Category Archives: Recipes

CLXXXX

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 I was so glad to get back to Georgia after my sojourn in Indiana and Illinois.  I didn’t  so much mind the cold of those winters (OK, I did, sometimes), and I actually enjoyed the snow.  The problem was the way winter refuses to end up there!  When this Georgia boy was ready to see some dogwoods and azaleas blooming, there was still two more months of dreariness to be endured, with nothing green to be seen anywhere!

 

“SPRING” IN THE UPPER MIDWEST

Forty degrees and gray and misting rain,

The sunrise just a lessening of gloom

(You’d hardly call it light) to say that Time

Had not yet wholly failed in its refrain.

Back home the dogwood trees would be in bloom;

Here snowdrifts linger, crusted o’er with grime.

So ends the pure white promise of December:

In April slush and mud it meets its doom–

And we can’t seem to make ourselves remember

Another season or another clime.

We know there once was sunlight; we assume

Somewhere above the clouds, in joy sublime,

It reigns.  But we need faith to fan the embers

Of hope down in this dank and dismal tomb.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

CXIX

 

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

It is now 1983-84, my second year as pastor in Marietta.  I’m still working on the dissertation on Spenser in odd moments, but starting to adjust to the new routine, so that the fertilization of a new kind of immersion in the Bible is able to start interacting with my other reading and my observations of nature again in interesting ways.  At least, I thought they were interesting.  We shall see what you think.  The first one is on Adam’s naming the animals.

AdamNaming1

Commentary, Gen. 2:19

Sonnet XXXVII

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And how he thought about them, trooping past,

Stopping to like his hand or sniff his knee—

Tiny as bee or hummingbird, or vast

In girth, the river-horse—and first to see

In fur and feather, clad heraldically,

The colors—and the antics!—speechless, stare

At scampering mice, at stallions’ thunder, tree-

Like limbs of elephants, ambling bulk of bear—

This creativity beyond compare—

What fruit brought forth in bare but fertile mind;

From sound and sight, throat muscles, subtle air

To weave the words, the Poet’s power unbind:

To call the Correspondences by Name,

As Adam called the animals who came.

AdamNaming3

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Stars Through the Clouds

Thanksgiving and the Redwall Feast: A Fellowship of Food

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and there will be many an American feasting on far more turkey and pie than is good for anyone.  But it is just one day a year, so we’re allowed to go a bit overboard (we tell ourselves while conveniently forgetting the leftovers that will haunt our refrigerators for days). Some time ago, I wrote a post on food that included all sorts of spastic ramblings about books that involve food.   It seems like an appropriate subject to revisit, particularly the beloved subject of the feast.

As I said in my last post, my favorite book descriptions of food belong to the fantasy world created by Brian Jacques in his Redwall series.  While his characters are mice, moles, badgers, hares, and squirrels and their fare sometimes involves ingredients that we would not normally reach for in the back of our pantry when baking a pie (dandelions, acorns, and rose petals, anyone?), somehow, the food all sounds magically delicious, especially when Redwall Abbey has one of its famous feasts.

From the otter’s spicy soup to the deep, earthy Deeper’n’Ever Turnip’n’Tater’nBeetroot pies presented by the moles to the fruit-studded scones and and honey-covered hotcakes and colorful salads, reading about a Redwall feast was like being trapped on the wrong side of a window watching someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner celebration.  You desperately want to get inside, but can’t figure out how to magically transport yourself into the pages so that you can try everything just to see if it could possibly be as good as Jacques made it sound:

Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg… crusty country pasties, and these were being served with melted yellow cheese and rough hazelnut bread.
~
Jacques made a point in his books of describing every feast in detail (and including feasts in every book, of course) and even making sure that his characters on their inevitable quests are provisioned with a good supply of rations that would make most fantasy heroes cry for jealousy.  No “waybread” for these furry warriors. It’s oatcakes and honey, scones, and bottles of cordial for the heroes who set out from Redwall.

 

But the meals in these stories aren’t just a way to make readers wish that they were smaller, fuzzier, and wielding swords for the good of all creaturekind.  The feasts are a coming-together, often at the start or the end of an adventure.  Friends and family from all over the Mossflower forest are invited into the abbey.  Stories are told beside roaring fires while the adults sip October Ale and the little ones enjoy cups of strawberry fizz or dandelion cordial.  Long-dead heroes visit young warriors-to-be in their sleep and inspire them to set out at dawn.  And once the questing is through and the heroes return home, a feast will be assembled to welcome them again.  Food, feasting, fellowship: the coming together of characters is significant enough to deserve detail.  Rather than leaving it at “and then they ate together,” Jacques satisfies us with extensive description so that we, too, can attend (at least in part – I have yet to receive a slice of deeper’n’ever pie from an obliging mole).

Mini pies! Redwall sized pies? Probably not…

As we think about gathering around a table loaded with good things (and all the baking required to make the good things happen!) we might also think about the meaning of both the food and the fellowshipping, and how, really, they have to go together for proper feasting to succeed.  Without fellowship, it’s just a very big dinner.

So happy feasting this Thanksgiving and, once you have recovered from the terrifying amount of food you will likely consume and have decided that the vow to Never Eat Again was a little hasty in the making, you might consider picking up a copy of Redwall and enjoy another world’s idea of feasting.  Perhaps you will get some notions for your next feast.  If you need ideas, there is actually a website of Redwall recipes!

Losing Yourself and Finding Some Chocolate: Beating the Writer’s Block

You're sitting inside feeling sorry for yourself...

