The man I met in high school and married six years later is 100% Greek. During our first Thanksgiving together, Steve’s mom graciously spent the weekend teaching me to cook the ethnic delicacies of his childhood. I still make a mean avgolemono soup and a terrific pan of spanakopita, but the dish we’ve eaten the most over the years is rice pudding. I made it again this morning, partly because it’s one of the only foods my very pregnant daughter finds appealing right now.
But Greek rice pudding is a bit tricky. It requires patience, trust, and a watchful eye.
First, according to the recipe, you have to simmer (and stir frequently) a rice, milk and sugar combination for about 20 minutes. Simmer, not boil. Boil it, and you’ll have a milky mess flowing over the edges of your pot and onto your stove. Forget to stir it, and some of the rice will stick to the bottom of the pot and scorch. And as for that 20 minute cooking time, it’s not to be trusted. At about the 19 minute mark, you’ll have to start dipping into the pot to test the rice, looking for that moment when it’s just soft enough, not too firm, and not too mushy.
Next comes the adding of the eggs. This is not a cake you’re making. If you just dump in a couple of eggs and stir them around, you’ll get a disappointing mess of creamy rice shot through with hard little lumps of scrambled eggs. Instead, you must do what my old Betty Crocker cookbook calls “tempering the eggs.”
- First beat the eggs in a bowl.
- Then slowly, slowly add a small stream of hot milk and rice to the eggs, continuing to beat them.
- When half of the hot liquid has been added to the eggs, slowly pour the pudding back into the pot, still stirring and simmering for another couple of minutes.
Then, finally, you can sprinkle on a little cinnamon and eat it, right? Nope. Not unless you want to burn your tongue. After all that, you still have to wait for it to cool. And, truth be told, before it cools it won’t look done. It will look like a sloppy mess. You’ll be pretty sure you did something wrong. But it thickens into creamy goodness as it cools.
As I made my most recent batch of rice pudding, I thought about how our spiritual lives also require a great deal of patience, trust, and a watchful eye.
We set out to make something of our day, or of our lives, seeking to do as our Lord leads us. Much of the time it seems to take forever to get where we think we’re supposed to go. Rushing almost always makes a mess of things. Patient, prayerful attention goes against our hurried natures, but it really is the only way to go. And so we wait. We pray. We attend to our tasks, following the instructions he gives us along the way. We trust, as things simmer, that God is turning them into something wonderful (no matter how they may look at the start).
Photo credit: @rasmusgs via unsplash.com