reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

Today begins the Dormition Fast in the Syriac church. Our Byzantine fam has been fasting for a week already. Our Roman fam is not required to fast…but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

As promised here are some meal ideas for your big ol’ hungry family for the fast. But first let me mention two approaches to fasting. The first says that if it is tasty and you enjoy it that it is not really fasting. The second says the bare minimum requirement of the law is enough. Can we find a happy medium and a proper understanding of the fast?

Is it necessary for the food to be unpalatable in order for it to be penitential? I once had a comment on the blog saying the reader ate a filet-o-fish from McDonalds every Friday of lent for the express reason that she hated them so much and they made her sick to her stomach. (I just threw up in my mouth a little.). If we are fasting in union with the rest of the Church, an important aspect is the unity. If the Church is meatless, in some sense being meatless is sufficient. If the Church is vegan, we also become vegan. The church says nothing that the food must be nasty. The food should be in keeping with a spirit of moderation, sacrifice, and unity. And by doing so, learning to eat with a thankful heart as a theological act of faith, eating brown bread and vegetable broth can feel like a treat.

Following the principles outlined by the (Eastern) Church helps keep that spirit of gratitude and penance in balance. This means we abstain from animal foods (meat, dairy, eggs) and alcohol. And we don’t eat between midnight and noon. Sober intermittent fasting vegans. (Don’t tell the instagram influencers that this is actually not something new. It’s as ancient as our Faith.)

Peasant Caviar

(This recipe is from my friend, Karen, and is an old family favorite. I double it for a family my size.)

1 15oz can black beans, drained

1 15oz can red beans, drained

2 1/2 cups frozen corn

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 14oz can chipotle-seasoned diced tomatoes (or plan tomatoes with 1 tsp chipotle seasoning)

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 tsp dried parsley

2 medium zucchini, diced

Bring all ingredients to a simmer for about 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Serve with corn chips, avocado, and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast. (When we are not fasting, we add cheese.)

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted cauliflower is a gift you should give yourself. You can take this a variety of ways. Lately we have been enjoying it with a lot of Za’tar spice, tahini sauce, and lemon.

Trim the cauliflower leaves and level the bottom. Place it in a pan with about a cup of water (also could use broth or wine). Cover tightly with foil or use a Dutch oven. Drizzle it with olive oil and season with your choice of herbs and spices. (Za’tar spice blend below.) Bake at 425 for about 45 minutes. Uncover and roast for another 30 minutes until it is toasted and looks irresistible.

I like to serve this with Shakshuka, but when we are fasting we omit the poached eggs. Lots of cilantro and parsley to top and a stack of warm pita to make it a perfect and perfectly penitential meal.

Za’tar Spice Blend

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

1 Tablespoon coriander seeds

1 Tablespoon sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

A couple generous pinches crushed red chili flakes

Toast the seeds in a hot dry pan until they start to brown and pop. (Be careful not to burn them!) Then use your mortar and pestle to grind them up. Add the salt and chili and toss to mix.

You can keep this blend in a jar. It is excellent on eggs, avocado toast, hummus, sprinkled over salad….everything, really.

Dahl

1 cup red lentils

1 T Ginger Root, peeled and minced

1 t prepared mustard

2 T fresh cilantro

4 Tomatoes, chopped

3 Onions, chopped

3 Jalapeños, minced (keep the seeds if you want the heat, remove them if you want mild)

1 T ground cumin

1 T ground coriander

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 T olive oil

1 cup water

Salt to taste

Cook the lentils until soft, but not overdone.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add mustard, onions, ginger, jalapeños, and garlic. Sauté until the onions and garlic are golden brown. Add coriander and cumin. Add chopped tomatoes. Sauté until the tomatoes are well cooked.

Add water. Boil for five minutes. Add lentils, stirring well. Salt to taste. Remove from heart and stir in cilantro.

Serve with Poori and rice.

The following recipe is from a little notebook I started when I moved to Mongolia in 2000. The recipe is not Mongolian. The recipes in this little notebook are tried-and-true, and well-loved, as evidenced by all the stains. They are my comfort foods picked up in my travels. Enjoy.

May the Lord smile on your fast. May the world receive all the graces from your willing penance to our Lord and Blessed Mother. If you have prayer intentions, leave them on this post and we will pray for you during our fast.

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