Real Cooking

It seems that every January we are bombarded by lists from every segment of the media.

Pick up any magazine or newspaper, turn on any television and you?ll find lists of the worst and the best of everything imaginable, lists of predictions of coming events, lists of the most beautiful, the sexist, or the most influential people in the world.

And this year, with all the millennium hoopla, the list of lists seems to have grown longer. Reasonable, I guess, since the compilers have a thousand years on which to deliberate.

I?m not pooh-poohing this yearly roll call. I think it?s our way of taking inventory of what society deems as important?really very telling, if you think about it.

After reading one such list, a list of history?s most influential people, I paused to think about the most influential people that have been in my life.

And I?m not talking about Bill Gates here, even though I use his Microsoft on a daily basis. Or about Mr. Whipple, even though I use his product on a daily basis, too.

No, I?m talking about those people who have wandered in and out of my life, all the while teaching me something valuable, men and women who have had an impact on making me the person I am today.

There are many, but for the sake of your time and the editor?s space, I?ll give you just one entry from each decade of my life.

Since I was born in the fifties, I would have to say that my parents, brother and sister had to be the biggest influence in my life during that decade.

Studies now show that the first three years of a child?s life in many ways shape that person for the rest of his or her existence. I know that?s true because since having children, I hear my mother?s voice coming involuntarily out of my own mouth on a regular basis.

I give my parents credit for rearing me to be a productive human being.

Miss Florabelle Hanna, my third-grade teacher, she tops my list for the decade of the sixties. Everyone loved Miss Hanna. She was a small, pretty woman who wore her dark hair in what we called a ?flip.? Much to the delight of the older sixth-grade boys, she drove a new turquoise blue T-bird.

But even if Miss Hanna hadn?t been so ?groovy,? she still would have been treasured. She was warm and nurturing with a touch to a cheek or a squeeze around a shoulder. She was quick to laugh and even quicker to encourage. But she had a firm reprimand for any hurtful name-calling or disrespectful indiscretion.

No one was ?dumb? in Miss Hanna?s class. Everyone was valued and, in this setting, every child thrived.

To this day, I find myself unconsciously modeling Miss Hanna when I work with children. I only pray that I do half as good a job as she did.

I?ve selected another educator to represent the seventies. Gary Andrews was my Government teacher during my senior year of high school.

It was from Mr. Andrews that I learned of the tremendous power and responsibility I had as a citizen to bring about social justice. At a time when racial equality, women?s rights, the Vietnam war and Watergate were the events of the day, government wasn?t very positive in the mind of a 17-year-old.

Mr. Andrews taught me to utilize the system to bring change, a change for a better world.

But it was his personal story of redemption that I found most inspiring. Mr. Andrews was a high school dropout, who, after doing a stint in the Navy, decided to go back to school, finish his diploma and go on to college and become a teacher.

?Listen and learn,? he would say. Thank you, Mr. Andrews. I did.

In the eighties, I became a Jost. Well, actually, it was 1979, but close enough. As a newlywed, I have to admit that I didn?t know what hit me. I had never experienced a family that was so intimate with each other. My own family was a group of people who always went their own way.

I left home never to return at the age of 18. My husband, on the other hand, left home on the day he married me.

Our different experiences led us to have contrary expectations of what ?family? should be. I wouldn?t be honest if I didn?t say there were some tense moments during those first years of marriage, many of them of my own making.

But through the years, I have come to love the members of my husband?s family and to appreciate the role they play in my life. They have taught me what a family should be: loyal, caring, respectful, loving unconditionally.

My mother- and father-in-law model a marriage based on mutual love and respect. The Josts are a family whose faith in God comes first, and they feel committed to serve others. They make me proud, and it pleases me that my children are growing up surrounded by their tenderness.

As a group, they have to be counted as some of the most influential persons in my life.

For the nineties, I have selected two men who seem to have a lot in common. They are both academics, both ordained ministers, both educators on the college level. Both have a healthy appetite and both married fabulous women.

I don?t know if Jay Beaman and Lynn Jost have ever met each other, but I feel fortunate to count them both as friends. Jay now lives in Portland, Ore., but we stay in contact by telephone and the occasional visit.

Lynn is a professor at Tabor College. I can?t tell you how much these two men have challenged me over the past decade.

At this point in my life, I am wrestling with some big spiritual issues. I view Lynn and Jay, whether they like it or not, as my spiritual mentors. They have helped me grow and have a manner of convicting me in a way that few others do. Sometimes I don?t like it. But I can feel myself stretching and embracing bigger ideas.

They are never condescending, an important quality in a mentor, and I sincerely feel that they are both blessed with the gift of insight. True visionaries. My prayer is that they will stick with me into the next decade.

There?s so much left to learn!

* * *

We?ve had some requests for the Sauerkraut soup that was featured in a Free Press article a couple of weeks back. The recipe comes courtesy of Laverna Braun.

Sauerkraut Soup

3 qt. water

1 beef soup bone

2-3 lb. chuck roast

1 large onion, chopped

1 large bay leaf

1 tbs. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 sprigs fresh parsley

1 (32 oz.) jar sauerkraut, drained

1 medium onion, chopped

3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

Simmer the first eight ingredients for three hours. Discard soup bone. Cut meat into small pieces; chill. Lift fat from broth, discard. Add drained sauerkraut, medium onion and parsley to broth and meat. Simmer for two more hours. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, boil potatoes until done. Add potatoes and potato water to soup.

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