I’m not a good cook. But on sad days what I want to do is take refuge in a kitchen, sitting at a good friend’s kitchen counter. America has had a lot of sad days recently. And there’s comfort in chopping and talking and eating and being together. I’ve sat at tables like that from Ukraine to Michigan, from South Africa to Pennsylvania. I have always found comfort at a friend’s kitchen table. They’re one of my favorite, sacred spaces. So today I’m so glad that I can invite you all to pull up a chair around Kris Camealy’s table.
Chopping things in the kitchen is therapeutic for me. The repeat rhythm of my chef’s knife sliding through the food, tapping against the cutting board, invites my mind to wander, just enough. Often, these moments become prayerful ones. With every pass of my blade, my heart whispers another name, that name links itself to another situation, and so the chain grows in my mind, I could pray for hours this way. I hold each face and circumstance out to my very present, but invisible God. The more I chop, the more I pray.
Making Pico de Gallo affords me plenty of prayer time. So much chopping and dicing.
Late in the afternoon, I read the news on the small screen clenched in my tomato soaked hand. It’s all bad. My shoulders slump.
The weight of recent tragedies presses itself down hard around me. How small we can feel beneath such enormous heartbreak. I head to the kitchen to prep dinner. To pray. I am a peacekeeper by nature. What I want, is to hold all things together, to calm ruffled feathers and smooth wrinkling brows. I want to bind wounds, and speak life and hope and promise in such a way to cause actual change. I am not so capable. The enormity of conflict can make you feel like your hands are tied, and there’s nothing you can do.
Fresh tomatoes from a local garden stand sit beside a pair of fresh jalapeno’s and red onions, all of them waiting on the cool stone countertop to become something more that they are.
My hands aren’t tied. They move between cutting board, and bowl, back and forth, dripping with the sweet red juice of a garden fresh tomato, while my eyes sting with the sharp, spicy scent of freshly diced jalapeno. Tears slip down my cheeks. I blink, blink again, reminding myself not to rub them with the pepper oil now coating my finger tips. I have no choice but to let them fall. Free.
I can’t solve the world’s problems, no matter how hard I want to. I can’t fix the layers upon layers of wounds that we carry around in our hearts, in our culture. I can’t do what only God can do.
But I can listen. I can pay attention. I can learn and watch, and refuse to look away. I can make something useful, I can feed people, and I can pray while I work. I can sit with my neighbors, and make an effort to connect with the hearts of those right beside me. This week, that’s all I can offer. Prayers and Pico.
The sweetness of the tomato, tempered by the bite of the raw onion and jalapeno mirror the news. Our days are filled with both, the sweet and spicy, the good and the very very hard. Delight, coupled with stinging harshness. Of course, this analogy is sorely inadequate. Pico tastes good. The heartbreak of a broken world offers nothing so savory.
I keep chopping. More names come to mind. A friend leaves me an unexpected benediction over Voxer and my heart cracks wider. I have nothing to offer but a long litany of requests for God to make it right.
“You make it right God, I will stand here and make Pico to share with a neighbor”, I say aloud to my empty kitchen.
And I will pray.
Recipe for Pico De Gallo
1 1/2 Red Onion
5-8 Roma Tomatoes (remove seeds)
2-4 Jalapenos (depending on how hot you like your pico–remove seeds)
1/2 bunch of chopped Cilantro (no stems)
Dice tomatoes, onions and jalapenos super small
Toss together in large bowl
Add chopped Cilantro leaves, stir
Roll lime on counter top to get the juice flowing, slice in half
Squeeze both halves of the lime over the tomato mixture
Salt & Pepper to taste
Refrigerate before serving (it’s better the 2nd day, but can get soggy after 2nd day)
Serve with chips, or use to top tacos, fajitas, or Heuvos Rancheros
Kris Camealy serves comfort and words around her online table. Trust me when I tell you that on hard days it’s a good place to gather. As a sequin-wearing, homeschooling mother of four, Kris is passionate about faith, family, friends, and food. A slow-comer to the notion of God’s grace, she’s “tasted and seen” and longs to see others filled with the same grace that transformed her heart.
She’s been known to take gratuitous pictures of her culinary creations, causing mouths to water all across Instagram. Once upon a time, she ran 10 miles for Compassion International, a ministry for which she serves as an advocate. Kris is the “Head Chef” at GraceTable and the author of the book, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement and the follow up, Companion Workbook. You can read more from Kris at kriscamealy.com