The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Steve@50 – part 3 The year of Enculturalization

Steve@50 – part 3 The year of Enculturalization

It has been raining here for weeks now, the San Gabriel has filled with water and driving past it, I too am filled with hope that things are about to change. In missionary training, I am told it is called the end of the year of enculturalization, meaning that first year when the missionary is not active in the work they will do, but active in integrating with the new culture. I’m told it is often one of the hardest years, to be in a place that has so many needs, and yet being unable to do anything about it, other than to be present. In pastor training, its called that first year, or the Honeymoon, when wise pastors won’t change anything, at least until they understand exactly what they are changing, and why. They too are learning the culture of that new church. Sometimes if feels like you are just sitting around, and the words of Will Rodgers come to mind who said that “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” So being run over is not a function of right track or wrong, but of just sitting there, even if that is exactly what you are supposed to be doing.

As I said in the first of these Steve@50 posts (which is on the blog: if you’re reading this “note” on facebook), I talked about finding myself in learning to cook Indian food. It was a process that started long before I needed it, and isn’t that just like God to prepare me.

It was during our first year in Ghana (April 07) when Suzanne discovered a love of Indian food; so I bought an Indian cookbook. After several tragic attempts, I asked our friend Veena, who makes the most amazing Chai, if she could teach me to make Dal. We invited friends over, and she patently taught me, giving me a glimpse into its process—albeit it a short lived one—soon after I was back to my tragic ways. Another year, another cookbook that yielded similar results. Now a third year, but back in the states and seeking purpose and meaning in my life, I picked up yet another cookbook, and started with Dal. I figured if I was ever going to master this process, I needed to master Dal, so we ate nothing but Dal for weeks until I could make a fairly decent one.

Here is what I learned:

1) Cooking Indian Food take time, like three hours, plus that last hour when you just let the food rest and the flavor changes.

2) You can’t hurry the onions. When the recipe says brown the onions, it means fry them for 30 minutes at least, over medium heat, stirring constantly until they are really brown.

3) There are no short cuts. (see #1) When I was a programmer, we used to say “Nine women, no matter how smart, intelligent, or clever can’t make a baby in one month,” and that is the same way with Indian food, you can’t hurry it.

4) Good food is meant to be shared among friends.

I cooked my way through Classic Indian Cooking, inviting friends over to dinner as often as we could without over Dal-ling them. For my 50th, Suzanne arranged a celebration of friends (from a life two lives ago) in Austin. Suzanne and I spent most of the day cooking, and when our friends arrived, there were jobs for the men and children, while the wives sat at the table and talked. The kids made Naan, rolling the dough out and cooking it outside over a wood fire on the smoker. The men gathered in the kitchen, cooking the vegetables, and talking about manly things.

Then we gather for the blessing. It happens every time, it could be my mother-in-law’s pot roast, a Thanksgiving feast, or a gathering of friends who are now holding each other hands, encircling the kitchen or sitting around the table. I look around the room, into the eyes of friends, or family and I see their faces in the eyes of their children. It is a room filled with gratitude and each time I can’t think of a place I’d rather be, even when I am not sure, in the greater scheme of things, exactly what I am doing here.

The practice of being lost, writes Barbara Brown Taylor, “consists of consenting to be lost, since you have no other choice.” This consenting itself “becomes your choice, as you explore the possibility that life is for you and not against you, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.”[1]

So that has been my choice of late, to choose to be lost, even when I know exactly where I am, just not why God put me here.

[1] BBT, An Altar in the World, p80, emphasis mine.