Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fried Green Tomato Church

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

After an incredibly trying church service (in which the newly walking Marguerite Kiemde strutted her developmental stuff, doing laps to the front of the church to the choir, out the side door to the street, around the corner to the front steps, toddling up and back inside, and then repeating the entire procedure with me closely behind, celebrating her steps, trying to stay calm, and avoid any judgmental? stares.) If you can imagine: I came home a bit beleaguered.

(How to parent in church? What does an enriching mass experience look like for a young family without a cry room or child-care center? What fine line exists between cultivating a child's physical/ emotional/ developmental stages appropriately, alongside her spiritual sensibilities? If I am not "fed" spiritually, as my child's mom, how do I ever nurture my babe?... That's another blog in and of itself!)

I turn to how Mags and I made "church" at home, after our early departure from Ascension (post-homily/ pre-Eucharist.) In a phrase we found God in: Fried. Green. Tomatoes.

This past week on facebook there was a whole strand about this delicious summer fare that included several exchanges from my Aunts Marian and Peg and their Osmond/Colorado friend Audrey Wanke Dummer. I asked for recipe ideas, and I got them. And today, after the above described nearly God-less mass, I came home and adapted these cooking ideas, using fresh green tomatoes from my own garden, and tried to channel as much love and family and Jesus as I could into the experience.

I share these recipes with you now, smiling, with a sleeping baby; both she and I with full, happy bellies.
Fried Green Tomatoes
4-6 hard, green tomatoes
Panko crumbs
Cayenne Pepper
Garlic Salt
Bacon grease

I began by frying a half a pound of applewood smoked bacon in a skillet. Once browned and crisped, I removed the bacon, placing it on a large paper-towel lined platter, that I would use for the fried tomatoes. I reserved the hot bacon drippings for frying my green tomatoes.

I cut the tomatoes pretty thin, between 1/8 and a 1/4 inches, salting them, and then soaking them in buttermilk, covering them in the cayenne pepper/ garlic salt flour mixture, and adding panko crumbs for extra crunch, before putting each in the hot bacon fat. I was working this assembly line as quickly as possible with messy fingers, and thanking God for a content Marguerite in her high chair (eating a banana and playing with a clean feta cheese container.)

I fried these till they were golden brown, and appreciated the way bits of bacon adhered to the panko crust. Delish!!

Sweet Onion Relish Sauce
Half of a sweet onion, chopped and cubed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Note: I totally ripped this recipe off from Paula Deen, when I was doing research for the best item to accompany said green tomatoes. (Buttermilk dressing? Spicy mustard? In a sandwich? I didn't know how exactly I was going to EAT the tomatoes once fried.) This sauce rocked!

Paula adds sugar to hers; I didn't. I prepared this onion mixture and served it next to the tomatoes. Maggie then climbed up on my lap and we gobbled up the dish. (Well, mostly, I gobbled up, and she alternated showing me her shoeless and shoed foot.)

"How is this church?" you might persist in wondering. To this query, I respond, channeling my best St. Francis de Sales thinking: that all small actions, done with love, are prayerful ones. I add that when we couple prayerful activity --our intentions directed toward God-- with the company of family, friends, angels, saints, are we not in deed experiencing a kind of church?

Today, I experienced service in a literal way, at Church of the Ascension in north Minneapolis, (in all of its parenting complexity) alongside a more figurative celebration: in my kitchen and at my dining table with my daughter, and the company of women and men who have grown and prepared fried green tomatoes in our family. It was a most nurturing kind of meal that buoys who I am as parent.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Be still and BE:" Gentleness on the Front Lines of Parenting

"Be still and BE."
I'm spending time with the St. Francis de Sales these days. His words on gentleness, and examples of this way of being, are continually emerging in my life; combined with the line "Be still and BE" that I received in an email this morning, this all speaks loudly to my heart and mind.

A simple Salesian phrase from the Visitation Sisters' co-founder that feels connected to this line comes to mind:
"All is gentle to the gentle." --St Francis de Sales (LR VI 28)
I believe that when we allow stillness, simple breathing and an emptying of our hearts and minds to occur, that a gentleness may wash over us.
In the midst of my scrambling this morning, sad from an exchange with my husband that simply didn't go the way that I wanted, the effervescent Marguerite spilled over a glass of raspberry iced tea that I had left out. The contents landed on me, my white shirt, light green pants, and some of her "new" garage sale clothes that had recently been laundered: white and khaki items now turned pink-colored.

I swore, and then started crying. I don't like my child to experience me in such a state, but it is my humanity at work, and so what else is there, but to then be gentle with myself, her and respond as I am able. In the moment, I placed my 15 month old daughter in her high chair, and took all the soiled linens to the basement and sprayed them with stain remover.

When I returned, she was staring at me, and all I could see were the piles of dirty dishes in the sink, the unwashed countertops, an ajar back door: things that needed my attention. I was even more mad. And still: crying.

