Random notes on cooking:

The Anova Precision Cooker.

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For the past three months I’ve been using the Anova Precision Cooker, a blue tooth controlled sous vide heater, which fastens onto large pots or bins. This is a relatively inexpensive device ($179), which I bought to cook large pieces of meat (brisket, roasts, racks of ribs, etc.). My primary unit, the Sous Vide Supreme Demi, retails for $329, and is still my default unit, because I can reuse the water for several days, before I have to empty and clean it.

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There are many other sous vide cooking devices, but I like the Anova Precision a lot, because the temperature mechanism is very accurate (I have to set my Sous Vide Supreme device a few degrees lower than the recipes call for, since it heats the water more than the temperature gauge indicates). The swirling effect of the Anova blades (slower versions of the blades used in a immersion blender), located and encased at the base of the wand, forces the sous vide bags to stay submerged (the Sous Vide Supreme unit requires use of a metal rack to hold down the bags).

The disadvantage of the Anova is the water level: I have to refill the container from time to time, which I cook meats for a long time period (for example, during my recent brisket preparation, which took about 36 hours, I refilled the container once or twice a day, since the hot water evaporates about 1” every 12 hours). Noting to complain about, really, but something to consider. The Sous Vide Supreme unit does not require refilling, since it has a metal lid.

For the price, however, the Anova unit can’t be beat.

Using butter when cooking sous vide: Lately, I have added a 1” slab of butter to the Food Saver bag, when I cook fish (and I will do this on occasion for other meats), before I vacuum seal the meat (I also add a slight amount of lemon juice to the bag). After the fish cooks for 40 minutes at 134° F, and I remove the fish from the bag, dry it with paper towels, salt it, then add dill and chives to each side. I place the fish in the skillet (which has more melted butter in it), to warm the meat and brown it a bit. When the meat is done, I use the left over juices in the skillet to drizzle over the meat, before I serve it.

Reusing Food Saver and Zip Lock sealable bags. I assume that all who cook sous vide know that the plastic bags can be reused. They simply have to be washed by hand (with soap), and permitted to dry. This works for both re-sealable bags and those that are not “re-sealable”.

I am surprised at how durable the Food Saver re-sealable bags are. The only times I don’t re-use these bags (or any other bags) is when I am cooking hamburger meat and fishes which are smelly. In these instances, the hamburger grease makes the bag very hard to clean (and if the fishy smell lingers, I pitch these bags in the trash).

Your Hormones and You

 Several years ago one of my clients, who was also a physician, asked if I knew any good endocrinologists. To answer his inquiry, I had to do an internet search in order to learn who specialized in that arena, in the Tulsa area. I was surprised to learn that there were very few listed practitioners. But perhaps I should have realized that most general practitioners (those who practice in internal medicine and hold themselves out to be family doctors) treat issues dealing with thyroids, diabetes, and so forth, and that endocrinologists aren’t needed that much. Or maybe my observation on the scarcity of endocrinologists is wrong.

As we grow older, we learn that our glands sometimes are out of balance, so we are not sleeping as much as we need to, we have no libido, we are depressed and fatigued, our stress level has used all of our available cortisol, etc. Life Extension magazine even published an article linking low testosterone to brain impairment. So perhaps the advice of an endocrinologist should be considered.

Admittedly, there are books written on hormones (some by Suzanne Somers, which are surprisingly informative), but mastery of your endocrine system (which deals with glands which secret hormones) is not easy. You will learn this quickly if you visit the website, You and Your Hormones (http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol.aspx). The more I read and studied this topic, the more obvious the conclusion: I was getting into deeper water than I should.

So this month’s health tip is to consider visiting an endocrinologist, if your family physician cannot solve recurring medical problems.

Hope: Entertainer of the Century, by Richard Zoglin

Hope Entertainer

 After I learned how to check out digital books from the local library, and after reading the library’s weekly bulletins on new “stuff”, I reserved a copy of Hope: Entertainer of the Century, by Richard Zoglin (2014). A couple of weeks later, the library indicated that my digital copy was ready for download. The following is not a book review, per se, but from my perspective, this book is worthy of reading.

Anytime a novel or nonfiction work is written using a well known backdrop, such as the Second World War, the author has the potential of weaving a very good tale. Herman Wouk did it in The Winds of War, Laura Hillenbrand did it in Seabiscuit, and Zoglin does it in this biography of Bob Hope. I’m not going to recount Hope’s impoverished childhood and his struggles in vaudeville, his radio and movie successes, but rather, I’ll reflect on his life through my formative years.