Every writer has dealt with that massive, invisible beast that plants itself squarely on our desks, preferably in front of our computer screens, and leers at us in a mocking sort of way, just daring us to get anything accomplished.  Sometimes this beast teams up with Facebook or another soul-sucking website and we lose hours without knowing where they’ve gone.

And our story sits tragically abandoned.

There are lots of ways to get around writer’s block.  We all have our tried and true methods, so I  thought I’d contribute a couple of mine.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes (quite frequently, actually) I just need to get away from my work.  And I don’t mean Facebook away or even read-a-good-book away.  Those have their places (especially the latter).  But little treats that allow me the sense of escape can make all the difference when it’s time to go back to the proverbial drawing board.

A perfect setting for a story...

So here’s my first solution:

Get Lost.  No, I’m not kidding or trying to be all philosophical. Leaving your desk, your house, your chaotic world behind and losing yourself in the outdoors can be incredibly soothing.  You might be lucky enough to have a beautiful setting to explore right out your front door – city streets, rambling countryside, a dimly lit wood – or maybe you need to hop in the car and drive a little ways to find it.  Either way, give it a try. Get a little lost on purpose and see what you find.  And while you’re at it, bring a camera and try to find the beautiful, bizarre, and interesting things you normally miss when you’re out and about.

If you do take some photos, please post them on your blog and link them here so I can appreciate them too.  I love seeing what others have discovered.  A recent find of mine is this Chinese restaurant called Karen’s Unicorn.  The name just makes me smile…

Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to write a story about Karen's Unicorn.

Now for your second escape from the dull monotony of a desk, a room, a house, a schedule.  You’ve taken a walk, snapped some photos, and now you need a snack. This one should suit just about anyone, so long as you enjoy chocolate.

Have you ever felt like a delicious, home baked treat, but you just don’t have the time, inclination, or ingredients to make a complicated dessert? Don’t resign yourself to store bought snacks just yet!  Before you settle back into your chair for a good one-on-one with your story, make yourself a five-minute chocolate cake.

I’m totally serious.  Five minutes.  And you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen (if you don’t, feel shame and go shopping immediately).

Chocolate Cake in a Mug

1 average sized mug

  • 4 Tbs plain flour
  • 4 Tbs white sugar
  • 2 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1/2 beaten egg (yes, annoying, but just save the other half for another cake!)
  • 3 Tbs milk
  • 3 Tbs veggie oil
  • Splash of vanilla extract (if you use imitation, you make me very sad)
  • Handful of chocolate chips or any chunks of a good candy bar.  Be creative! (I use broken pieces of Swiss baking chocolate because it’s actually cheap here)

In your mug, mix up the flour, sugar, and cocoa powder (I use a fork).
Add the beaten egg.  (It will be a bit gummy.  No worries!)
Add the milk and oil.  (Now it looks like cake batter!)
Add a bit of vanilla.

Life just got better...

Stir in your pieces of chocolate.  You might simply sprinkle them on top to keep them from sinking to the bottom, but I actually kind of like the melty, chocolatey bottom of my cake.  It’s up to you!

Stick your mug in the microwave.  My golden time was 2 1/2 minutes on medium setting.  You may find that more or less is needed.  You do NOT want to overbake it!  Fudgier is better.  The cake will rise up over the top of the mug while baking and will then sink back down a bit. Fear not.  This is normal.

(Warning: When you remove your mug of cake, your kitchen will begin to smell decadently of chocolate.  It may draw other members of your household into your immediate vicinity, so be prepared to defend your treat, unless you plan to share – which would be silly.)

For an extra flair, you can sprinkle powdered sugar on top, like I did, because I had it lying around.  Or maybe you have cool whip or vanilla ice cream available.  If nothing else, at least grab a glass of milk.

Now, this is my kind of work environment.

Let it cool a bit before eating! Remember that microwaves bake from the inside out so the middle will be very, very hot.

Make your way back to your desk and return to your story in a much happier frame of mind.  You took a beautiful walk.  You have your very own fresh chocolate cake.  And you have a story in the making.

Happy writing!

P.S. – If you try the cake in a mug and vary it in some amazing way, please share!

P.P.S. – A happy birthday to my little sis who is celebrating her sweet sixteen today!  Wish I could be there!

Writing and Baking

I love the Holidays!  I love the music, the cheer, the friends, the family, the caroling, the Church services, but mostly I love the baking!  My sister and I traditionally have a baking weekend where we bake a dozen different kinds of cookies and breads!  Oh, the wonderful smell of cinnamon and nutmeg.  The scent of yeast rising and baking bread.  We’d make chocolate peppermint cookies, sugar cookies, peanut butter kiss cookies, ginger snap cookies, and cranberry cookies; we’d make pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, banana nut bread, and cranberry bread!  These the aromas of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I cannot take credit for the cranberry cookies or bread.  Though it has become a family tradition and almost everyone knows my family because of these wonderful treats all the credit most go to Wendy and Harry Devlin, the authors and illustrators of Cranberry Thanksgiving & Cranberry Christmas.  These wonderful children’s stories were not only great fun to read but they had recipes in the back of each book to make the cranberry dish that was featured in the story.

Who knew that reading could taste so good!  Read a book and bake your favorite treat.  Hey, maybe you’ll be inspired to write a best seller!

Happy reading!

Happy baking!

PS: I’d share the recipes but they are copyrighted! So go out there and find the books and enjoy the amazingness of cranberries in baked goods!