Monday, August 31, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- August 26, 2015

Lists are an obsession for me. When I feel overwhelmed or uncertain what I should do next, I make a list. Like the proverbial bunnies, my lists multiply. I start with a simple to-do list which leads to a list of meals for the week which necessitates a grocery list with separate sub-lists for each store and/or aisle.

Then there is the list of all lists-- the Great Big Summer To-Do List. One blogger I follow creates a summer bucket list with fun things she wants to do with her children, plus a few projects. Unfortunately for my family, I’m not like her. My list is all work.

At least half of my list is comprised of tasks like putting away stacks of papers, books, or outgrown clothes that pile up during the school year. Then, of course, is planning for the upcoming school year. This summer, getting ready for baby filled a few slots, too. And there was the perennial chore of organizing totes of photographs.

Well, summer is almost over, and I don’t have even half of my list completed. The only one left that has me really anxious is the one I’ve been putting off for more than a year-- making curtains for my girls’ room. More than a year ago (maybe two years), my daughter picked out a couple of matching pink fabrics. Last year I washed the fabric. So far this summer, I’ve ironed some of it and sewn a couple of seams, but with each stitch, my fear grows.

I have no clue what I’m doing with my sewing machine. My inexperience makes me certain I’ll mess it all up. Plus I just know the thread is going to tangle or I’ll need to find the owner’s manual to figure out how to wind up the thingamabobbin.

I was feeling disappointed in myself and a little ashamed as I once more set aside the unfinished project last Thursday to prepare our home for weekend guests. Our friends from Kenya, Joseph and Ruth, were able to travel to the United States for the summer. The majority of the trip was church-business related as Joseph has many responsibilities in the church in Kenya, but I know they were also happy to see three of their grown children and grandchildren who live in Indiana.

I thoroughly enjoyed becoming reacquainted with them this weekend, but now that their visit is over, my attention is turned once again to my giant list and the curtains. As I begin worrying all over, I am a bit ashamed and disappointed in myself, but for a different reason.

You see, Joseph and Ruth have many obligations. Joseph is in charge of the seminary in Kenya and is also the bishop over hundreds of congregations. In his diocese there are so many poor and hungry, so many widows and orphans and others in need, and these folks look to Joseph and his wife for help.

In my comfortable home, I sit with a full belly fretting over what I’ve made into a mountain of wrinkled pink polka-dotted and gingham fabric. In her home, Ruth opens her door each morning to find at least four hungry people on her doorstep. She is concerned with being able to provide and prepare enough food for empty bellies.


I needed this wake-up call of a visit. Suddenly my Great Big Overwhelming Summer To-Do List shrank from its mountainous size to the molehill it actually is. My hope for each of you is that your own personal worrisome mountains may, with a bit of perspective, wither away to insignificance and leave you with some of the contentment that Ruth and Joseph have left for me.


Over the course of our weekend with Bishop and Mrs. Omolo, our family learned about the culture of Kenya. We asked about their favorite Kenyan food and learned it was called ugali, a simple dish of cooked unseasoned cornmeal served with meat and fish. I asked for the recipe for ugali so that I might share it with readers, but I found it was one of those dishes that is simply made-- no measurements involved.

Instead I’ll share one of my family’s favorites that our homesick guests enjoyed for breakfast-- cornmeal mush. I know it sounds like something out of our nation’s pioneer days, but Joseph and Ruth told me it was very much like porridge they might eat for breakfast in Kenya. Don’t let the word “mush” scare you away; it’s warm and filling and delicious, especially when served with a pat of butter, real maple syrup, and milk or cream drizzled over the top.

After we eat our mush in the bowl, any leftover is poured into a buttered pan, covered and stored in the refrigerator. For the next breakfast we turn the firm mush onto a cutting board, slice it into half-inch slices, fry it on a greased griddle, and serve it with maple syrup-- fried cornmeal mush.

Roast Cornmeal Mush

1 cup roasted cornmeal (plain cornmeal is fine, too)
4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. salt

In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and the salt to a boil. Mix the cornmeal with 1 cup of cold water. Stir the cornmeal mixture into the boiling water and cook, stirring often over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thick. Serve in bowls with your favorite toppings and enjoy.

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