Bless Your Spoon: Culinary and other art teaches us

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2023

By Stephanie Williams Dean

The process of art is amazing — it teaches us.

In addition to teaching self-discipline and patience, art demonstrates life’s simple truths. At the end of an “Escape to Figure Eight” art workshop in Wilmington, I walked around the room to view the works of other artists. Over the course of two days, we painted scenes of seagulls, beaches and clouds. Brushstroke teaching moments might have been over but I was about to conclude a simple truth.

When observing the different works of art, I recognized differing styles. Despite the fact that we painted from the same photograph and followed instructions from the same teacher, every single painting was entirely different. That’s because we all see images, process color, hear instructions and paint differently. Yet, we’re all the same — human. I marveled at how each artist’s perspective was different — 15 artists produced 15 different paintings.

The same holds true when preparing foods we eat — our taste buds perceive flavor differently. And just like the art of painting, culinary art is no different. Let’s consider chicken salad. If we were to prepare a recipe for chicken salad, imagine how different each dish would be. Our tastes dictate whether we prepare the chicken using mayo or a little yogurt, fruit or veggies, molded or frozen, greens, or adding cheese, egg, rice, or pasta with your chicken. Some chicken salads are hot and some are cold. Even when following a recipe, we might take artistic liberty by adding a bit of this or that. But a chicken salad is still chicken salad, though ingredients and flavors differ.

The life lesson came at the end of the art workshops. Surprisingly, it wasn’t about how different we are. The lesson which the Holy Spirit gently reminded me was about how we’re all the same — one simple truth we share. Despite our differences, each of us has a need for a relationship with our Creator. We have a deep desire for God’s presence in our lives, as only God can fully satisfy us.

In Psalm 63, while lonely in the desert, David cries out, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water…because your love is better than life.”

Our souls do thirst and hunger for a relationship with Jesus — for with one, we will never thirst or hunger.

Jesus answers the woman at the well in John 4: 13-14, saying, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

There is a parallel between our physical needs and our spiritual needs, and we need both to thrive. And while the many foods and luxuries of this world may taste good and appeal — they only provide temporary satisfaction. God alone fulfills and satisfies our deepest desires.

Today’s recipes include different flavored salads — one to match every taste. Regarding the finale to your meal, nothing temporarily satisfies a sweet tooth craving like spoonfuls of a rich, scratch custard served with your fruits, pies and sweetbreads.

But a relationship with God is the bread for life that forever satisfies — and the food that endures to eternal life.

Yacht Club Salad Romanoff

• ½ cup cooked fresh asparagus

• ½ cup cooked fresh green beans

• ½ cup cooked green peas

• 4 sliced radishes

• 2 chopped artichoke hearts

• 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs

• 1 tsp. mixed fresh herbs

• 1/3 cup French dressing

• ¼ cup premium mayonnaise

In a large bowl, combine asparagus, green beans, peas, sliced radishes, chopped artichokes, eggs, herbs and French dressing. Marinade for 1 hour. When ready to serve, gently blend in just enough mayonnaise or yogurt to coat.

Hot Potato Bacon and Greens Salad

• 1 ½ pound peeled, cooked potatoes

• 6 hard-boiled eggs

• ½ pound crisp fried bacon

• ½ head lettuce

• 1/3 cup bacon drippings

• 1/8 cup sugar

• ¼ cup vinegar

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a pot, cook potatoes and mash thoroughly. Slice the boiled eggs and crumble the bacon. Add the eggs and bacon to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces and add to potato mixture. In the skillet with bacon drippings, add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Heat until hot, and pour over hot potato mixture. You can use the greens of your choice.

Summer Breeze Chicken Salad

• 12 ounces cooked, diced chicken breast

• 6 ounces drained, chopped water chestnuts

• 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

• ¼ cup chopped green pepper

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1/3 cup French dressing

• Sliced cucumbers

• Tomatoes sliced ½-inch thick

In a bowl, combine diced chicken, water chestnuts, nuts, green pepper, salt and French dressing. Mix well. When serving, place a tomato slice on the plate and top with cucumber slices. Top with a scoop of chicken salad.

Hot Fresh Peach Slaw

• 3 cups finely shredded cabbage

• 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar

• 2 tsp. sugar

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 1 tsp. tarragon leaves

• ¼ tsp. salt

• Dash freshly ground black pepper

• 2 cups diced fresh peaches or apples

In a large saucepan, combine cabbage, vinegar, sugar, butter and seasonings. Heat to boiling and stir in peaches. Cook only until heated through. Good with all meats.

