It’s a New Year and there’s a new opportunity in front of me. It’s big. It’s work and love-related and here’s the thing, folks, does that make it just crazy? It’s work and love-related AND it’s a risky endeavor. I alternate between dismissing it, a little mental wave of my hands, an eye roll, “that is never gonna happen” mixed with “this! this! This- pleeeease, Jesus, this?”
I ask you: How do you decide to seize the moment? How do you decide when to go and when to stay? Is it a feeling, a voice, a well thought-out decision, a sudden leap? What do you do, Reader?
Here’s your setting: a woman in her kitchen, the bones and bits of a chicken she roasted in a pot of water on the stove, simmering away, while she’s chopping sweet potatoes to roast in olive oil and salt, until they’re shrunk to bits and soft, with just a hint of chewiness. This is her happy place, her safe place, the place she goes when life is good and when it’s impossibly hard. Whether she’s hungry or not, this is where she wants to be. This woman has a young daughter, a dog, a small rancher with a reasonable mortgage, and a fairly low-paid, just make the bills, delightful, and often dull, full-time job. These are her loves, what she looks after, and who’s looking to her to keep the boat afloat. Here’s where it starts to sound like set-up of a joke – a farmer and a commercial kitchen walk into her life.
True story. Highly simplified true story. The farmer walked in a little more than two years ago. The kitchen has been an idea floating through the air, intangible, delicious to think about, hard to imagine putting into practice.
Now the kitchen is almost finished, located a few steps from the farm. The farmer is no longer a boyfriend but a fiancé, and while dates aren’t set, marriage before the end of the year seems likely. And this woman, has her foot on the brake and the gas pedal at the same time, both hands wrapped around the steering wheel. Her eyes dart between the rearview mirror and the windshield, the past and the future, each in view. Which foot does she lift?
Y’all, I’ve tried both, a foot on each pedal. I know that’s the easy answer. “Do both until the farm pays consistently, until it’s more settled, until it’s safer.” 2018 was my year to Do! Both! Diligent effort made to be two people with the powers of many who worked both jobs, while mothering, meal making, church-going, friend-seeing, just overall life. I did both pretty good except when I didn’t. Then I snapped at people I cared about, cried, and had shouty, frustrated conversations with God about putting dreams in front of us and then not. making. them. easy. Basically, I was a joy to be around.
Here’s my struggle: trust. How? When? WHY?
I’m a new believer. Most of my life I’ve been excellent at depending on me to keep the worlds spinning, planets, moving, permission slips emailed, laundry at an appropriate level (top of the basket height, that’s my comfort level; only then is action necessary, but it must be taken). This idea that God actually does… all the things? What? What is this madness that you speak?
Let me hold my hands up and add: I do not believe that I can make a wild, foolish leap and God’s got this, girl. (wink, wink) I love books about women who do that very thing. I just don’t happen to be on of them because I like sleeping at night.
However, this isn’t a total risk. There’s (some) money available to start paying me. There’s a kitchen almost ready to go. There’s a sweet farmer who’s eager to get me to the farm, to both work it together and get this kitchen going. There’s a daughter who really likes the farmer and wants me to work there solely so we’ll get chickens (it’s part of the deal, I won’t explain now).
There’s this deep, deep longing in my belly that says: what if this is exactly where He’s been leading me?
Time’s a wastin’. There’s a CSA to organize and manage, seeds to order, seeds to start, recipes to work and work and work and hope to perfect. The farmer needs help; he did last year on his own and, while his toughness was proven, he’s not Superman. This is a job for a team.
Join the team? I’m not eaten up with anxiety, as I might have been in the past (I say that, but let me acknowledge, trouble sleeping, eating too much dark chocolate, and starting small picky arguments with the farmer, as if testing to see if he can handle it, are not the coping mechanisms I’ve typically heard recommended). However,I have two new elements in my life: I’ve lived through hard things and survived; and Jesus. Reverse that order. I’m not expecting to get paychecks signed by J. Christ anytime soon, but knowing I’m loved goes a long way to soothe my anxious heart. Whether or not I know what to do, I’m loved. Whichever choice I make, I’ll still be loved. What a good Father He is. This is the promise we get and it’s ruffling my nervous, nattering heart regularly.
It’s getting clearer to me, every day, which foot to lift. As I pray, and breathe, and talk to friends and family, and pray some more, and then pray-beg a little (“pleeeease just show me, Lord? Just, like, real quick?”), I feel more sure. This decision doesn’t have an expiration date, but if it happens, it’s going to be quick.
Right now, both feet are on the pedals and I’m cooking on this , my day off, from the great, safe job, that closes for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It’s cold as all get out, and we Southerners would be losing our minds, except the sun is out. It’s just keeping everyone together. Still, it’s the perfect time of year for chicken stock, as pictured above. I first read about chicken stock in Nourishing Traditions, which is a great cookbook where I started learning about whole eating. I’ve only made a handful of the recipes because, frankly, they can be a little out there for me, and I’m not awash in money for complicated ingredients. Chicken stock or broth, whatever you call it, though, made that purchase totally worth it. Too the author’s writing style is lovely, and her conversation about diet, pre-Industrial Revolution versus now ,is compelling.
However, as mentioned above, money is limited, so I make Bare Bones Chicken Stock. I’ve love to fancy it up with whole onions, chunks of carrots, loads of celery. But we need that food for eating, not seasoning and then throwing away. So here’s how I make mine.
Bones of one whole chicken, in a big pot. I mean every last bit of bone, especially any congealed chicken fat that might be clinging to the container you’ve diligently saved those bones in. Chuck in some salt; I’m guessing about a 1/2 tablespoon will do, though I’m sure I go more. (If you have the tail ends of veg to sacrifice, like bits of onion, or soft carrots, be my guest. Otherwise, if it could make part of a meal, save it.) Run cold water over chicken bones until its covered and then some. Set it on the stove, bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for what suits you. Aim for at least six hours? I’ve been known to take our family’s life in my hands and leave it at a barely moving simmer over night. Mostly I just keep it on during the day (while home, Gentle Reader, I’m not a total madwoman), shut it off near bed, and then stick the whole things in the fridge, lid on, and let it cool until I can bag it in quart baggies the next day. I’ll keep a little fresh, but not much. If I don’t have a recipe planned, it drives me crazy to forget it, leave it a week, and then throw out that hard work. I can hear my grandfather, turning over in his grave, any time food is thrown out. (He, also, all the way up in heaven, I believe, gets annoyed when the heat kicks on in the middle of the night, because: money. But that’s another story.) So keep a little for a cup of hot broth in the morning (it is DEE-licious, arm, nourishing, salty, and so good for your belly) or pour a little on ground beef the next time you cook it in a skillet and see how extra tasty it gets. Otherwise, freeze it and then you’re the Gourmet Guru the next tie you pull up a recipe that calls for “1 1/2 cups chicken broth.”
Praying for you, Reader. Welcoming your prayers too. Left foot? right foot?
Honestly, I know the answer. It’s in my bones. It’s just lifting my foot.