there is little freedom without knowledge, open spirits, and hard work

“The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!” – Matthew 22:4

IMG_0642FOODIE-POST! Most of my recent food posts have been about mining gold in new cookbooks, carefully following directions, and expanding my repertoire by exposing myself to new ideas. My commitment to a disciplined approach to learning emerged out of, first, realizing I was far too narrow and unimaginative in the kitchen.

Essentially, the longer I live the more I understand that real freedom requires not only opportunity but self-discipline. We can insist that we are “free” from following “restrictive” rules all we like, but the scope of what is possible via free-choice is necessarily limited by what we are capable of doing. And what we are capable of doing increases when we engage both learning and hard work.

That’s why an education (which involves rules and guidelines) turns out to be the best tool we can give people who want to be truly free. Training, application, and the development of a skill-set exponentially increase the options we have to choose from. We’re not even scratching the surface of freedom if we try to cash in on the “benefits” before we are equipped to explore what is possible.

This was beautifully expressed by my friend Don in Brandon, who once famously told me the following about music: “You can’t improvise unless you have something to improvise from. If you don’t memorize all the scales first, you’ll be pulling from a dry well. (GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men, page 62)

IMG_0640DEREK AT THE IMPROV: As a chef, I have by no means achieved any level of advanced proficiency. I am, however, learning enough from the directions I’ve been following to improvise just a little. So today I’m going to share last night’s foodie experience; the corollary spiritual lesson should be self-evident.

We’ve been entertaining a lot, lately, and Monday evening we kept the ball rolling with another opportunity to host some great friends from church. Bob and Mitchie brought the bread, the wine, and an amazing salad, so my task was fairly simple.

PASTA: Rebekah is still very excited about the birthday gift she gave me in March, so she asked me to build dinner around fresh pasta. I was more than happy to oblige. It may take a lot of extra time to make pasta from scratch, but the result is so amazingly good it’s well worth the effort.

SALMON: I took some fresh salmon and marinated it for a couple of hours by rubbing olive oil onto the surface, then applying a mixture of fresh herbs from our garden. I cut basil (purple and sweet), thyme, parsley, and sage, covered the preparation with plastic wrap, then put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Before I transferred the baking dish in the oven (375 for 20 minutes, uncovered), I squeezed some lemon juice over the fish, added a small pat of butter to each fillet, and sprinkled a touch of dill.

For the sauce, I made a basic béchamel (Joy of Cooking), seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, then stirred in a little parmesan and some freshly sautéed mushrooms after the sauce thickened.

IMG_0638The entrée was accompanied by asparagus, lightly cooked with caramelized onion, and served with the bread, the caesar salad, and an excellent Cabernet.

Of course, it’s good company that makes a truly great meal. But it also requires hard work and imagination. It doesn’t matter how creative we are, because even our imaginations will be limited by the raw material we give them to work with.

Peace and promise – DEREK

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