As Jeff and I sat in church this morning I was feeling particularly blessed. I am a little embarrassed to admit that my mind was wandering a bit and that after glancing at who was sitting near me I started making notes on my service outline that had nothing to do with the message.
[I will apologize right here to Pastor Shawn. He preached a great sermon about involving God in our personal finances and I really was listening to the message. In addition to the notes I took that had nothing to do with the message, I really did take notes that were pertinent to the sermon; it’s just that my mind was working overtime….yeah, working overtime. It’s true that women can multitask! ]
Anyway….at some point I realized that Jeff and I were surrounded on three sides by other couples who we are so fortunate to count as friends. I couldn’t help my mind from reaching back to what I had been mulling over all day Friday – the idea that food connects. I realized that we have shared meals with all these couples and, if memory serves, we’ve shared one particular meal with all of them. It’s not a fancy meal by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one that is meaningful for several reasons.
We first had Taco Soup on our missions trip to Ecuador in 2008. The last night of our trip, the full-time missionaries with whom we were serving invited our team over to their home in Quito for dinner. They made Taco Soup. After spending days eating in unfamiliar places and sometimes not really knowing for sure what we were having, the soup was a wonderful tonic – warm and comforting. We ate and talked and connected over the soup and were so grateful to the Brown’s for their hospitality. Before we left, we asked for the recipe.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve made Taco Soup since we returned to the states, but I can tell you it is ALWAYS for a crowd, there’s always lots of laughter, and invariably someone always asks for the recipe. I always triple the recipe and make it in a huge, heavy yellow pot. I’ve even loaned the pot to a friend so that she could make the soup for a crowd too!
We served Taco Soup at our small group meeting the night before our friend, Laura (one of the folks sitting near us at church this morning), went into labor with her first baby. We served it several times when Jeff and I have taught a finance class to premarital couples at church. We served it to our ministry team when we had training on how to counsel people about their finances. We made it when we went on vacation with my family over Christmas in 2010. Taco soup has been like an old friend to us.
Of course, thinking about Taco Soup got me to thinking about other food / food traditions we have had at small group meetings. Before she moved away, our good friend Bev used to make the most amazing Banana Pudding when there was a special occasion. She got the recipe from her mother-in-law and all of us in our group are indebted to said mother-in-law for her generosity. Our friends Laura and Aaron, who were newly married and who are so careful and smart with their money, used to bring Doritos each week. Now, that may not sound like a big deal – but each week they’d bring a new flavor and everyone looked forward to the “Doritos du Jour.” Until that year, I had no idea there were so many different kinds of Doritos! My personal favorite was the cheeseburger flavored!
For Valentine’s Day this year, my friend Lu and I worked together to create an unforgettable 5 course meal for the 14 people in our small group. She and I not only made the food, but we also made a beautiful card that served as a place marker for each couple. Inside the card was the printed menu for our ‘Story of the Heart’ dinner. To continue the theme we created a framed, hand-calligraphed favor for each couple to take home. It read, “every heart has a story to tell” and included a three-dimensional heart with Bible verses about love printed on it. I cannot tell you whether Lu and I had more fun getting to know one another while working together on this labor of love or having dinner with the group. Both were incredible times of connection.
So if you love cooking, eating and entertaining as much as I do, or if you simply enjoy being a gracious guest; my sincerest hope for you is that you have many of your own stories of food as a connector. Perhaps memories of meals you’ve shared with friends or memories that warm your heart when you make a recipe that’s been shared with you by a friend or family member. After all, every heart (and every recipe) has a story to tell!
1 lb. ground beef
2 cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 cans corn, with liquid
2 cans chili beans, with liquid
1 pkg taco seasoning
Shredded cheddar cheese
- Brown ground beef. Drain and return to pot.
- Add remaining ingredients and stir.
- Simmer for at least 20 minutes.
- Crush a handful of tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl.
- Ladle soup over chips.
- Top with shredded cheese and sour cream as desired.
Note: Taco Soup freezes well if you make too much!