Baked Ziti and unimaginable wealth…

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All of you who are thirsty, come to the water!
Whoever has no money, come, buy food and eat!
Without money, at no cost, buy wine and milk!
 Why spend money for what isn’t food,
    and your earnings for what doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me and eat what is good;
    enjoy the richest of feasts.
 Listen and come to me;
    listen, and you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you… – Isaiah 55

This is the story of an overdue ziti.

IMG_E8744Years ago, probably at least ten, I made a “Baked Ziti” that was apparently amazing. Ever since that day, just about every time our daughter has come to visit, she has asked me to replicate the dish. Somehow, for a variety of reasons, it never happened.

This past weekend Naomi asked again and – because of the trauma of being a displaced family, leaving the community she loves – this time I made it happen.

It turns out you don’t just pour a good ziti out of a box.

I followed the recipe as described in The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. If you haven’t seen it, the volume is a huge tome that doesn’t just offer recipes, it test-drives all the cooking in an experimental kitchen and describes the science behind why and how certain combinations work. This is why (for example) this ziti uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

By the time I came back from the store I was loaded down with three cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan, and cottage), eggs, both milk and heavy cream, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, fresh garlic, and the best fresh ziti (that’s a tubular pasta) I could find, because I still don’t make my own pasta unless it’s flat. Plus of course bread, good wine, and fixings for a great Italian salad.

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What “The Good Life” looks like:

But the best part of the dinner was a table full with family. We were blessed to manage this at Christmas (click here for pics), including Andrew, Alicia, and Mr. T. But even this past weekend’s version of the four generations is looking like a rarity going forward.

There are many ways to measure “success” in life, and too many people have been deluded into believing “the good life” necessarily involves material wealth and power. But I am convinced that there is no-one alive on planet Earth who has more than someone with a family willing to gather around a table together and break bread.

So there it is. Baked Ziti and unimaginable wealth.

Blessings abound – DEREK

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