Monday, August 13, 2012

The Six Emotions of Shoo-Fly Pie

This is not intended to be a food blog.  I've never intended it to be anything other than an Elizabeth blog.  But I write about food often because it's important to me, it's universal, and it's easy: the ease of writing about food being a result of the first two reasons.  But under the surface it is more than that.

It has been a difficult week.  We have been negotiating for a house and property we very much want.  It seems that every time we reach an agreement on one issue with the seller, like the heads of Hydra two more issues arise.  And in the midst of that we lost a very dear little fur friend.  He had an important role in the Judge family, and his death has left a hole. 

Henry misses his friend.

Tonight, after dinner, Matthew said, "I would really like some pie."

Suddenly, I was picturing the layers of a shoo fly pie. I haven't made one in seven years, but in my mind I saw the sticky pudding layer and the layer like gingerbread topped with a crumbly, streusel layer. I did a mental check of the pantry.  I had everything I needed - molasses, butter, brown sugar.  I even had a pre-made pie crust in the fridge (don't judge).  I jumped up, grabbed my pink mixing bowls, started to break up butter in sugar and flour until it formed course crumbs. 

I was first introduced to shoo fly pie in Lois Lenski's Shoo Fly Girl.  Strawberry Girl may be the Newbery winner, but for me it couldn't compare to the story of the sincere little Amish girl.  I loved the book so much, I begged my mom to make me a shoo fly pie.  The hands-on mom that she is, she was pulling  one out of the oven not long after that.  I'm not sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn't the dark, mostly unfamiliar flavor of molasses.  Disappointed, I finished just one piece.

It wasn't until years later that I made my own shoo fly pie.  It is one of the first things I remember making all on my own - just because I felt like it  By this point, I loved molasses, and this time it did not disappoint.

When we were in college, lonely and tired of trying to figure out how to be adults, Rebekah quietly said to me, "I would love some shoo fly pie right now." 

My jaw dropped.  First, because I never knew Rebekah loved shoo fly pie, and I thought I knew everything about my little sister.  Second, because with startling clarity, I realized I too wanted that simple, comfortable pie.

Tonight I baked one for Matthew and me.  While the warm scent of it filled the kitchen I listed to Beethoven's Seventh and felt strongly.  Not a simple, easy to pin-point feeling.  But the whole kaleidoscope of feelings that comes from living a full life and baking a pie that has a plethora of memories mixed in with the sugar and cinnamon.

I am sad at the death of a sweet dog.
I am happy as I bake pie and listen to Matthew in the other room busy with his lizards.
I am nervous that we might get this house.  Nervous that we might not.
I am lonely for my family still as far away as they were when I was at college.  Only now Rebekah is further away too.
I am in love with the man in the room with the lizards.
And I am grateful. Grateful for my memories and the rich life I have now.

Not everyone likes molasses.  I get that.  But if you haven't had shoo fly pie, give it a try.  If nothing else, it will make your house smell like the safest place in the world. 

Shoo Fly Pie

1 9" inch pie crust

Crumb topping:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves

3/4 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup hot water
1 well beaten egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a 9 inch pie pan with crust. Mix all the crumb ingredients together until rough crumbs form. Set aside. Combine corn syrup and hot water, then stir in remaining ingredients. Place a third of the crumbs in the pie crust. Pour half the syrup on top of the crumbs. Layer another third of the crumbs, followed by the remaining syrup. Top evenly with remaining crumbs. Bake at 400 for 20 -25 minutes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Call of a Coward Giveaway Winner

Congratulations, Kathleen!  Random.org's number generator picked #2.  Please message me with your address so I can send you a copy of Marcia Moston's Call of a Coward.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Interview with Marcia Moston

I recently reviewed Marcia Moston's Call of a Coward: the God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife.  Marcia was graciously agreed to an interview for my blog.  I'm super excited to share it with you, because the story behind the publication of her book is as exciting as the book itself! And don't forget to stop by here and leave a comment for the chance to win a copy!

Please tell us about yourself.

Although I hold degrees in sociology and Christian education, most of what I’ve learned has been by the proverbial seat of my pants. I’ve taught English in a Christian high school, worked with orphans in a Mayan village, led mission teams to Central America, delivered Yellowbooks, stuffed vending machines, and lived in everything from tepees to parsonages.

