Real Cooking

“Do you get paid in the summer?” my husband asked me one day this week.

“Do I go to my job at the school in the summer?” I asked.


“Well, they have a funny thing where I’m employed,” I said. “No work, no pay. Go figure.”

“Hmmm. Maybe that’s why we have less money in our checking account than usual.”

Keith left the kitchen to return to the field, but before he got out the back door I had enough time to shout one last parting shot.

“That business degree you earned from Tabor College is really paying off nicely. It only took you two years to catch on that my paychecks stop coming for a few months during the summer.”

Keith laughed. He knows that I know that he really does have a good head for business. And he knows that I know that I can rely on him to make sound decisions that concern our money matters.

But I know that he knows that prices for farm commodities are low and even with a bountiful wheat harvest, money has to be thoughtfully dispersed. And I know that he knows how to do it…but that it takes time to formulate the best plan of when to sell the wheat. Do we sell some now, or keep it in the bin and wait for better prices?

As country artist Kenny Rogers sings, “You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.” He, of course, was referring to a professional gambler. But, in a sense, isn’t every farmer a gambler?

On a daily basis, every man or woman who farms heads to the fields making calculated guesses about what crops to try, when to plant and what task takes priority for the day.

To be successful, it is imperative to make the right decisions. The wrong decision can lead to a failed crop. Poor timing can mean the difference between money in the bank or taking out yet another loan.

The hard part is that most of those decisions have to be made with blind faith. And even though Keith and his brother have the luxury of month-long weather forecasts, comfortable tractors and the latest in agricultural studies on seed varieties and fertilizers, they still have to trust just like their father did before them. Trust in their own skill as farmers, trust in their aptitude as astute businessmen, yes, but ultimately trust that God will provide for their every need. He is the one truly in control; we’re just his stewards.

So while Keith goes about tending to what God has entrusted to him, he tries to figure out the odds, formulate long-range plans and deal with never-ending fatigue and high levels of stress.

It’s summer on the farm. Is it any wonder that some things-like paychecks from the Marion County Special Education Cooperative-slip by his notice?

Soon, after the last weekend softball tournaments are over for the summer, I’ll whisk him away for some well-deserved rest. Airline tickets have been purchased for a trip to Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., and reservations at a variety of hotels have been made. The trip can’t come too soon for me.

The Internet has been such a handy tool in planning our vacation. We purchased our airline tickets, made all of our hotel reservations, arranged for a rental car and even reserved spots at a number of tours and area attractions via our home computer.

We’ve gotten some nice price breaks, too. One hotel, the highly recommended Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., normally lists for more than $200 a night. But because we used the hotel’s Web site and made our reservations more than three weeks in advance, we got the room for only $74 a night, a real bargain in that big city.

My next vacation project is to go on the Web and try to find interesting restaurants in the areas where we will be traveling.

I don’t know about you, but the biggest arguments we suffer while vacationing are over where and what to eat. We’ve tried all sorts of gimmicks, like taking turns choosing and “the next place we see is where we’ll eat,” but inevitably someone comes away feeling disgruntled.

This year, our time will be at a premium and I really don’t want to spend a minute arguing over which is better, hamburgers or pizza. So, I think I’ll take control and make all the choices.

The rest of the family will just have to take the chance that my decisions will be correct. That’s the gamble you take when you travel with me.

* * *

“Come to Jamaica, man, feel all right.” My daughter sings that line, taken from a travel commercial, to me from time to time when she thinks we need to go do something fun.

So when I came across this recipe, I knew she would like it. Served with fluffy white rice and fresh pineapple, it made us think we were in the Caribbean. The habanero gives this dish a kick but might be hard to find locally. Sesame oil can be found in most markets in the Asian food section.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

1 tsp. onion, finely chopped

4 Tbs. soy sauce

4 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. sesame seed oil

3 Tbs. brown sugar

2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1 habanero pepper, sliced

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 1-inch strips

Combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken in a food processor or a blender. Process until smooth.

Place the chicken into a plastic Ziplock bag and pour in 3/4 of the pepper sauce. Squeeze out excess air and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour, turning bag once in a while to equally distribute the marinade.

When ready to cook, remove chicken from the bag and arrange chicken on broiler pan or grill sheet.

Broil or grill chicken until done, about 10 minutes, turning meat to ensure even cooking. Bring remaining marinade to a boil and pour over chicken before serving. Serve with rice.

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