I remember, long years ago, riding along with my father as he visited the grocery stores where we normally purchased our provisions for each week. At each stop, he was disappointed. The butchers in the meat markets could not provide what he needed.
“Beef skirts? Why would you want those? They’re way too tough for cooking. Sausage—that’s what those are turned into. It’s all they’re good for.”
He didn’t give up. We finally found what we needed in the carniceria, the butcher shop in the hispanic barrio just to the south of where we lived. When he described what he wanted, they knew immediately what he was seeking.
“Fajitas! You want fajitas!”
It was a word we had never heard. Even though the word had been used for forty years among the cattle workers who ate the undesirable cuts of meat around their campfires in South Texas, it had never been spoken in a restaurant anywhere.
Dad bought the meat, wrapped in brown butcher paper, and we went home victorious—successful hunters home from the chase.
I have no idea how much work it was to prepare the meat for eating. The butchers in the grocery stores weren’t lying. It was tough, so tough it was nearly inedible. But Dad knew what would happen if he prepared the meat correctly. Hours, he worked to tenderize, season, and barbecue the meat. Hours.
He was willing to put in the time and to sacrifice his hard work for the result he was certain of. Absolutely certain.
He was not disappointed.
Everyone who ate Dad’s beef skirts raved. Raved. It was the best tasting beef anyone had ever eaten. Sure, it was chewy. But, it was fantastic!
It would be nearly twenty years before the trendy restaurants began to offer fajitas. Around our scuffed and battered dining room table, we ate like rich folks. Fine dining? Who cared about fine dining? We had beef skirts! Fajitas!
I’m not trying to tell you my father invented fajitas. He did not. He just heard about them from some of the old-timers in South Texas and determined that his family wouldn’t miss out on the culinary experience.
His perseverance and hard work paid off. We had no idea we were eating food that would one day grace the menus of many eateries across the country. It was simple, poor man’s food, but we knew its cost. And, we liked what we were tasting.
I’m realizing that life almost never comes in bite-sized chunks—cut fastidiously and arranged neatly on our plates by a doting parent (or simpering chef)—but it usually arrives in great slabs of meat with the gristle and tough membranes laced throughout. We have to deal with all of it.
And something tells me the most important part of what we do with our lives is not in how we deal with the tender, delicious stuff, but in how we dispatch the tough, unpleasant parts.
Character is built, not in the great hall of feasting, but in the sculleries and around the cook fires.
Or, if you like, joy and wonder are to be found at the table as knife and fork are plied, but it is in the kitchen that the hard work takes place which makes the wonder possible. If no one does the labor there, there will never be a finished meal to rave about.
King David spoke of a feast prepared for us by our Creator, our Shepherd. In front of those who hate us, the meal is served and we are designated as favored sons and daughters. (Psalm 23:5)
Favored? Well, of course we are! He feeds us. By His own hand. And, pours oil on our heads.
And, we shake those anointed heads and look down on those who hate us and who abuse us. It’s our right, is it not?
Odd, isn’t it? The Shepherd who feeds us, tells us to feed the hungry. He tells us to clothe the naked. He tells us to comfort the oppressed. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Early one morning, on the shore next to a fire where He cooked fish, he told Peter what his task would be.
“Feed my sheep.”
The work in His kitchen is not always comfortable. It isn’t always easy. The food is often thrown back in our faces.
But, when they do eat? When they will taste what He offers?
As good as those fajitas were, they are nothing when compared to the feast prepared for those who will accept the invitation!
Favored and blessed? Only as we share the bounty of the Creator who owns the cattle on thousands of hills. (Psalm 50:10)
All those cattle?
Can’t you just taste the fajitas now?
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
(Psalm 34:8 ~ KJV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.