a little something extra

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sabbath 3

Another Sunday, another chapter. This one is called Legalism and the Dreary Sabbath. It is a warning against both of those things, and it calls readers to use Sabbath time to rest and delight themselves. And this is a very God-ridden chapter, so for any of my readers who find themselves annoyed by an overabundance of God talk, you should feel free to skip this entry if you like.

The chapter starts with several paragraphs of description of how the idea of God-given rest on the Sabbath was corrupted into the Sabbaths some of Muller's readers may have known -- dull, restricted, devoid of joy. The Dreary Sabbath indeed.

I didn't spend a lot of time with those paragraphs. I recognize the information they offer, but church history (no matter what the church) is not my thing.

The good stuff comes at the end of the chapter, where Muller advocates for a vision of God and Sabbath that puts these words in God's mouth:

Let me make it easier for you.

Now, how many of us hear those words as often as we'd like to? Heck, how many of us say those words as often as we could? It bears meditating on. Whom could I make things easier for? How? What could other people make easier for me, if only they knew it? How can I invite them lovingly into that knowledge? And, for the God-inclined, what can God make easier for me, if I will just get with the program and rest already?

This weekend has been a good one for ease and rest. The theatre where I work was closed on Thursday and Friday, so it became a four-day weekend. And forsooth, on only one of those days did I go to work anyway -- I attended a preview performance of A Christmas Carol on Saturday afternoon. But apart from that, my time was my own.

One of the ways I spent it actually fit right into the exercise at the end of chapter three. The exercise is called A Sabbath Meal, and it basically calls for making and eating or sharing a meal mindfully, taking time to enjoy each element and each step of the process. Mindfulness... the portable Buddhist Sabbath.

On Thursday I spent a good chunk of the day gradually making the dish I would take to Thanksgiving dinner. A colleague had invited me to join him and his family and a couple of other friends, but he had warned me that it would be a pretty meat-focused meal. (Go figure!) So I told him I would bring a vegetarian dish to share.

This was a dish I had made several times before, but it had been a while and I had forgotten how relatively labor-intensive it was. As I reviewed the recipe last weekend and made my shopping list of ingredients, I was glad that I would have no other commitments of my time that day, so I wouldn't be rushed.

Thursday morning I cleaned and baked the acorn and buttercup squash halves. The seeds came out easily, and my vintage pink stove warmed the kitchen nicely as the oven came up to temperature. When the squash came out, I put the bread cubes in to dry and toast a little; when they were done, the pecan pieces went in to toast. Then there were onions and celery and mushrooms to chop; tofu to dice and marinate; herbs to organize. I built the stuffing in my Dutch oven, sauteeing the vegetables then adding the bread and tofu with a little water to moisten it up. Pecans and a little lemon juice went in last.

Ordinarily one would stuff the baked squash halves, then put them back in the oven to finish. But since I was going to have to transport my dish about 45 minutes away (if traffic was good, and I wouldn't know that until I got out into it) I decided to layer the baked squash flesh and the stuffing in a casserole dish. That worked out well, but it was heavy, and moister than I remembered. I think if I do it that way again I'll eliminate the water from the stuffing, trusting that the moisture from the squash will be more than adequate.

I made the sauce to go with it -- orange juice with a little soy sauce, thyme and fresh ginger, thickened with cornstarch. Squash and orange flavors go so well together.

Putting this together over the course of several hours left me plenty of time to get off my feet. I started early enough that I knew I wouldn't be rushed getting out the door. And I had the fun of wondering who else would be at this dinner -- I didn't know what other friends were on the roster.

Most of my cooking experiences aren't as mindful as that one was. But it's a good standard to shoot for, at least some of the time.


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