Monday, June 21, 2010

Redemption at the Church Potluck

This Sunday, our church had an informal potluck in honor of Father’s Day after the services had concluded. Having recently read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollen, the spread of food offerings depressed me somewhat in the sense that it seemed representative of all that is wrong with the way we eat in America today. Quantity trumps quality. Processed food reigns and we consider American cheese and white bread an acceptable sandwich. I watch as the re-heated frozen meatballs becomes the first dish to be emptied by the hungry crowd. Meanwhile, children make a grab for the sugary Twizzlers and cocoa puff-marshmallow squares for dessert. Even the veggie trays cradles sad, faded, pre-cut specimens that probably saw their best day sometime a week ago.

Then, in the middle of the table, a shining beacon of hope: Slices of our bishop’s wife’s famous homemade bread and chunky strawberry jam (possibly homemade). Now, that’s more like it! As Michael Pollen and Jamie Oliver have asserted, the hope of America’s health relies on a return to homemade, real food like our great-grandparents would have eaten 100 years ago.

Yes, I know that men and women today are busy and their priorities may not place old-fashioned acts such as making bread at the top of their to-do list. But biting into that slice of fresh bread spread with berry preserves reminded me of everything that is good about life. It showed that someone was willing to honor the fathers in our life by investing a piece of themselves and their time in the act of nourishing the body and soul.

So if you get a chance, make something from scratch this week for someone you love. Here’s a recipe for strawberry jam to help you get started thinking of the possibilities.

Fresh Strawberry Jam

Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten

2 cups sugar
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved


Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the strawberries and continue to cook over very low heat until the strawberries release some of their juices and the mixture boils slowly. Continue to cook until a small amount of the juice gels on a very cold plate. (I keep one in the freezer.) Total cooking time may be around 40-60 minutes, but will vary.

Pour carefully into 2 pint canning jars and either seal or keep refrigerated. Use immediately, or follow proper canning guidelines to preserve them.

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