I could hear this Salesian priest speak to me: The more mercy we require, the more we receive.

I spoke to the knives in the kitchen drawer: I need a lot of mercy right now! Patience! Gentleness! Please?

And my child stood in her high chair, reaching her arms out to me.

That was two and a half hours ago. It's amazing what moving through moments, consciously, prayerfully, full of angst is all about.

"Be still and BE."

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde,
Visitation Companion

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marguerite Meditation...

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

I am daily in awe of this small child that I call my daughter, Marguerite Marie Kiemde. Born May 22, 2010, at St. Joe's hospital in downtown St. Paul, MN, to Francois Kiemde and I, this little girl is rapidly emerging as a fiercely independent, dancing, lunging, walking, willful wonder. I pause this day to reflect a bit on her growth, personality, and all that she's tickling in me.

Social, cognitive, physical, and maybe spiritual developments rattle inside my brain:
--"Hi" is Marguerite's favorite word, used to greet us daily when we enter her room, along with every human being, or creature, who passes by. "Hi. Hi. Hi. HI." She will repeat this single syllable word incessantly as a delighted salutation, as well as a way to mean, "But can I have some more kefir?" Or "Toby, will you give me that toy?" or "Daddy, turn and look at me while I eat my cheese raviolis?!"

--Long gone is the once uttered "Bye bye" as Marguerite seemingly stands firmly in the present and the constant celebration of people arriving, rather than departing. (Note: She will wave when I say "Au revoir", but refuses to speak the b-consonant-sound and word.)

--Her friend Lisa Michaels taught her to "high five" and "blow kisses" one afternoon, and, as Ms. Michaels' insists, "to send text messages." This makes us all laugh and giggle with our communicating wonder.

--Coupled lately with the repeated "Hi" is another favorite word, "daddy." Daddy is everywhere. I marveled -- while sitting in mass yesterday -- that perhaps this was one of the those words and child-inspiring lessons, where I was being invited, through my daughter, to truly meditate on the Divine in our midst. "Daddy" in the apple. "Daddy" in the cat. "Daddy" in the trees. "Daddy" in the picture of me as a baby girl. Daddy, as in a masculine father/ Creator -- a God that I believe completely in, and that she seems to see everywhere, and greets joyfully over and over: "Hi, hi, hi...HI daddy!" She received a ceramic cross plaque at her baptism that reads, "God created everything, butterflies and birds that sing, the sun above and sky so blue, but best of all, God created you." She reads this above her changing table, points to herself, points to the cross and says, "daddy." It makes me smile.


--Whilst big sister Gabby visited us for three weeks this summer, other developments surfaced in our family's social interactions. As Mags insisted on pointing repeatedly to my nose one day, I asked, "Can you show mommy your eyes?" To which she immediately responded by placing her finger next to her eye. Gabby and I about fell over laughing, and in awe of what she seemed to understand us asking.

--The emergence of a new dance-like move -before going to bed one eve - delighted me to no end, and has since been seen in her daily movement vocabulary. Little girl tilts her head to her shoulder and then pops her arm and wrist, twirling her hand in such a way: you'd think she was going to attempt some pop and lock move.

--Gabby's morning routine greeting her baby sister undoubtedly was a highlight of her stay, having a developmental impact on Mags. The elder Kiemde girl would come in to Marguerite's crib area, and sing "Hello" snapping her fingers, twirling, shaking parts of her body that aren't possible to move so seamlessly in this mom. Maggie immediately tried to mimic the snap, pressing her tiny thumb and first two fingers together and giggling. (There's nothing quite so inspiring as this kind of non-verbal interaction between sisters. It's priceless!)

--Going down for her daily nap or to sleep at night includes the activity that has me most by the heart strings, as I observe and reflect on my baby girls' relationship with words and images in our book-reading ritual. My daughter's recognition of her own name, written in a book, is what has me baffled lately. We are sitting in her bedroom rocking chair, me holding her on my lap, she holding her favorite nursery rhyme book. I am reading the second page of the text where the line reads: "This book belongs to...." with Ms. Kiemde's name spelled out in cursive letters, and as I do so, she looks up at me, then back at the page, points to the line, and then points to herself.
I am blown away.

--My final note on Marguerite's development stems from her upright, physical movement. While many of you received the video of her first day walking, it's actually her climbing of steps, that has me more in awe and taking note. She bounds up staircases. There's no "on your knees" forward motion, but, with her hands reaching for mom or dad, the most confident approach to going up: one foot on a step following another. She will get so excited about this process, that her whole body will become parallel to the floor with her fast footwork forward. Step. Step. Step.

I have told her father, and other family members: we cannot criticize this child for her big movements. She is excited; let this be every indication that her spirit and dreams in life are large stepping ones; we are not to dash her ambitions or dreams about moving in any direction! (Especially as she boldly proclaims, "Hi daddy!" with each step.)

Happy developmental contemplations -- as we all reflect on our physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual growth journeys!