Admittedly, it can be a little challenging to see all of the little blessings in life and “taste” that little piece of heaven here on earth through all of the murkiness that often surrounds us. Big, warm smiles and gentle common courtesies seem fewer and farther between, as we know one another less intimately than perhaps we did in generations past and so have less invested, and therefore care a little less about what happens outside of our own direct sphere. We seem to have less time to stop and smell the roses, never mind to deeply look into their centers at the pattern of color that fades in and out in an almost mesmerizing way; and admire that little bee that hovers, with little dangling legs, just above the droplet of dew and finally settles on the perfect spot to land and take a teensy little sip. I’m a “sensitive”; I wish that each and every one of us could find more simple pleasures in our daily lives, and experience more sweetness and kindness — more love — in our daily relationships. And even though I consider myself a “sensitive”, a bit of a dreamer that is pulled by her sentimentality and heartstrings, I still find it incredibly difficult sometimes to see the goodness in life, the glorious beauty; I still find it a personal challenge to simply love, unconditionally. And I’m grateful for the awareness of the shame that I feel about that. It’s a good shame, one that doesn’t allow me rest easy. This challenge of opening my eyes more widely to the “heaven” that is present right in the midst of the messy-ness that is life, is one that rubs at me like a little grain of sand rubs inside of an oyster shell until it creates a priceless pearl, or chips away at me like a sculptor chips away at a slab of shapeless marble until one day a work of art, a work of purpose, is revealed and some beauty is displayed. A discomfort over things is prevalent now, but it serves the purpose of creating in me the desire to move out of a certain mindset or state of being, and I know that the end result will be something to marvel at. Though at this point I sometimes struggle on a daily basis to find the kernels of beauty, the little “bits” of heaven here in the midst of us all, when I do taste them, their flavor is so amazing and divine, and yet so simple. The pursuit of these little “slices” of heaven, these moments of connection to something outside of myself in an intentional and good way, are worth everything that I am. And they’re there; I have seen and experienced them. They’re just a little unassuming sometimes.
Last weekend, my husband and I, along with our teenage son, took a little road trip to an old ghost town called “Calico” — an old silver mine from back in the late 1800′s that has been preserved for people to visit — in order to celebrate Father’s Day. It was about a two-hour drive one way, and typically, I’m not the biggest fan of long drives; spending too long in the car can make me antsy. But this drive gave me a new perspective. The three of us got into a passionate discussion about life and our individual observations in regards to it, and chatted in such a connected and loving way, that the time just flew by. We stopped to grab some lunch that absolutely hit the spot and tasted divine (been to Wendy’s lately?), and once we arrived in Calico, we were ready to explore. Though the temperatures were a blazing 105° plus, the three of us had a blast poking around, taking some goofy pictures and just simply enjoying each others company, as these days it’s quite rare to get our son to do very much with his “weird” parents, being that he’s a teenager now; but it was heaven — pure, unadulterated heaven. My husband and I later shared with each other that we were both silently thinking to ourselves that life just doesn’t get any better than that; that the feeling that we experienced — that sense of joy, love and lightheartedness — truly couldn’t be beat by anything. And so there it was, a little “slice” of heaven for us to enjoy and taste. I had found it once again after feeling a bit uninspired lately, and it made me long for everyday to be just like that: full of little tastes of the Divine among us. And then, my attention turned to food, of course, and to this recipe for cornbread that I wanted to share with you this week. I thought about how chock-full of little surprising bits of good stuff it was — bits of smoky, crispy and salty bacon, little bits of sweet, caramelized onion and sharp, spicy jalapeno-jack cheese — and realized that, once again, food comes in to teach, to parallel life. That like a bite of a delicious and warm cornbread full of unexpected goodies and tasty little bits, life has hidden within it all kinds of wonderful surprises and comforting moments that are simply heavenly and full of love, if we stay open to experiencing them. Hence, my friends, the name, “Li’l Slice of Heaven” Cornbread; does it speak to you, I wonder?
Being a “sensitive”, I easily get pulled in a variety of directions and into a number of states of mind; somedays I feel like I’m far from being the person that I could be, far from seeing the face of God in the people and in the little things all around me, but that’s OK. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be present enough to see it. I would like to think that when we know better, we do better; and that each day, exactly what is meant to be revealed, will be revealed, whether it’s a little “slice” of heaven, or that little bit of grime that needs to be cleaned up. Ultimately, the shine will be revealed, sooner or later.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
“Li’l Slice Of Heaven” Cornbread with Crispy Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Jalapeno-Jack Cheese
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(Serves about 10-12, depending on sizes of slices)
6 strips apple smoked bacon (raw), finely chopped
¼ red onion, finely minced
• Black pepper
1 ¼ cups cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
7 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup honey
1 cup pepper-jack cheese, grated
-Preheat the oven to 425°, and butter a 8 ½” x 8 ½” x 2” (roughly) baking dish.
-Place a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat, and once hot, add in the chopped bacon and cook until crispy and golden brown; remove bacon with a slotted spoon, and allow it drain on paper towel; set aside for a moment.
-Next, pour most of the bacon grease out of the pan, leaving back about 1-2 tablespoons; with the heat on medium/medium-low, add in the minced red onion, along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and caramelize it for a few minutes until very soft, sweet and golden-brown; remove from the pan and set aside for a moment.
-Prepare the cornbread batter by adding the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt to a large bowl, and whisk to combine those dry ingredients; next, add to the dry ingredients the buttermilk, the eggs, the melted butter and the honey, and gently fold/stir just until combined; add in the crisped bacon, the caramelized red onion and about half of the cheese, and fold those ingredients in, just until combined; pour the batter into the buttered baking dish, sprinkle over top the remainder of the grated cheese, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted; allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving. Serve with salted whipped butter and some honey on the side.