I think my husband decided to pursue me for his bride because he needed a cook.
Although I was only age 15 and he 20 and already working for the railroad, probably what did it was the apple pie I made and took to a church supper. Guess he didn’t know I couldn’t cook much else.
We married after I reached 16, which my Dad thought sounded better than 15, and God tried to teach me patience through cooking. I think what I really learned was creativity and ingenuity.
Take for instance the first chocolate cake. I used the recipe on the back of the cocoa box and I didn’t notice high altitude instructions. My creation looked like the top of a volcano. Not to worry. I just turned a saucer up-side-down on the cake plate and put on the caved-in layers. After the chocolate frosting, my husband thought I had a masterpiece—at least until he cut it.
There was no remedy for the first fried chicken that ended up raw in the middle and burned on the outside. But I’m tenacious and kept right on cooking, reading my little Pillsbury leaflets, asking questions and watching other ladies efficient in the kitchen. I discovered after I bought a recipe book I could make nearly anything—except meringue.
The first time the lightly browned froth melted over my banana cream pie, oozing water on top and around the edges, I thought I messed up the recipe. I love meringue! My husband loves cream pies. So I divided egg whites from yolks, whipped them, and added all sorts of different ingredients cooks told me worked to make the sweet fluff perfect.
Over and over and over I tried, and every time my pie was covered with tears. Some were mine; the remainder— egg whites that decided to revert to their original state.
Maybe it was the chickens. Eggs are potential chickens, and chickens and I never had a good relationship, even when as a kid I gathered eggs. Roosters never liked me. I was flogged so many times I once jumped a fence taller than my head to get away from an angry Papa Chicken. Could somehow chickens put hatred into their DNA and allow me to reap it?
Naw. I’d read in the Bible, “Tribulation works patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.” For years I kept trying to master meringue. “Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Add 8 tablespoons of sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, continue to beat until sugar is dissolved and meringue looks glossy with stiff peaks. Blend in vanilla.”
I tried substituting powdered sugar, as one cook suggested, and it didn’t help.
I’ve learned many of my goals aren’t important enough to pursue time and time again. On the other hand, some are of such great significance I need to keep going after them. I’ve always wanted to be a Proverbs 31 woman, providing for the needs of my household, and to do it well. Yet, it seems I don’t have what it takes in some areas, such as mixing up a pie that would win a State Fair ribbon.
I could blame my tenacious spirit to keep trying on the Apostle Paul. He wrote, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, (the goal).” (Philippians 3:13-15).
“Never give up!” Paul tells me.
Well, I admit Paul probably never heard of cream pie topped with meringue. But God often uses ordinary things to teach us greater things, and He put within me a desire to keep trusting, keep repenting, keep accepting his grace and love, and perhaps my life will be the perfectly browned delicacy that will be sweet to Him.
I hate to tell you, but the expected perfect meringue, all tucked closely to the crust, towering four inches toward my fork has never been created in my kitchen.
But I have a little more wisdom and patience now—and use whipped topping.
--Ada Brownell’s writing appears in numerous publications, including the book, “What I Learned From God While Cooking” (Barbour, 2006). She attends Central Assembly in Springfield, MO.