenant of peace”. As Gill summarizes, “he was zealous for my sake among you; for the glory of God, the honour of his law, the credit of religion, and the good of his people… in which he was a type of Christ, whose zeal for the house of God, for the doctrine, discipline, and worship of it, for the salvation of his people, and the glory of God thereby, ate him up (Psalm 69:9).” 

So, what is my response when men disregard the Word of God, when they claim His law is dead and His Holy Word errant! “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said and will He not do? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) Do I wait idly by for others to seek out the truth in Scripture and defend the Word of God? Or shall I unsheathe my sword, open the word of God and declare it in its entirety to be the holy inspired, inerrant, self-validating, living and active, discerning and powerful, convicting, sanctifying, righteousness defining, obedience commanding, currently applicable, contextually effectual, sufficient for all of life and practice, fully authoritative word of our sovereign God? May I, like Phinehas, be zealous for my God and when I read His Word have the attitude of Balaam, “…the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; the utterance of him who hears the words of God, and has the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down with eyes wide open.” (Numbers 24:16)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chocolate Cake: The Final Verdict

 A few months ago, in anticipation of Ben's party, we set out to find a quintessential chocolate cake recipe. For years, we have been less than satisfied with two recipes, one simple, dry and dull and the other requiring an everlastingly long series of details for a fairly fluffy, deep chocolate, relatively moist cake.
The weekend before last, the Lenz ladies from different generations (you know who you are!) gathered around a table and savored two cakes contemplating between exquisite mouthfuls what is "quintessential" Chocolate Cake. What is the shape of the crumb? Is it small and dense or large and moist? Is chocolate supposed to be sweet or a little bitter. What is the effect of vinegar as a leavening vs. eggs?

In the end most of the ladies concluded Whacky Cake is quintessential cake but The Best Chocolate Cake was the best cake they had ever tasted. :o) If I seem to slight the gentlemen's opinion on the subject, they must acknowledge comments such as, "I like this plate because it has the larger piece" were hardly scientific.  Our reticence in regard to their opinions cannot be taken as a reflection of our estimation of their critique of food in general. :o)

To continue with our review, Whacky Cake was popular during WWII and because of it's wonderful moist texture and light sweetness it was often served with milk for breakfast! It has no eggs and is leavened with vinegar. We'll keep this one in our repertoire because it is incredibly easy to make. Often called "Cake Pan Cake", it can literally be mixed in the cake pan with a fork in a matter of minutes and is simply delicious.
On the other hand, The Best Chocolate Cake is distinctly "desert", according to our connoisseurs.  Still easy to construct, it is rich and moist, with a tastefully intense chocolate flavor and a large light crumb.
If you are bored with cake crumb, pardon the interruption from dinner reports; we'll continue with our regular broadcast next week. :o)
But not before addressing the frosting! Honestly, it was hard to properly analyze a cake covered with the most sumptuous creme you have ever tasted a half inch thick. The fact that Miracle Frosting originated in the South may have something to do with our favoring it, but not any more than its flour based thickening allowing for 1/3 of the sugar content usually required to thicken frosting. Be sure to follow the links next time you require a chocolate cake and benefit from our gracious panel of tasters!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Heritage around the table...

An abundance of food has passed through the house in the last few days along with a large company of extended relatives.

Daddy's father, Charles Lenz, passed away before any of us six Lenz children were born, so we relish any opportunity to hear about him.

His brother, Uncle John, along with around fifty cousins and aunts and uncles, came here for a family reunion on Saturday.  

The food gathered together for the day was plentiful and, of course, as varied as it was delicious.  The company was even better and stories were told and memories recalled in like abundance.  

I love the way one picture evokes a thousand memories.  Uncle John was asked to identify everyone in this photograph and as soon as he saw it, although he didn't speak all the words, you could see the day come back to him with almost more strength and vividness than yesterday's hours.  Our Grandpa Charlie was the youngest in the family...that little guy with his dog Pal in the middle.  The day the picture was taken, their mother rounded them up for hair cuts out on the drive (three of these were cousins, so no-one missed out on the fun).  As soon as Uncle John started describing, I was smelling the warm dusty summer air and hearing the laughter and the snip of the scissors...seeing the reflections of loved faces in his eyes.  There was a general burst of delighted laughter as he recalled how the dog Pal taught our Grandpa Charlie how to walk by pulling him around the house by the arm.  The gift of these memories stored up is a precious treasure of history.  For us they are a heritage of rare glimpses of the hand of God reaching into our mundane, human moments to touch them with the divine gift of meaning and continuity.  It was a privilege to read the pages of remembrance and enjoy the fellowship of family camaraderie.

Last Tuesday's meal came again out of the wonderful abundance from our garden.  Stuffed peppers with cole slaw and, yes, more beans!

In the busy rush of preparation for the family gathering, an easy and speedy recipe like this is ideal.

And yes, everything but the cheese on this plate was produced on our farm!