3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. You’re blessed when you get your inside world–your mind and heart–put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
–Matthew 5:3-8 MSG
I remember that night well: I was all alone in that quirky old house on 12th street. My roommates were off doing other things with other people, leaving a rare quiet in the middle of that little house that typically served as the after-work gathering spot. When I got home that evening, I sank into that velvety red couch and inhaled deeply as I took in the quiet. There were five of us living there at the time, and moments like this didn’t happen much. The house was hushed, as if it were holding its breath waiting to see what I would do to fill the void. It got its answer before long: I picked up my phone and sent you a text almost without thinking, as if dinner with you was the obvious choice for how to spend my time.
This did not surprise me until the moment after I hit the send button. No one cajoled me into meeting up with you, dared me to take a risk, or hounded me to just give you a chance. Those days were long gone by then; everyone (including you) had let the idea of you and me together drift away about a year before this particular night. And yet there I was, asking if you wanted to meet up and grab dinner with me. A moment or two later, another surprise: you said yes.
We ended up at My Thai, an unassuming local spot tucked in the corner of an otherwise forgettable strip mall in the northern part of Fremont. I knew two things about this restaurant before we went there that night: one, their food was supposed to be fantastic; and two, they took pictures of customers who survived eating the spiciest of their fare and posted it on the Wall of Flame, a challenge you feverishly embraced.
We ordered a slew of curries, mine fairly mild and yours the hottest of the hot, and lavished it over mounds and mounds of rice. The molten exotic goodness was a revelation to me, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I hadn’t liked Thai food before that night, and really, I can’t think why I suggested the place at all. But there we were, being adventurous together, trying new things and laughing our way through the evening. By the time we finished, you had earned your place on the Wall of Flame and in my heart.
I didn’t tell you that, of course–not yet, at least. I had to sit with those feelings for awhile, marinating in them until my mind caught up with my heart, which had already turned tender toward you. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, and its taken until this moment to see the pattern that had to happen in order for the sinewy strings of my heart to be softened, and I found the answer in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus talks with his disciples about what it means to be blessed.
In those verses, I see a process of transformation: for everything lost, something else is found. Change occurs as blow builds upon blow to ultimately bestow blessing upon blessing. I went through that process of transformation, beginning at the outset of adulthood with hurt and isolation, having lost so many of the things and people in which I had come to find my identity. My losses put me on a path toward contentment with who I am, as I am. In the process, I grew desperate for God’s love, and I learned He was all that could really satisfy. Once my heart was fully His, that’s when it began to soften and my inside world settled into a new rhythm of peace. My mind eventually caught up with my heart and once they began working in tandem, that’s when I started to see what God was doing in me and in you. You went through the same process, albeit at a different pace than I did, but eventually, finally, we both made it to the place where we could really see what God was doing outside of ourselves and inside of each other.
We live far across the hills from that little strip mall now, in a time and place very different from those first few moments we flirted with the idea of us. My Thai has long since closed, sadly, but your picture hung alongside your comrades on the Wall of Flame until the day the restaurant closed its doors. I’ll remember that modest little place fondly forever though, because it opened my world up to taking chances, enjoying unfamiliar things, savoring things I thought I didn’t like in the first place. It is where you became mine, after all (even though it still took some time for me to admit that to you).
P.S. – My favorite part of that story is what you didn’t tell me until well after we were married: that you were sitting in a dark theater, already in the middle of that Steve Carell remake of Get Smart when you got my message. Without hesitation, you got up and left mid-movie to come have dinner with me instead. I love that.
This recipe is inspired by my memories of the night Joey and I first enjoyed Thai food together. Clearly, we can’t really flit off to dinner at our favorite local spots on a whim these days, but this recipe satisfies our cravings for spicy, adventurous flavors–and it just happens to be one of the easiest recipes in my rotation (bonus that it’s gluten free and dairy free, too!). If you like the coconut-laden flavors of Thai curries, this is an easy way to make it at home without all the fuss of an exhaustive list of exotic-sounding ingredients. The ingredients are flexible: use chicken if you don’t really like pork. Ground turkey would be delicious as well. Hold the cilantro or pile it on. Amp up the spice or not. Serve with more lime wedges or forget it. It doesn’t really matter–do it how you like it best. Joey and I like to serve it over riced cauliflower, but of course regular old rice will do. I have made this in the crock pot as well, and it does work, but I think the flavors are better when made on the stove. To make it in the crock pot, stir together the coconut milk, curry paste, lime juice, basil and red pepper; then toss uncooked sliced meat into the crock pot and pour the coconut slurry on top. Cook on low for 4-6 hours (adding snow peas during the final hour or so), or high for 3-4 hours (adding the snow peas the final 30 minutes).
2 pounds pork (such as a sirloin roast), cut into 1″ strips
1 – 9 oz. bag snow peas, ends snipped and cut into 1″ pieces
2-15 oz cans coconut milk (I prefer to use full fat, but reduced fat works fine as well. The end result won’t be quite as rich and creamy, but the flavor will still be fantastic).
1-4 oz jar green curry paste (Thai Kitchen is our favorite!)
1/3 cup lime juice
3 Tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (or substitute Thai basil if you have it, which I usually don’t. Regular basil from my garden works just fine. Also, 1/2 teaspoon dry basil works in a pinch.)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
First, prep the pork by trimming off any excessive fat and slicing it into strips, about 1/2 ” x 2″ or so. Season with kosher salt. Next, set a large pan over high heat and plunk a tablespoon of coconut oil into the bottom. Once it’s melted and the pan is hot, brown the strips of pork, separating them into two batches so they brown (and don’t steam). Once the first batch has browned, remove it from the pan and start the next batch, adding an additional tablespoon to the pan. Once that is browned, remove it from the pan as well. Turn the heat down to medium. Add one final tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan along with the minced garlic, curry paste, chili flakes and basil; stir until fragrant. Return the browned pork back to the pan.
Add the coconut milk and lime juice and give it a good stir. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes, then add the trimmed snow peas and cover again. Continue to simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the snow peas have softened to your liking. Add a sprinkle more kosher salt if the flavor seems a little flat (in other words, adjust seasoning to your taste.) Serve with cauliflower rice or regular rice and top with a squeeze of lime, sprinkle of more red chili flakes, and a garnish of cilantro (if you like).