Cooking With Love

I collect cookbooks. Just one of the many things I collect, which is why we keep adding onto our house. To make room for “stuff.” Years ago, a friend gave me one of my favorite cookbooks. It’s impressive looking, but the recipes aren’t too good. I suppose they are for some people, but they’re a little too fancy for us. We’re country folks at heart.

What makes this cookbook so special, outside of the fancy binding, is the inscription he wrote inside. It reads “Things taste better cooked with love than with heat.” I just love that, and it’s true. Anybody can follow a recipe if they pay attention and have the right ingredients. It takes love to adapt the recipe to a family’s taste and make it one of their favorite foods.

I love to cook, which probably explains why my collection has grown to a couple hundred books. Doesn’t mean I use any of them unless I want to try something new, but it does mean my friends call if they need a recipe. I’m a lending library for cooking.

I also have a favorite cooking pot. I don’t use it very often, either. It’s reserved specifically for my pork roast. Which, by the way, is really yummy if you throw a can of beer in there. (That sounds weird. Don’t throw the whole can in there, just the beer part.) It changes the whole flavor. The alcohol cooks off, so you don’t have to worry about appointing a designated driver.

I’ve had this Dutch oven since I was a very small child. Maybe six or seven years old. That might seem a strange thing for a child to have, but it was a present. Even as a child I loved to cook, and my family dutifully ate all my biscuits, even though most could be used as hockey pucks, complimenting me on how good they were. You just gotta love family, don’t you?

At any rate, it was given to me by my father’s friend. Hubby’s job is to take it out of the cabinet. It’s cast iron—the “good” kind. Black and heavy. Not like the cast iron you get today. This one was made to last a lifetime and it has so far. I’m not sure how old it was when I got it, but my mother spent a considerable amount of time cleaning up all the rust and baked on grease from years of neglect.

I don’t remember a lot of my childhood, for a variety of reasons, but I do remember the man that gave it to me. We called him Uncle Slim. I don’t know if he was homeless, but if not, he probably lived someplace with a big red X (to be condemned) on it, like we did.

He used to take my sister and me to the grocery store. He didn’t have much money, but he always had a few cents for us to ride the pony out front. He would pay for our ride and then take us back home. One day, on one of his visits, he brought that oven.

Uncle Slim didn’t stay in my life for more than a few years, but he was a dear, sweet man. About a hundred years old. Probably not really that old, but I was young, so he seemed ancient. One day he didn’t show up. Uncle Slim had been called home. I guess God needed a gentle soul in Heaven. Or maybe He just knew Uncle Slim was tired.

The fact he died wasn’t so disheartening, although he was sorely missed. And still is, when I cook a pork roast. It was how he died. A couple of teenagers beat him up and killed him. They wanted his money. I believe what they got was about a dollar and a half. That was the value of his life. A dollar and a half.

Why does it seem so much sadder when the price of the life is so cheap? If someone is killed for a couple million dollars, it’s easier to understand. I’m sure to the loved ones left behind it’s not, but to the rest of us, it’s almost understandable. Not that murder is ever really understood, but at least there’s some reason behind it. What possible reason is there to take a life for less than two dollars? Uncle Slim would have saved part of that to use on pony rides for two little girls.

There’s so much talk nowadays about morality and the lack thereof. Newscasters ask if we’re finally getting fed up with all the bad stuff. Don’t they realize it’s always been this way? That people do senseless acts just because they can? It’s just publicized more now.

If it happened today, would Uncle Slim be on the national news? Probably not, because his life wasn’t important, except to two little girls who stopped getting pony rides on a regular basis. And to one who grew up using a Dutch oven and missing him every time she did.

I take such good care of that oven. It is hand washed and then coated in oil before it is carefully put back into the cabinet. Just waiting to be used again. That is the real value of a life, isn’t it? Not the monetary value but the sentimental value. The memories that can be invoked years later by the simple act of making dinner.

If those teenage boys had a Dutch oven, would they have let Uncle Slim live, or would the dollar and a half be more important to them than the kind man they killed? If they had known about the pony rides would they have let him live? I wish I could tell them the story, so they’d know that even the most inconspicuous, seemingly inconsequential person is extremely important in someone else’s eyes.

Sometimes the world is a scary place. What keeps it all in balance are the pony rides and the people who become so very important to us as we wander through life. What’s the most comforting thought of all is that to God, we are as important as Uncle Slim was to me. That no matter how small and insignificant we may appear to the world, we are the world to Him.

When I cook a pork roast, I always reflect on how things are better cooked with love than with heat, because cooking that roast is an act of love. It takes me back to a much simpler time, to pony rides and an old man who loved me and was loved in return.

Want my recipe? One pork roast, sliced onions, salt, and pepper. Add water and beer to cover the roast and cook until done. Nice, simple, cheap, and super yummy. Although—fair warning—it won’t be as good as mine. You don’t have my Dutch oven.

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