Since I was little, I loved to cook. I would make the sandwiches that at least the oldest six Cross children would take to school each day. My Grannie gave me an egg poacher and a clip-on tie for my 8th birthday. I loved poached eggs, and the tie was meant, by Grannie, to be the target for a splat of the egg. I would stand outside for hours, barbequing the four chickens that it took to feed the family, and I would grill them after I divided and cut them up. I was 9 years old then. I’ve made coffee cakes and peanut brittle and standing rib roasts and corn on the cob, and so much more. Even though Cheri is a good cook too, I normally take the lead each day from very simple to very fancy meals.
Yesterday, however, I walked through the doorway to an entirely different cooking style. Our oldest son, Aaron, had asked for a “sous vide” cooker for Christmas. He did get one, but it sat unused for six months for some reason, even though we had the other equipment standing by. “Sous vide” is French, literally for “under vacuum.” You take whatever you want to cook – meat, poultry, vegetables, fish or whatever – and you place it in a plastic bag and take all the air out. It works best with a vacuum sealer, but you can do a pretty good job with a standard plastic resealable bag. After you have gotten things sealed up, you take the sous vide cooker/stick and put it in a container full of water, and set the temperature you want the water to be to cook the food. Once the little machine has heated the water, you immerse the food in the bags, making sure they stay under water. Then, it’s a matter of determining how long you want to cook the food. You see, the utterly brilliant concept is that, with the food sealed and under water, its temperature won’t cook any higher than the water temperature. You simply can’t overcook it!
So yesterday, true to form, as we were just experimenting and trying to figure out the process, instead of using some hamburger or a chicken thigh, I pulled out four huge, 1 ½ inch ribeye steaks as our first foray into the land of sous vide. We bagged ‘em and set the water heating thing (I still can’t find the name for it) to 131 degrees, which amounts to medium rare for a steak, and then set the timer for 90 minutes. After the water was up to 131, we carefully set the steaks in the water – no, they don’t boil, because there is no water touching the steaks. I know, I know – it’s kind of crazy. Especially with expensive steaks!
So, after a while, the beeper went off, and that was supposed to mean that the steaks were done just right and were ready to go on the grill outside for about 2 minutes on each side, just to make them have grill marks and look cooked. I brought them in, and half-believed they would be tough and grey, and boiled. Kind of like shoe leather.
What. A. Shock. I cut the steak – easily – and tasted it. It was incredibly tender, and perfectly done! I’ve cooked thousands of steaks, but none were better than these. Two thoughts ran through my mind: one, where has this been all my life? In reading up, apparently chefs have used this process for decades to make the perfect meats, especially, and ready to serve. Two, what else can I cook? They say that besides meats, you can cook biscuits, or eggs, or corn on the cob, or even crème brulee, since it is such a wonderful invention!
What I learned yesterday, and what I need to continue to learn today – is that I don’t know everything. This world contains so much more than we will ever know, discoveries that sit patiently awaiting the opening of our eyes, or concepts or ideas that can blow us away by their simplicity and wonderful process. The moment we say, “I’m done – I know it all, and nothing surprises me” is the moment, of course, when we begin to die, since life itself is a discovery. From the moment we are born, we begin to discover we are not alone, that there are those who love us, and those unfortunately who either wish us harm, or could care less. But this world, God’s creation, is so packed full of what we do not yet understand, and each morning, we should open our eyes, and ask, “What about today? What will surprise me today?” To live in anticipation, is to live, of course, with intention, and hope – and joy.
Word for the day (besides sous vide): sonder. I normally like to discover long-ago words that pull us back to the world in the past, but today’s word captivates me. Its normal use was “to sound,” or “to probe” – to realize something is more than what it appears. It was most likely assumed in 2012 by John Koenig, as he attempted to come up with new words that would describe emotions that currently had no words. I’ll leave it to him, as you read this definition:
sonder n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.