Countering Fear With Love and Food (Recipes Included)

Where love flourishes, hatred withers.

Perhaps I am a naive, but my response to the recent shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernadino was not to curl up in terror and lock my doors, or go out and buy a gun, or engage in hating anyone. I do not believe in letting fear and hatred get the best of me, of my culture or my country, or the world, for that matter. 

So I reminded myself of the resolve I adopted some years back to guide my daily life, words I turn to whenever I need to right myself, a motto adapted from a line in Mary Chapin Carpenter’s, “Goodnight America”: My aim is to live every day–every moment if I can–with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand. 

I believe that my best response to terrorism, whatever the flavor, is to nurture love and kindness in the world around me, starting with my own attitude and actions. For me, the way to keep hatred and violence from flourishing is to refuse to participate. To grow generosity and compassion instead.

I think of love–in the sense of behaving with lovingkindness to others–as the light that keeps the darkness we humans are capable of from taking over. Where love flourishes, hatred does not. 

One way I express that love is by cooking. In my thinking, food (the kind of made of healthy, local, carefully raised ingredients) translates as love.

No surprise then that this week I’ve cooked more than usual. Thursday night, my friends Maggie and Tony came over for dinner, and I gave myself part of the afternoon off to immerse myself in preparing a beautiful and delicious food.

Here are two of the recipes from the dinner, my gift of love to you. The first is adapted from Melissa Clark’s recipe in the New York Times. (Watch the video to see how spectacular this savory and puffy pancake can look in the hands of a superb cook.) The second was inspired by receiving several quarts of sour cherries from my friend Louise’s nearby tree (thank you, Louise!). 

Savory Dutch Baby Pancake 

1 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour (gluten-free flour works too)

1/2 tsp kosher salt (or coarse-ground sea salt)

fresh-ground pepper to taste (I used a five-pepper blend, and gave the grinder three healthy turns)

8 large eggs (the deep gold yolks of free-range eggs that eat bugs lend a lovely color)

3/4 cup skim milk

a splash of half-n-half

2 T chopped fresh thyme (it’s worth the effort to use fresh thyme for the rich flavor and fragrance)

2 T chopped chives (or basil, or minced tops of green onion)

4 T unsalted butter

1/2 cup Gruyére cheese or another nutty aged cheese

sea salt for sprinkling (any coarse salt will do)

Heat oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then whisk the eggs with the milk/cream mixture in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until they are barely combined (no big lumps, but it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth). Add the herbs. 

Melt the butter in a heavy, 10 to 12-inch skillet with high sides. Cook the butter over medium heat until it smells nutty and is brown–not black! Swirl the pan so the butter coats the sides. Then quickly pour the batter into the pan, and sprinkle cheese and salt over the top. Put the pan in the oven on that middle shelf and bake 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve while still warm, cutting the puffy panckae into wedges. 

Sour Cherry-Ginger Tarts

4 cups sour (pie) cherries, pitted

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

pinch salt

1/2 cup water

2 T unsalted butter, chopped into pieces

1-1/2 T chopped candied ginger (reserve 1/2 T for sprinkling on filling in shells)

pre-baked tart shells (I used phyllo dough shells from the grocery store–they were okay, but next time I’ll make my own)

Puree half of the cherries in a blender or food processor and set the other half aside. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small saucepan, then whisk in water until smooth. Stir in the pureed berries along with the chopped ginger (reserving some for sprinkling) and the butter. Simmer the sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened (about a minute). To fill tart shells, start with a layer of whole cherries, then pour over enough sauce to hold the cherries together, then top with more whole cherries.

You can also use this sauce for ice cream topping. In that case, stir whole cherries into sauce as it begins to thicken. 

Both dishes are best shared, as a way to nurture friendships and connections of the heart. Enjoy!

Where love flourishes, hatred withers. 

Tolerance and Terrorism

An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. –Attributed to Gandhi

I was on the road last Friday and didn’t hear the news about the horrific attacks in Paris until evening, when I reached my hotel in Pueblo. I was so exhausted from the drive and from the talk I had given in Colorado Springs that the images and sounds from the television across the lobby at first didn’t penetrate. 

When I realized what was happening, my heart sank. 

More violence, more carnage, more hatred. All in the name of–religion?

Not exactly. In the name of the kind of anger and hatred that sometimes mask themselves as religion. The sort of thing that gave us the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, and Hitler’s attempt to annihilate the Jews (and the Romany and other groups he regarded as “diluting” what he considered the Aryan Race). Or here in North America, the Indian Wars and forced assimilation of Native Americans.

All of which masqueraded as Christianity, or more precisely, the pseudo-Christianity of extremists who conveniently forgot one of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shall not kill.”

Islam has a similar prohibition. “The Quran says that nobody can take a life,” a newspaper story quotes Abiba Trabacke, a French Muslim woman saying in response to hecklers as she and several other Muslim women visited a memorial site after the Paris attacks. Trabacke likened the killers to Nazis, adding: “They have nothing to do with us.”

I believe she is right: the extremists behind the Paris attacks have nothing to do with most of the world’s Muslims. But I fear we will respond to these attacks with the same kind of prejudice, intolerance, and outright hatred that the Paris attackers showed to those they killed and wounded. 

I worry that my American friends who follow Islam, people who are peaceful and productive, ordinary folks like you and me, will be harassed or worse. 

Humans are a tribal species, with a strong tendency to draw lines between “us”–the people we regard as part of our group or tribe–and “them,” the others we don’t identify with, who don’t look or think like we do. (How else can we explain the phenomenon of gated communities, the popularity of pick-up trucks belching polluting diesel smoke, or more tragically, the deaths of so many young Black men?)

In the wake of these latest attacks, it is prudent to be cautious. But not to hate and thus add fuel to the violence. 

Instead of increasing the destruction in the Middle East and other parts of the world where extremism grows, let’s instead work together to rebuild roads and schools and farms and homes, and the rest of the infrastructure that affords jobs, food, and settled lives.

Let’s give the region’s displaced and disenfranchised people a reason to stay home instead of undertaking perilous treks away, only to end in refugee camps or impoverished communities where they are live as outsiders, ripe for the kind of hateful talk that begets more violence. 

After World War II, we cooperated to rebuild Germany in the Marshall Plan. Why not pursue a Marshall Plan of sorts for Syria and the other war-torn countries of the Middle East? Why not grow houses instead of hatred, food instead of fanatics, community instead of whole cultures displaced and homeless? 

Let’s re-commit ourselves to the core teachings of the world’s religions, the words about loving our neighbors as ourselves, about being people of peace. Let us be examples of the best of humanity, not its worst.

That, it seems to me, is the best way to honor the victims of the horrific attacks in Paris and elsewhere. 

Artist Jean Jullien‘s “Peace for Paris” drawing has become a symbol of global solidarity and hope.