Friday, October 28, 2011

A Kitchen Table is a Sacred Place

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I know I already posted a recipe this week, but my yard is full of snow, Halloween is in a few days, and I feel like spending time in my kitchen. I like the warmth, the good smells, and most of all I love that moment when everyone drops what they're doing and comes running to the table. My kitchen table is a plain, unremarkable piece of furniture. But to me it is a sacred place. I can't think of another venue in my house where we've had more face to face time. This is especially true around the holiday season when it gets cold outside and I start feeling like the kitchen should smell of nutmeg and cinnamon. All the time.

One of our Halloween traditions is to have dinner together before the trick or treating madness begins. I recently spoke at a church Relief Society meeting on the topic of family dinners. My inspiration came from an observation made by a woman in my stake who noted that on the eve of the Savior's crucifixion He didn't hold one final meeting. He had a last supper. I love that idea, and it got me thinking. How much of life's important business is conducted across a dinner table? Both in religious and secular situations we humans are drawn to the plate and fork way of communicating. All those folks who declare that our culture puts too much emphasis on food should move to a Pacific Island and start a colony of their own called The Fun Suckers. Or move to Tuscany for rehabilitation. If you take a good hard look at any culture that puts a lot of emphasis on food you'll realize that it's actually not just about food.

Halloween always feels like the trigger that starts the holiday season. From October 31st to January 1st it's easy to become tangled in the Must Do Right Now Or the Season Will Be Irreparably Ruined To Do list. Today I was thinking about a Halloween a few years back when I was so preoccupied with the details of our costumes that I forgot to participate and be present in the festivities. I have to refer to photographs to know what my girls looked like that year because all of my personal memories of the evening are a blur. I didn't see them, or take time to watch them celebrate. What was I doing when we gathered around the table to eat dinner right before we went trick or treating? Loading the dishwasher? Putting away ingredients I'd left out on the counter while cooking? Whatever menial task it was, I think it took something away from me that Halloween. 

Whether you're eating pizza or homemade stew, I encourage you to gather with your family or loved ones during the important dinners of the holiday season. Let your kitchen table be the eye of the storm. Celebrating requires so much work, but our table time can be our chance to take a load off and have fun. Enjoy the food. Show our love for the ones we love. 

I don't make this recipe every year, but it is one of my absolute favorites. Since it takes so long to bake you can make it early in the day on Halloween and clean your kitchen long before the party begins. You can also forget the pumpkin shell part of the recipe and just make the stew. 

Beef Stew in a Pumpkin Shell

2 lbs stew meat
2 T oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 c dried apricots
3 white potatoes, diced
3 sweet potatoes, diced
1 1/2 c water
2 T melted butter
1 medium pumpkin
1 (15 oz. can) corn

In a large pot brown beef in oil. Add onion and garlic. When onions are tender add tomato, salt, pepper, apricots, all potatoes, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer. Meanwhile, clean out pumpkin. Butter and salt inside flesh. Preheat oven to 325. Place pumpkin in a shallow pan. Spoon stew inside. Bake one hour. Stir in corn and bake 30 minutes to an hour longer. 

4 comments:

  1. I got that recipe from you years ago and I love it! It has turned into one of our fall staples.

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  2. Lauren so nice to see your blog. I really appreciate you and your family. Love you lots!

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  3. By the way, chispita is actually Beverly Hayes!

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  4. Lauren - I am coming to realize this more and more - how sacred the kitchen is, and the table, the place where we make our offerings, gather in prayer, share all. Thanks for this post. And the wonderful recipe! Hopefully in the near future, I'll be able to cook decent meals again. Also, do you take Seeing the Everyday? I think you would love it. Print magazine with no advertisements, about the work and play of a family. I'm planning to blog about it next week. Your post reminded me of this season's issue.

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