[Update! Congratulations to Rachel Q, winner of the giveaway!]
A long time ago, I heard a superstition that says the activities in which you partake on New Year’s Day set the tone for the way your coming year will go: Spend money, and it will be a year of loss. Receive money, and it will be a year of gain. Work, and you’ll be industrious. Play, and you’ll be full of fun. Eat something green, so the tradition goes, and you can expect the luck of more green (of the financial kind) to find its way to you in the months ahead. So it’s with that old superstition in mind that we bring you today’s cheesy oven fries, kicked up a notch with lemony green dressing, salty and addicting and very green—even though, between us, it’s not exactly money that we’re hoping to find more of in 2013.
(Warning: extremely long post to follow.)
The truth is, as sweet and celebratory and blessed as our December has been, it’s also been heavy. Heavy because of big things all of you know about, like tragedy that makes us weep and mourn, for parents without children and for children exposed to unfathomable hate. Heavy because of small things, like people who stand you up or who put others down when they talk or who are never curious about anyone, ever. I’ve read nasty articles about food blogging and felt weary with people who don’t seek to understand. I’ve listened to a restaurant hostess reprimand a patron for not going to the proper place with his bill. I’ve tried to be friends with someone and gotten silence in response. I’ve talked with women who use cooking as a measuring stick for how valuable each of us can believe herself to be. I’ve grieved, both as I’ve been hurt and as I’ve hurt someone else, hearing myself say sharp things, over and over again, my mouth more a sword than a comfort, and I’ve come face to face with the ugliness of my own heart. I’ve asked God hard questions. I’ve wept.
I wrote in an earlier post that sometimes I am overwhelmed by the evil in this world, and it’s true. There was an afternoon last week when I sat with Tim on my childhood bed, crying and wishing I weren’t someone who cries so easily, who is so “sensitive” as some would say. And that man I’m married to looked back at me, next to our Tennessee suitcases and window of falling Chicago snow, and reminded me of the character of the One I ask hard questions of, the One who is Great Compassion, who loves those who do not love Him, who was despised and rejected, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. I keep thinking about that and about what it means to taste sorrow, to bear burdens, to feel pain instead of steeling yourself against it.
In other words, I think, I keep thinking about what it means to give real kindness and what it means to love.
And that is what I’m hungry for, more than food and more than green, in 2013—for genuine compassion and kindness and love to come out of my heart, for me to see it around me, for our world to taste it in small ways and big. I’ve thought a lot about food blogging this last month. I’ve thought about how it’s been, to me, much more than recipes and photos and links and products to give away. You who read here give friendship so freely. You who write blogs of your own, with your weeknight dinners and Christmas recipes, demonstrate every day how much art there is in all of us. And when I write here about our life and what we’re eating in it, it’s never about ingredients as much as it’s about the everyday gifts and struggles those ingredients surround.
My friend Sarah has designed some beautiful, framable wall calendars for this coming year, which feature the Mother Theresa quote “Do Small Things with Great Love,” and it’s a quote that’s been ringing in my ears throughout the last several weeks. Small things with great love. Little mitvahs to counteract the ugly and evil all around us.
Small things like paying attention when someone is talking. Jotting a note. Telling a friend you are thankful for her. Making snowflakes.
Small things like letting someone cut you off. Sharing your home. Praying for the one who despises you. Not talking about the person who has given you every reason to be angry.
Small things like running a little blog where you call out beauty. Reading other blogs that do it, too. Giving thanks for the joy and magic of cooking. Putting your hands together to build a meal and rejoicing in it as you do.
As we look back at 2012 and ahead to 2013, we want you to know how grateful we are for you and the beauty you add to our lives. Thank you for reading here and thank you for enriching our everyday.
We want to give you something in return:
Today through Saturday, our ebook will be free on Amazon—and to one of you who downloads it (previous downloads are also fully eligible), Sarah will give a copy of her “small things with great love” calendar (available in either black or white). Go to Amazon to download the book; then simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to say you’ve picked it up, and you’ll be entered in the giveaway. We’ll announce the winner over the weekend.
Oven Fries with Lemony Green Dressing + Gruyere
Serves 4 to 6 as a snack
Like our version of Joanna Linberg’s cajun sweet potato fries, we cut these into matchsticks, which helps them crisp up nicely. While we added an Italian spice blend, you might pick different herbs or spices you prefer; everything can be adjusted to taste.
4 baking potatoes
2 or 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
Italian herb blend*
4 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Lemon Green Dressing
Preheat oven to 425F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice baking potatoes into matchsticks and place in a large bowl. Melt coconut oil (I put it in a glass measuring cup and stuck it in the oven a few minutes) and add minced garlic. Toss potato matchsticks with garlic-oil mixture, salt and pepper and herbs. *We used a couple hefty dashes of this and basically kept adding more until the matchsticks looked good to us.
Spread the matchsticks onto the two parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 35 minutes or until golden, rotating sheets halfway through. Fries are done when they look crisp and golden.
Top with lemony green dressing and shredded gruyere (as much as you like).
Lemony Green Dressing
2 cups supergreens (or other greens)
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
salt to taste
Combine ingredients in a blender or Vitamix and adjust proportions to taste.