Coastal Crabmeat Salad

• 1 pound lump crabmeat

• 14 ounces drained, quartered artichoke hearts

• 8 ounces cooked, drained fresh green beans

• 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs

• ¼ cup raw cauliflower

• ½ cup sliced celery

• ¼ cup sliced cucumber

• ¼ cup sliced green pepper

• 1 tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• ¾ cup Thousand Island dressing

• 6 tomato slices

• 6 lettuce leaves

• Sliced radish

In a bowl, combine crabmeat, quartered artichoke hearts, green beans, eggs, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, green pepper, salt and pepper. Gently fold in dressing and mix well. Arrange a tomato slice on each lettuce leaf. Place 1 cup of salad on top of each tomato slice. Garnish salad with slices of radish.

Cape Fear Country Club Tuna

• 3 cups cooked, cooled long-grain rice

• 7-8 ounces drained, flaked canned/fresh tuna

• 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs

• ½ cup chopped celery

• 2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

• 2 tsp. minced fresh chives

• 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

• Chopped pimento

• 1 tsp. prepared yellow mustard

• ½ cup premium mayonnaise

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Paprika

In a bowl, combine rice, tuna, eggs, celery, relish, chives, lemon juice and pimento. In another bowl, combine mustard, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper, to taste. Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the tuna mixture and toss. Chill. When serving, sprinkle with paprika.

From the Sea Shrimp Salad

• ¾ cup uncooked, plain rice

• ½ chopped medium onion

• ¾ pound shelled, deveined shrimp

• 2 chopped cucumbers

• 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs

• ½ cup French dressing

• Lettuce leaves

• 2 grated hard-boiled eggs

• 1 ¼ Tbsp. capers

• 2 ½ Tbsp. catsup

• ¾ cup French dressing

Cook rice according to package directions. Drain rice and combine with onion, shrimp, cucumber, eggs and dressing. Chill for several hours. Spread lettuce leaves in bottom of salad bowl. Put rice mixture on top of lettuce. Grate additional eggs on top of salad. In a bowl, combine capers, ketchup and French dressing. Pour over salad and serve.

Island Tuna Party Salad

• ½ cup premium mayonnaise

• ¼ cup chutney

• 2 tsp. curry powder

• ½ tsp. salt

• 1 cup chopped celery

• 20 ounces drained canned/fresh pineapple

• 7 ounces drained, canned/fresh tuna

• 2 cups cooked rice

• Toasted slivered almonds

• Lettuce

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, chutney, curry and salt. In another bowl combine celery, pineapple, tuna and cooked rice. Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the tuna mixture. Serve in leaves of lettuce. Garnish with toasted almonds.

Hot Pineapple and Custard

• 1 large fresh ripe pineapple

• ¼ cup sugar

• 2-3 Tbsp. rum

• ¼ cup sliced, salted butter


• 1 pint half and half

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 1 beaten egg

• 2 beaten egg yolks

• ¼ cup sugar

• 1 tsp. cornstarch

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Horizontally cut a thick slice from top of pineapple. Scoop out the fruit and cut into bite-sized chunks. In a bowl, combine pineapple chunks, sugar and rum. Mix well. Return the mixture to the pineapple shell. Dot the chunks with butter. Return the cut slice. Wrap in foil and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. In a saucepan, scald the half and half and add salt. In a mixer bowl, beat egg and yolks. Add sugar and mix well. Add cornstarch and vanilla. Mix well. Pour egg mixture into the scalded half and half. Cook while constantly stirring until mixture is smooth and thickened. Chill. Serve warmed pineapple over pound cake and top with custard.

Dutch Peach Pie with Custard

• 1 beaten egg

• ¾ cup sugar

• 2 Tbsp. softened, salted butter

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 3 tsp. baking powder

• ½ cup whole milk

• Sliced fresh peaches

Custard topping

• 1 beaten egg

• ¾ cup sugar

• 2 Tbsp. cornstarch

• Pinch of salt

• 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

• 1-pint whole milk

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add sugar and butter and mix well. Add flour and baking powder while alternating with milk. Mix until smooth. Pat the mixture down into bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Top with sliced peaches. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve topped with warm Custard Topping. For the topping, in a saucepan, combine beaten egg, sugar, cornstarch, and salt with vanilla and milk. Heat while constantly stirring until thickened. Serve slice of pie topped with custard.