We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.
Early in our marriage, my husband came home from one of his business trips with a small, brownish-coloured unwrapped present for me, apologizing for what he felt was an inadequate gift. It had been a busy trip in rural Manitoba, nowhere near any boutiques or malls, and the airport gift shop was the only place he could shop while he waited for his plane to be de-iced.
The gift was a small package of Canadian Lake Wild Rice with a tiny recipe booklet inside. Knowing my fascination with cookbooks and trying new recipes, my husband took the chance that a handful of long, black grains and a plain two-toned recipe booklet would be more appreciated than a flashy pair of earrings or an expensive bottle of perfume. He was right!
Not only did this gift introduce me to a new ingredient that inspired many dishes for us to enjoy over the years, it also sparked a new tradition. Every time Marcel travels, he returns with some kind of new or exotic food for me to experiment with – bags of unmarked spices from Egypt, jasmine tea leaves from China – or, if he can’t take it home with him, we go on a hunt for it in our own city – we are still searching for shawarma that will compare to the ones he enjoyed in Israel.
The most interesting thing to note about this tradition is that Marcel is not an adventurous eater by nature – he is just as happy with hot dogs and pizza as he is with potatoes and pancakes, and if there’s a bacon cheeseburger on the menu, you can bet he’ll be ordering it. But he has not only recognized and participated in this passion of mine, he has turned it into a way to bless our marriage.
In researching wild rice for this column, I discovered an interesting fact about its cultivation. Germinating in cold mud under a body of water, wild rice grows until the mature heads sway above the surface of the water in the fall. Once it takes root and begins to grow, it develops a weak stem with leaves that float on the surface of the water. If, at this stage, the water suddenly deepens from floods, the plant’s small roots are easily torn away, and if the water suddenly becomes more shallow, the weak stem is incapable of supporting the plant. So consistent water depth is essential to nurture the growing wild rice plant. If the plant survives these early stages, it grows in strength and soon its stem becomes strong enough to support the plant even as it grows above the water level.
Consistency – a word that brings a slight twinge of guilt when I hear it, because anyone who knows our family knows that consistency does not define us. At least not on the surface, in the typical ways like daily routines or paying the bills on time or following through with threats or promises to our children. And I worry about the effects – is this our “inconsistent water depth,” causing weak stems and small roots?
Or maybe consistent waters are more about what’s going on under the surface – the constant depth of an unwavering devotion to our faith through pursuing God’s call on our lives, through recognizing God’s gifts in each other and through delighting in his creation of good things. Following the wisdom of Psalm 1, if we keep ourselves continuously nourished by the Living Water, God promises that we will not wither, but we will yield our fruit in season.
Did you know?
Wild rice is not actually rice – it is a semi-aquatic grass traditionally grown in lakes, tidal rivers and bays. It is one of only two commonly-eaten grains native to North America.
Chef’s Favourite Wild Rice Side Dish
¾ cup wild rice
4 cups water
3-4 chicken bouillon cubes
½ cup butter (or less)
½ cup chopped onions
½ cup sliced celery (across grain)
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms (domestic, exotic or wild)
Rinse wild rice thoroughly in a strainer. Bring wild rice, water and chicken bouillon cubes to boil in a large sauce pan. Reduce heat to low boil, cover loosely, and cook for 45-60 minutes, or until rice has puffed and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat. Fluff rice with fork, cover tightly, and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain off excess water.
In a separate pan melt butter and sauté onion, celery and mushrooms. Combine cooked wild rice with sautéed mixture. Add salt or pepper to taste. Serves 5-6 generous portions.