I love to share the stories and lessons I’ve learned along the way about what a very real God can do with the smallest of our offerings. My first and most dear word from the Lord is Be still and know that I am God—Psalm 46:10.

Your writing experience is unusual in that until 2008 you’d never written anything, but by 2011 you had a book contract with Thomas Nelson. How did that happen?

I am grateful to have experienced such abundant grace and blessing on my work. When we moved to the South a few years ago, I had a singular image in my mind: buy a house with a pool where I could sit and write. Although I didn’t know what I would write, nor did I know how to write a book, it was as though my story’s time had come, and I needed a nesting spot.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tomato Jam: A Love Story

Once upon a time, all throughout the land, people made tomato jam.  In heavy pots, chunks of tomatoes would simmer in sugar and spices until they were cooked down into garnet-colored jam.  The evocative scent of cinnamon, clove and garlic would linger in the kitchen long after the jam was carefully sealed into little glass jars. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Call of a Coward: a Review and a Giveaway

"When this life doesn't make sense, it's good to remember you are just traveling through." - Marcia Moston

I first heard an excerpt from Marcia Moston's Call of a Coward: The God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife in a writing group a year and a half ago.  Through a series of random events (isn't it always), I found myself sitting at a table in Barnes and Noble with a group of writers.  Marcia read aloud chapter 8 "What's a Woman to Do with All Her Time," and asked for feedback.  All I could do was underline beautiful, telling sentences and think about what a powerful book it would be. 

Thomas Nelson obviously agreed, and the moving account of a family's journey from New Jersey to Guatemala to Vermont has now been published.

Call of a Coward is beautifully written.  While there is no attempt to glamorize the third-world living conditions, Marcia has a trick of seeing and describing the beauty of even the most mundane.

"These strong, hardworking women emerged from their dirt-floor adobe houses dressed in their colorful village wraps and elegantly plaited headdresses - statuesque princesses in plastic flip-flops, seldom stumbling on the dirt paths or cobblestone streets although laden with babies on their backs, and baskets of tortillas or bundles of wood on their head." 

On initially seeing the village, Marcia writes, "In retrospect, Hernando was the best possible person to show me the village for the first time.  He loved the land, and it was through his love I saw past the unlovely."  In turn, Marcia shows us the village, and it is through her love that we too see past the unlovely. 
Marcia strikes the right balance with her honesty and humility.  Her conversational tone works well for the transparency and poignancy of her book.  It never pretends to be more than it is: a memoir of God's faithfulness in one woman's life.  But that, in and of itself, is a powerful story that resonates across time and cultures. 

In Chapter 10, Marcia recounts a local woman asking her to give up her only bag of carefully hoarded chocolate chips.  Although torn, Marcia hands them over for the sake of the bigger picture - eternity: our true reality.  To this day, I am reminded of that when I reach casually into my pantry for my chocolate stash.  It is difficult to pinpoint what I'm hoarding when I have so much, but I have many things in my life that are as precious and jealously guarded as Marcia's chocolate chips. 

Perhaps the strongest element of the book is the lack of sentimentality.  Oscar Wilde wrote "A sentimentalist is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it."  The book is powerfully emotional, but there is payment for the luxury - it is seen in the gut-wrenching accounts of self-doubt, the stark self-evaluation, and the daily sacrifice of even the most basic comforts taken for granted by the United States middle class. 

I would happily share all my chocolate chips and a copy of the book with each of you.  But for now, I will be giving away one copy. For a chance to win Marcia Moston's Call of a Coward, just leave a comment below.  A simple "hello" will suffice or share the title of a non-fiction book that impressed you.  A winner will be drawn at random and announced August 8, 2012.* 

You can read more from Marcia at her blog: On a Write Journey Following God.

For my upstate readers, Marcia will be signing copies of her book at the book launch August 4, 1:00 at Fiction Addiction behind the Haywood Mall.  More information can be found on the Fiction Addiction website.

*Entries available only for readers with a US or Canada mailing address.

Permission link: All excerpts from Call of a Coward: The God of Moses and the Middle Class House-Wife. Thomas Nelson ©2012. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. www.thomasnelson.com.

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