That first year was a struggle. My purpose seemed bleak, I had a culture-clashing miscarriage, I couldn’t speak a lick of the local language, and to top it all off, I’d spend hours in the kitchen trying to create something familiar, only to dump it all in the trash after gagging on the first bite.
I couldn’t cook that well when we got married, but I was ready to learn. The three years we spent in the States before moving overseas, I cooked a lot, but it was definitely more convenient than my new Asian home! There were trials and errors, but if the error was so bad (like that one time I made sweet potato casserole thinking I was going vegetarian, only to find out it was a dessert casserole), we could just hop in the car and find something else delicious. Not much harm done. Try again later.
Not only were there not many restaurants near my new Asian home, but I had a secret — I didn’t really like Chinese food. Gasp! I know! Who am I?! I could handle it about once a week, but then I was done. Ready to go back to my comfort food.
My husband was incredibly patient during that year. He found gracious ways to respond to my terrible attitude and did his best to encourage a critical heart. When my slaved-over dinner flopped, yet again, he’d come beside me, do his best to salvage it, and reassure me that I would get better with time. Always more time.
We were on a team of great people that year. One family had been there for five years. I begged (probably a little too often) to come to her house, sit, sip tea, let our kids play, and listen to her stories of how it actually is possible to love this place. Although, she would add, it takes time. More time.
She was also an amazing cook. My husband had mentioned to me on more than one occasion that she had some pretty awesome stuff coming out of her tiny kitchen. I agreed, it was delicious! So I peppered her with more questions to learn more. How in the world did she make her food taste so good? Was I going to have to add even more time in the kitchen to make tasty dishes? Where did she find all of her recipes?
One day, about six months in, my husband cautiously, with words laced in grace, suggested I ask her if I could make copies of her recipe book. (A book she compiled of successful recipes.) My first reaction was a twinge of hurt. Then jealousy. Then I finally succumbed to the fact that it was a fabulous idea.
But it wasn’t easy to ask her. The kitchen was supposed to be my little cove in the world to create things by me, pour my heart into it, see the smiles on people’s faces when they tasted something good. I had been in a cooking club in college, for crying out loud! But the facts were clear. I needed some major help in an area that I thought I had a handle on.
She humbly and graciously let me copy every single page of her recipe book. I took them home and read every one in detail, including all her notes scribbled on the sides; you know those are the gems of a recipe, right?
We all know uprooting our entire lives to live in another culture isn’t easy. What we soon realize is that things we did well, even excelled at, in our home culture, may be an area that we have to start over in within our new culture. It’s frustrating. It’s humbling. It takes time to re-learn. But can I just nudge you to ask for help in whatever that area is?
Maybe you are struggling to put a meal together like I was, or you need to learn some key phrases in the local language, or you just can’t seem to get organized in this chaotic lifestyle. Find someone near you, at home, or even here at Velvet Ashes to ask. Isn’t that what community is all about? We all have our areas. Let’s call out our pride, move past it, and enter into a place of humility, grace, and thankfulness.
Let me go first. I asked a friend to share her favorite recipe. She gave me two! And, it just so happens that one of them involves pumpkin. Anyone else uber excited that pumpkin season is just around the corner?! Thank you, Denise, for sharing your successful recipes!
Thai Butternut Soup
Shared from: The Recipe Box
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 (12-ounce) packages frozen pureed butternut squash*
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce (if you can’t find this you can leave it out)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
*If you can’t find frozen pureed squash, you can cook this soup with 4 cups cubed butternut squash or pumpkin. Just add 5 extra minutes to the cooking time in step 2, or bake it up ahead of time.
1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add curry paste, garlic, and ginger; sauté 45 seconds, stirring constantly.
2. Add broth and next 5 ingredients (through salt); cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Spoon about 1 cup soup into each of 4 bowls; top with 2 tablespoons peanuts and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
**I make at least a double batch! Also my family uses at least double the recommended amount of the red curry paste. So don’t be afraid to spice it up! –Denise
Shared from: The Recipe Box
1½ c warm water
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 pkg yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
3oz unsalted butter, melted
2½ tsp kosher salt
4½ -5c all-purpose flour
3 quarts water
¾ c baking soda
1 whole egg beaten with 1 Tbsp cold water
Coarse sea salt
½ Tbsp unsalted butter
½ Tbsp all purpose flour
½ c milk
8oz grated cheddar cheese
For pretzels: Combine water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl and let sit 5 minutes.
Add the salt and flour, stirring until combined. Knead until dough is smooth.
Place in oiled bowl and cover with cloth and let rest for about one hour, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 425°F
Bring water to boiling, add baking soda.
Divide dough into 8 pieces and roll into snake. Cut into bite size pieces.
Boil small batches of pieces for 30 seconds, remove with slotted spoon.
Place on baking sheet. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with coarse salt.
Place in oven and bake 5-18 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with mustard or cheese sauce.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese until smooth and all the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Need more tried and true recipes? Check out my personal Pinterest board of successes here, notes included! Coming soon, the Velvet Ashes Pinterest page will have a new look with new boards! Follow us here.