“As every real estate agent knows, a poor house in good surroundings will sell for a higher price than a better house in poor surroundings.”
– Nan Fairbrother
Have you ever noticed when you talk to someone who has just returned from a missions trip or an extended vacation to a different country, or a year away at Bible college, that they act and talk a little differently than they did before going? Having soaked up a different culture, they might speak with a new accent or express interest in new hobbies; you might notice foreign phrases peppering their conversation. And speaking of pepper, they might also have stretched their palettes to acquire a few new taste buds (and hopefully the recipes to accompany them!).
As much as modern culture likes to push the thought that “we must be ourselves” no matter what happens in our lives, the truth is that we are affected by our surroundings; in particular, the people we associate with have an indelible impact on who we become. This is not news – the Psalms opens with similar tones: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers” (vs. 1-3). We produce what we take in and we will be known by our fruits. Our surroundings make a difference!
Enhancing our flavour
The basic definition of a marinade is a seasoned liquid in which you soak meat to enhance its flavour and/or texture before cooking (culinarylore.com). Most marinades include some sort of acid – like lemon juice, vinegar or wine – which helps to break down the surface tissue and allow the other spices and seasonings to penetrate and tenderize the meat, infusing it with delicious flavours.
When you think about it, we are all marinating in our surroundings, some of us more broken down by the acids of life and deeply seasoned than others. However, unlike a piece of chicken or steak, we have choices about what we allow into our marinade, or how long we dwell in it. Sometimes, as adults, we convince ourselves we are immune to certain influences in life. How often do we monitor our own “screen time” the way we obsess about it with our children? Are we as careful with our friendship choices and topics of conversation as we caution our teenagers to be? If what we immerse ourselves in changes our “flavour” to the world, then what does your recipe look like? I’m quite sure mine would not make it into any best-selling cookbooks. Critics might say it contains an unbalanced amount of social media and not near enough Scripture meditation; probably too much sour and not enough sweet. Excessive amounts of book reading and almost undetectable traces of hard work!
Regardless of our particular flavour, every nuance of who we are becoming – whether boldly seasoned or mildly spiced, whether we seem unpalatably bland or too spicy to handle – we are known to our Father, who delights in meeting us exactly where we are. His amazing grace allows even the most imperfect influences to be unmistakably perfect at shaping us for his purposes.
There is no mistaking some of the flavours in this favourite marinade of mine which I found years ago on allrecipes.com.The thai-inspired peanut and lime combination is a lovely complement to any rice dish or a great addition to an asian-style salad. Leftovers can also be folded into a wrap with some shredded lettuce, carrots and green onions!
2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup lime or lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed or cut into 1-inch strips
1. In a mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, curry powder, garlic and hot pepper sauce.
2. Place chicken breasts in marinade and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Overnight is best.
3. Preheat grill to high heat.
4. If using cubes, pour off excess marinade and weave chicken onto skewers. Grill for 5 minutes per side. (Alternatively, use larger chicken strips and grill on their own, allowing more time to cook through.)
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