In the kitchen.
So much of life happens there. We celebrate the good times and mourn the sorrowful times over plates laden with food. Homework papers are returned to the classroom, randomly decorated by ketchup splatters. Friendships and romances happen over coffee and dessert. The kitchen is always the heartbeat of any home-based gathering, even when there is generous conversation space in the living room or the deck outside.
I was blessed to grow up in the kitchen, watching my Grandma, my Mom, and my aunts create tasty homemade dishes that nourished the tummy and soul. I remember seeing my Grandma boil chicken and roll out dough for chicken and dumplings, the undisputed King of Comfort Food in the American South. My mouth watered and my stomach rumbled, provoked by the smell of dumplings bubbling in the rich chicken broth. I learned that good chicken and dumplings had just the right amount of salt and pepper, and oh yes, butter. My Grandma’s chicken and dumplings became legendary in our little town. Anyone who ate Eula’s chicken and dumplings never forgot them and always longed for another bowl.
In the fast-paced, fast-food world in which we live, many people did not have the experience of growing up in the kitchen, watching and learning about food and the preparation of it from their mothers and grandmothers. About a year ago, I realized that I could help fill that gap in a few lives. Into that gap was born Tasting Grace.
Tasting Grace is an event ~ a mentoring in the kitchen event. One Saturday each month I invite a few women into my kitchen for a bit of Jesus and two hours of cooking. We begin our morning with a short devotion. Then, we move into the kitchen where I teach the ladies how to make two or three homemade dishes. They are able to be completely hands-on, making dishes themselves. Women at Tasting Grace have learned to make homemade biscuits, Eula’s chicken and dumplings, cream cheese pound cake, chicken noodle soup, cornbread, and strawberry jam. We share our lives with each other while deboning a chicken and stirring up cornbread. We share joys and heartaches. We laugh, we cry, and we pray. Once the cooking is complete, we do what all good cooks do….we taste our creations. Over the table new friendships have formed, old friendships have been renewed, and women have experienced what it means to share life in the kitchen. It is a sweet, easy rhythm of women mentoring women.
One woman shared that, as a single mom, she feels inadequate in so many areas, especially baking. After learning to make homemade biscuits, she told me she felt empowered as a mom. She left my home and made a beeline to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for biscuits. Self-rising flour, lard, and buttermilk~~whole buttermilk, not non-fat. The next thing I knew she was posting pictures on Facebook of she and her 5 little ones making homemade biscuits!!
The husband of another Tasting Grace lady pulled me aside at church and asked when I was going to be doing another one of those ‘cooking classes’. He mumbled something about eating better than he had in many years and was adamant that his wife would attend again!
On August 1st, Tasting Grace becomes a book that offers Bible study and an event planning guide to help women host a Tasting Grace event in their home or church. There are four weeks of Bible study focusing on biblical mentoring. Recipes, devotions, and tips on hosting an event are also included in the book. I co-wrote the book with my friend, Jan Morton, who makes a chocolate cobbler that is worth dying for!! Some of the recipes that are included in the book are Eula’s Chicken and Dumplings, Jan’s Cornbread Dressing (we are Southern women…we made dressing, not stuffing), fruit cobbler, chocolate cobbler, and, oh yes, homemade biscuits.
Our hope is that Tasting Grace ~ the event and the book ~ will encourage women to look for ways to share their lives with other women. In a society where much conversation takes place over email or texting, Tasting Grace encourages the face-to-face, side-by-side interaction that women crave.
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- 1 chicken, stewed and deboned with some of the skin remaining
- 1 Quart or larger Chicken broth
- 2 cups self rising flour
- ¼ cup lard
- One stick REAL butter
- 1 TBSP salt
- 1 TBSP black pepper
- To be honest, these amounts are negotiable. Grandma did not include measurements in her recipe and so I just guess about everything. But don’t let that intimidate you. These are really easy, I promise.
- Fill a large pot half full of water or chicken broth. Boil the chicken for 1 hour. Pull meat off the bone and discard bones.
- Make very firm dumpling dough using the flour, lard, and buttermilk. Again, I can’t really tell you how much buttermilk to use to make the dough, but something close to ¾ cup. Just make a firm dough…not like soft biscuit dough. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for up to 2 hours.
- Bring chicken and broth to boil. Add in butter, salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon remove half of the chicken from the pot.
- Knead dough a couple of times on a floured surface and roll out very, very thin using a rolling pin. I usually roll out my dough in two batches. With a knife, cut strips of dumplings. I cut mine about 1 inch wide and 2-3 inches long. Do whatever suits you. Drop dumplings into boiling pot one at a time, allowing some of the flour from the surface to go into the pot along with the dough. The flour helps the liquid thicken.
- Once the first batch of dough is in the pot, turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and allow to cook while you roll out and cut the second batch of dough.
- Turn the heat back to high and drop the second batch of dumplings in the pot. Make sure you stir gently between batches so the chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- After the second batch of dumplings is in the pot, turn the heat to low-medium, replace the lid on the pot and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the dumplings sit until you are ready to eat.
- I usually make my chicken and dumplings up to two hours before we want to eat them. This allows the liquid to thicken up a bit. I don’t re-warm them before serving, but you could.
- Enjoy and know my Grandma Eula is smiling on you!