Real Cooking

“Do you like the shade of this stain?” I asked my coworkers as I displayed my smudged forearm for all to see. “This is what we’re finishing Alex’s room in; provincial on pine.”

“Lovely,” came the response.

This past week’s mild weather, plus the extra hour of evening’s light, made staining a log cabin’s worth of pine paneling almost a pleasure.

After supper one night, Keith and I rigged up a staining assembly line out on the driveway and managed to get most of a room’s worth of wood finished.

Chewing on black licorice whips that hung from our mouths as we walked the length of the log-shaped pieces, we sanded the roughest spots, wiped the logs dust free and applied the stain. And as we worked, we talked about things of the spirit and things of the world.

We talked about our family-both the generation below us and the generation above-and how we were going to respond to the growing needs that the future would bring. Cars, colleges, boyfriends and girlfriends. IRAs, pension plans and independent living.

And after considering what lies ahead, we once again pledged to eat more healthfully, drink more water, get more sleep and take more exercise.

Dip and swipe. Dip and swipe. The rhythm continued as we caught up each other on the latest-I hate to use the word gossip-“hometown news.”

Who’s expecting a baby. Who’s in the hospital. Who’s child is getting married. Life’s ever-constant flow.

We took the time to reflect on how our lives, too, had changed over the past year. My “new job” isn’t so new anymore. But I could still report to my husband how rewarding I found it to be, and we both agreed that the regular hours fit into our family’s active schedule much better than the catering ever did.

It was a good move for our family; as good as relocating our dairy farm to Kingman and letting our dedicated herdsman and staff get up every morning to milk.

Eventually, our talk turned to change of a different sort.

“Are we growing spiritually?” we questioned each other. Are we being nourished in our reflection of God? Are we finding fulfillment in worship? Is it time for some changes to be made for the benefit of ourselves-and for our children?

Hard questions for such a beautiful evening.

The stillness of the twilight was upon us as we worked on. Keith directed my attention to the maple tree that stood a few yards away from where we worked. The tree had started to bud, promising another year of summer shade. I glanced across the yard to the Bradford pear. Yes, there were blossoms there, too.

The field across the road lay fallow, but it made a sharp contrast to our yard which, with an earlier rain and warm temperatures, had turned from a straw-colored thatch to a vibrant green carpet. Soon the dandelions would appear, but for that moment, we could relish the richness of nature.

And the call of the neighbor’s peacocks. We know it’s spring when we hear the peacocks sounding in the distance.

Dip and swipe, dip and swipe. Keith would bring another strip of wood just as I completed the final go over of the one that came before.

The light was growing dimmer, but not enough that we needed any electrical help. Everything around us was growing softer, like a muted watercolor.

Two geese flew overhead. We had seen the Canadians before. In years past, the pond at the farm has hosted a nesting pair and we presumed that these were, if not the original pair, then one of their offspring bringing a mate home to raise a family.

But now the pond is dry, a reminder of last year’s arid summer. We wished them well in their search for a watery residence as we took account of just how many more boards we needed to finish before nightfall.

Stirring the stain one final time, I look at Keith. He’s tired from a day’s hard work.

“Alex’s room is going to look great,” he says. “I think he’s really going to enjoy it.”

“And someday, we will have grandchildren fighting over who gets to sleep in the ‘log cabin’ room when they come to the farm to visit Grandpa.”

My husband smiles.

* * *

Paging through some of my cookbooks this week, I noticed how many variations of recipes there are for meringue.

Most basic cookbooks have the tried-and-true recipe that combines egg whites, sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar, so I thought that in this week’s column, I would give you a few other options, including my favorite.

No Fail Meringue

1/2 cup water

1 tbs. cornstarch

6 tbs. sugar

Bring to a boil. Let cool while making pie filling. Beat three egg whites to frothy, add cooked mixture and beat until stiff peaks form.

Perfect Meringue

2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

1 tbs. cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

pinch cream of tartar

pinch salt

3 tbs. water

Cook all ingredients, except egg whites, to soft ball stage. Slowly pour over beaten egg whites and add 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form.

OK, now here’s my favorite, the one I use.

Marshmallow Cr?me Meringue

Beat three egg whites with a dash of salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add one cup marshmallow cr?me, beating until stiff peaks form. Spread over pie, sealing to edge of crust. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

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