Up until the moment I had to get up from our second-row seat and march him up the aisle towards his impending doom (during the silent prayer of confession, he'd been anything but silent), I was having visions of heaven. We had sung two old hymns, which I learned from the pews of the Southern Baptist churches where I did my growing up: "I Stand Amazed," and "Blessed Assurance." How marvellous, how wonderful,
And my song shall ever be
How marvellous, how wonderful
Is my Savior's love for me.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.
"We live today in a world impoverished of story," says Eugene Peterson in Eat This Book, and it's as if I realized as we sang those hymns yesterday, that heaven was, at least in part, going to be a feast of story. From the beginning of time until the time of Jesus' return, God will have been gathering for Himself, not just a multitude of saints, but an anthology of stories. People from every tribe, nation, people and language will sing the melody of grace in their collected psalms and poems of their lived experience; each will be a song of salvation. I can imagine it will take an eternity for that concert of praise.
Stories are sacred: they are our threads of continuity, of belonging, and for those of us who believe in the risen Jesus, they are always stories of salvation. Salvation happens in unexpected places: in backyards, in bedrooms, around the table, and at the kitchen sink. There are stories (salvation?) in our recipes, especially those we've collected from our mothers and grandmothers. I think of my friend who lost her mother years ago to pancreatic cancer, and how it has been her sacred work to type and save all of her mother's handwritten recipes. We all need to belong and to matter to someone, and our family recipes (and their flavours of an irretrievable past), can grant us that.
Today's recipe is from a family cookbook I own, although the names on the front cover aren't ones I recognize: Wheeler, O'Brien, Christensen, Porter, Ralph, Dillon. It was Cathy Dillon who gave me a copy of her family's recipes and stories. Cathy and Bill lived in the white colonial on Chestnut Avenue in Arlington Heights, Illinois, next to the first house we ever owned. We loved that grey-frame house whose nursery became an office and reincarnated, years later, again as a nursery. And we loved Cathy and Bill, feeling that we had the good fortune of settling beside the protective watch of grandparents.
The "Isle O'Dreams Family Recipes - Second Edition" is exactly the resource you want to consult when there's fresh rhubarb at the market and you've determined to make a pie like your grandmother made. And the granola recipe featured on the first page of the "Breakfast and Brunch" section has now made its way into our family lore. Several summers ago, we had two college girls we knew from church live with us, and for all that may have been inconvenient or irksome about sharing a space with FIVE young children, it was quickly forgiven the moment warm granola was taken from the oven.
Here's the recipe in its original form, although I will also suggest the changes I've experimented with over the past several years. This granola makes a great gift, and when my kids wake up later this morning and realize it's on the menu for breakfast, I might be in contention for Mother of the Year.
4 C uncooked oatmeal
1 1/2 C wheat germ
1/4 C non-fat dry milk powder (I never have this on hand, so it's usually omitted.)
1 T brown sugar
2 T cinnamon (I use a little less.)
1/2 C honey (I prefer maple syrup as a sweetener. Audrey loves this recipe with molasses.)
2/3 C canola oil (You can also substitute half of the oil apple sauce as a low-fat alternative.)
1 T vanilla
1 C nuts or seeds (We prefer almonds.)
1 C dried fruit (Usually craisins or dried cherries)
* I also like to add 1 tsp, of almond extract.
*You can also add a couple of teaspoons of ground flax seed or flax seed oil.
Mix the dry ingredients. Heat the honey and oil in the microwave. Add the vanilla; pour over dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Spread in a jellyroll pan, (You'll be glad if you spray it with non-stick), and sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. (Keep an eye on it. It doesn't have to be completely crispy when you take it out of the oven because it will continue to get crispy as you store it.) Let cool, and sprinkle with dry fruit.
Serve with milk or yogurt. Enjoy!