Saturday, November 1, 2008

Food and Love

My oldest daughter, Collette, calls my cookies my little ambassadors. She understands that special link between food and love.

I have four stories to share.

In July, our family member was facing a serious medical challenge. My sister-in-law, Hedy, arranged to meet me in town to drop off a pot of jook for us. She's famous for her jook. We are constantly teasing her to make us her ham and chicken jook which is like silk. Jook is what is known as rice congee. It is a soft rice porridge that is one of the ultimate comfort foods for locals along with other favorites like Portuguese bean soup, ochazuke and oxtail soup. As I ate each spoonful it was like I was eating a bowl of Hedy's love and caring for me. I could feel it warming my body. It was infinitely soothing. That's a loving gesture I'll never forget.

Two weeks ago I felt the urge to bake and bring some pineapple bars to my cousin's home. Her husband was seriously ill and was fast failing. All of their four adult sons had returned home and were helping their parents tremendously. I thought they might appreciate something home-baked for themselves and their many guests stopping by. When I delivered the pineapple bars I found out at my cousin's door that her husband had just passed away an hour previously. You know I wasn't fearful, I just felt calm and I had a certainty that I was meant to be with the family at this time. I wouldn't have wanted to be there earlier, that was a precious time for the immediate family.

The next day I felt the strong urge to make a big pot of my mother's shoyu chicken for that cousin's family. To me, this would be the a favorite "nursery" food and I hoped it would comfort. I thought it was funny in Paula Deen's book "It Ain't All About the Cooking" that one category that she describes of Southern food is food for funerals. Everyone brings their best dish, the actual beautiful plate and their most celebrated food, to the home of the bereaved. As it turned out a party sprung up around my Mom's shoyu chicken. My cousin with her sons, invited her brother and sister-in-law, her sister, myself and cousins over for dinner. I felt my Mom was there in spirit, partly responsible for getting us together, just as she used to for the whole family.

I attend Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, my wonderful, new church home. There is an intercessory prayer/healing ministry meeting that I attend called "The Upper Room", as in Pentecost. I've been going for a number of weeks now and just felt happy that Tuesday. I bake when I'm happy so I decided to make my liliko'i cupcakes for the Upper Room meeting that evening. The tropically flavor of this cake is one that everyone seems to enjoy. We usually don't bring snacks, instead concentrating on prayer and inviting the Presence of the Holy Spirit. I got a phone call just as I was dipping the cupcakes in their liliko'i glaze. Teresa, at whose home the Upper Room is held, called to tell me that tomorrow was her teenage son's, Freman's, birthday and she was going to pick up a cake on her way home from work before the meeting. I just told her "No need. I'm frosting it right now!"

These are just four examples of how baking and cooking with love, tapping into intuition and moving in the Spirit can bring about some pretty surprising results.

I used the recipe below but substituted my own Pineapple Chutney (Sam Choy's, published in a previous blog on anythingtoeat) for the cherry jam to make

Cherry Oatmeal Crunch Squares(Adapted slightly from the
Essentials of Baking by Williams Sonoma, This recipe and the photo on the left were online at the blogsite called “Baking Sheets" )
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter, very cold and cut into pieces
1 cup/10-oz cherry jam or non-chunky preserves
Preheat the oven to 325F and grease a 9-inch square baking pan.In the food processor, combine flour, oats, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Pulse to combine.Add butter and pulse 8-10 times, or until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs. Set aside 2 cups of this mixture.Pour remaining crumb mixture into prepared pan and pack firmly against the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of the pan. Stir jam to loosen, then spread evenly onto this layer. Top with reserved crumb mixture.Bake for 50-55 minutes, until bars are a light, golden brown.Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack, then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.Makes 25.
Note: If you do not have a food processor see the 5th comment below to learn how to make this by hand. I like to use the heartier preserves myself like guava jam, Meyer Lemon marmalade, any sort of chutney. I'm even considering mincemeat.


Anonymous said...

Hi Auntie,

Beautiful post. It's amazing how food brings us all together in good times and bad ones.

One of my favorite Hawaii memories was when Gram was sick and you brought a turkey dinner with all the trimmings and everyone got together and had dinner. Even though the circumstances weren't so great, having a meal cooked with love and being with family was really special.

Why don't you stow away in Auntie Sherry's suitcase and come for Thanksgiving? It would be so much fun and laughs!


foodiewahine said...

Dear Marian,
That was a special time of rebonding between the Chuns and the Vances which I'll never forget. Thank you for your sweet obervations.

Remember when Auntie Sherry brought her "lunchwagon chili" with hot cornbread to Straub and we ate out of the back of her mini SUV? We ate late at night sitting on a wall just off the sidewalk facing the traffic on King St. Hmmm not sure if you were on O'ahu then.

I wish I could have seen how you duded up your family's two doggies for Halloween! I heard their costumes were quite a smash. Did you go door-to-door and teach them how to bark on command?

Auntie Mer

Charles Wickham said...

what if i don't have a food processor to make the cherry bars? is it necessary? thanks for sharing our article!! i thoroughly enjoyed it.

your fan!

Charles Wickham said...

i meant Your, not "our" :)

foodiewahine said...

Dear Charles,
First, chop the oats with a knife into smaller bits. Combine the dry ingredients, the flour, oats, salt, sugar and cinnamon. After cutting the cold butter in large cubes toss them in and coat them with the dry mixture. Using two knives one in each hand to create an X, use a scissorslike motion to "cut" the butter into the dry mixture creating large pieces of flour-coated butter, about the size of large peas. What you don't want is to thoroughly blend the butter with the flour mixture into one mass. You are using a pie crust technique and you want the bars to be flaky. Then continue with the rest of the recipe.
I hope this helps.