The end of July is upon us! Roses are fading, but birds are still flying through our copse of Chinese elms—chirping, squawking and and feasting on fresh thistle and suet.
It has been a relatively quiet summer for us, but a very productive one. My husband Bob and I took a three-week stay-at home vacation which was amazingly helpful. During those three weeks we made no appointments, but wrote, studied and did projects we only wanted to. As a result both of us are feeling much healthier.
Our experience makes me think of the words written by one of my favorite contemplatives. “The speed of the modern world does violence to our souls.” Rest is good for the body and for the soul.
Those three weeks helped us to bring some order out of the chaos of our lives. I have some more thoughts on order and chaos. But first you’ll want to peruse Dale’s wonderful cream of asparagus soup with his unique musings. He’s even included his recipe for a strawberry summer dessert.
Robert (RuthAnn’s husband) came over for lunch last week. It had been a while since we had made time to talk over the problems of the world and other “man things”. We had cream of asparagus soup, ham and cheese quiche and a strawberry sundae for dessert. The sundae was a simple summer day dessert. I’ll tell you about that after the soup recipe.
I’ve always thought of asparagus as a rather exotic vegetable – probably because we never had it when I was a child. As an adult, my first exposure was to the canned variety. I liked the flavor, but the texture was not to my liking. Too mushy! On the plate, the little stalks just laid there as if they were tired. Sometime later I was feeling adventurous again, so I bought a bunch of fresh asparagus. I had no idea of what to do with it.
I got my cookbooks out to see what other people did with it. I liked Julia Child’s recipe best. It was the simplest. She had a special pan for asparagus, sort of like a coffee pot so they could cook standing up. I didn’t have one of those nor the string to tie them in a bundle, so I improvised and got great results. I loved them. Years later I found that steaming them in the microwave is easier still, and the cooking is much more even.
Another thing that I learned from Ms. Child was to peel the stalks. Breaking the ends off wastes some of the best part. Yes, cut off the dry fibrous end with a knife. Then with an ordinary vegetable peeler, remove the last one to two inches of the tough green layer. This exposes the sweet white core which is the best part.
We are not cooking the stalks whole in this recipe. We are going to make soup, an elegant soup.
Cream of Asparagus Soup
You will need:
1 bunch of asparagus 4 Tbs. of flour
1 rib of celery 1 cup of milk
½ of a yellow onion ¼ tsp. of white pepper
4 Tbs. of butter ¼ to ½ cup of heavy cream
2 tsp. chicken base or bouillon granules or 2 bouillon cubes
- Trim and peel the asparagus, then roughly chop them and put them in a soup pot.
- Roughly chop the celery and onion. Add them to the pot
- Cover the vegetables with water.
- Put a lid on the soup pot, and cook the vegetables until they are soft, about 45 minutes.
- In a smaller pan, make a roux. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the pan. Add 4 tablespoons of flour and cook over a medium heat for two minutes, stirring constantly. Do not brown the roux. When the roux is done, set it aside.
- When the vegetables are done, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and put them into a food processor or blender. Do not pour the cooking liquid into the food processor or blender, but save the liquid.
- Puree the vegetables. (You can also use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables in the soup pot with the cooking liquid.)
- Return the pureed vegetables to the soup pot and stir them into the cooking liquid.
- Add the cup of milk.
- Bring the soup to a simmer, and stir in the roux with a whisk until the soup is thickened. It will most likely be too thick at this point. That is how it should be.
- Stir in the chicken base and the white pepper.
- Stir in ¼ cup of cream and taste.
- Add however much salt is needed.
- The soup is most likely still too thick. So add water or milk or more cream until the soup is the consistency that you want.
- Strain the soup to remove any of the tough peel that remains.
- Serve with three drops of cream on the surface of the soup.
- Use a half-cup of strawberries for each serving. Remove their green hats and halve the berries – top to bottom.
- Place the strawberries in a bowl, sprinkle a little sugar on them, and hold them in the refrigerator for an hour or more.
- When time to serve, fill clear goblets (water goblets, wine goblets etc.) half way with the strawberries.
- Mound vanilla (or whatever flavor you wish) ice cream on top of the berries
- Drizzle chocolate syrup on top and enjoy your sundaes as you solve all of the problems of the world that Robert and I couldn’t undo.
Food for Thought:
Bringing order out of chaos is one of my favorite subjects. This is what good artists do. This is what God planned for all mankind to do because human beings are made in His image. Even when the chaos in our nation and world reigns, creating corners of order in our personal lives can soothe our souls.
Take my situation. Most days I spend the morning writing. Now, when we are talking about the process of writing a book, we are talking about research as well as writing several drafts of each chapter. Therefore, our dining table will usually be covered with books and papers tossed about randomly. Not only will there be research books, but also journals, Bibles, sketch books and a library book or two. Then there is my necessary lap top computer placed on the New American Standard exhaustive concordance with a separate ergonomic keyboard and mouse.
Then dinnertime arrives. I push the papers aside and stack the books in one place. Then I arrange the dining chairs and place two pretty plates on matching placemats. Arranged on each plate is a bowl of steaming soup, buttered slices of hot French bread and an array of relishes: baby carrots, dill pickle spears and olives. I place a folded napkin beside each plate and then a silver soup spoon, and if we have it, set a pink rose from our rose bush as a centerpiece. Order out of chaos. For the moment. But it counts. It brings a sense of well-being.
When Bob and Dale met for lunch a couple of weeks ago, they discussed uncertainties in their own lives, and I’m going to guess they also spoke their horror over the latest shooting in Dallas. They may have discussed the new ISIS dictum that faithful Muslims must kill anyone that doesn’t belong to their religion. I’m thinking they probably made a few comments about the chaos surrounding our search for a new American President we can trust. But in the midst of all these difficult topics, they were enjoying order and civility because Dale had prepared an elegant lunch for his friend. It was a victory over barbarism.
My husband Bob loves to repair things. Almost everyday lately, he’s been out in the garage, making a new step for a rotted one on our outside stair case and sanding and painting a second banister for our inside stair case to make it safer as we age. Or he may be inside on the computer looking up quality appliances for a good price. Both our dishwasher and gas grill need to be replaced. Our house could disintegrate without constant care. But my husband is keeping the chaos under control in this area of our personal lives.
When big things go wrong, little things can help us continue on.
The most important and effective way of bringing order out of chaos is to meet Jesus first thing in the morning and listen to His voice. If you listen long enough, he will bring order out of the scramble of your mind, speaking, deep in the center of your being, the word you need. It might be a word of approval. “You did a good job at the library yesterday.”
Or He might say, “Don’t fret about how her words wounded you. I love you with a love that never fails, and that is all that matters.”
Or He may give you a word of guidance, highlighting the task he most wants you to accomplish that day.
One of God’s job descriptions is the continuing task of bringing order out of chaos. May we continue to work at this with Him, fighting back the darkness.
“Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (I John 5:5).