Since I am technically not a baby boomer (I was born in 1942), I was nonetheless raised listening to radio shows and going to ten cent movies on Saturday mornings. If I ever listened to Bob Hope’s radio shows, which were very popular in the late 1940’s, I have no recollection.

My first Bob Hope memories were when my neighborhood friends, Jim Gray and Bobbie Hargrove, replayed the parts we had seen in the Saturday morning movies we attended at the Mecca Theatre in Stillwater, Oklahoma. As young kids, we delighted in the antics of the Hope movies, and spent most of Saturday afternoon improvising and imitating the funnier parts of the movie. Most of our play was a re-enactment of the Westerns we had seen in the morning (since Westerns were the primary bill of fare), but occasionally a comedy would be shown, and we loved the Bob Hope movies. It was always fun to re-enact movies.

All of this happened after WWII (but pre-Korea), and as a kid, I paid no attention to Hope’s USO shows (which began in the early 1940’s and continued years after my service in Vietnam). Hope did not visit Vietnam in 1970, when I was there, so I missed seeing him with his entourage of singers and dancers and fellow comedians, but I had seen him perform at Oklahoma State a few years before, during my undergraduate years in college, so I had an idea of what his shows were like (Fran, my wife, had met him at a reception after such a show; she said he was not very tall).

Most of the 1950s were times of peace (excepting Korea), and I paid little attention to what went on in Hollywood. If National Enquirer papers were sold in local magazine racks, I ignored the headlines, and I never bought nor read those papers. Glitzy gossip shows (such as ET) were not on the horizon, but my parents did not want me to be troubled with the sordid details about the lives of those who entertained us. Those who survived the Great Depression and WWII wanted their children to enjoy an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

So I was spared from learning about Bob Hope’s philandering and his increasing wealth. But his national popularity did not wane as he aged, because he worked hard at his craft and promoted whatever enterprise he was in. His work ethic and promotional techniques are de rigueur among entertainers today.

Hope was one of the first comedians to hire lots of writers, and he spent long hours working with them and by himself, to hone his routines. His monologues became industry standards for comedians, as well as the Academy Awards. Whenever he finished a movie or book, or was to appear in public, he worked hard to publicize the movie or event. Though this is now obligatory for authors, TV shows, new movies, and so forth, the Bob Hope technique perhaps forged the models now used by the entertainment industry.

As a young man, I learned that modesty and humility are wonderful traits. As I aged into my 30’s, I observed that in United States, financial success requires and demands self promotion. But I wasn’t able to connect those dots in the life of Bob Hope. Somehow, when he promoted what he was doing, I wasn’t offended. Perhaps he got away with it, because he gave the appearance of liking people, and wanted them to like whatever he was doing. He even remembered names and faces and events, of the places he had entertained, and he would send personal notes to some of the fan mail he received.

This principle of behavior might be summarized as follows: if you become a celebrity, give thanks to your fans.

Hope’s popularity was also tied, in part, to his countless public appearances, especially to those he entertained on the USO Tour. Problem was, life was changing in the United States. The halcyon period beginning in the mid-1950’s came to an abrupt end sometime in the late 1960s, perhaps as early as 1967. The values of our country shifted on their axis in 1968: the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., coincided with the beginning of the sexual revolution (suggested in such films such as The Graduate). The country was divided on political philosophy (some of us will remember the close election between Nixon and Humphrey in 1968). That year, television news captured the worst of human behavior during the Democratic Convention in Chicago, as police collided with protesting crowds; these scenes were reminiscent of what happened in Banana Republics. Now the scenes were replayed in Chicago, USA. Public support of the war in Vietnam suddenly was in the minority, and patriotism was no longer a virtue.

These were major changes in our county, and Bob Hope did not perceive what had happened. As he spoke out in favor of what we were doing in Vietnam, his patrons became protesters and his popularity dwindled. His earlier contributions to our country and its military were ignored as rubble. His image declined each year, and there was little he could do to change the mood of the country.

This theme is well documented in the Hope biography, and as I paged through the events spanning the Vietnam War era, I found myself reliving my own life. My first years in private law practice were narcissistic – I didn’t turn to drugs, but during my early years in Dayton, Ohio, my weekend relief after a week of stress and worry came through a 12 pack of Stroh’s beer. Our kids, Greg and Colleen, were sources of joy, but much like Bob Hope in the 1940’s, they were a backseat item to my legal career, and I didn’t grasp what was happening to my family life.

My friend Jack Wheeler explained it best in his book Touched With Fire: our country did not honor the Vietnam vets, as they returned from their tours of duty. The public distain for military service was a cosmic shift in attitudes, and anyone approving of this war, such as Bob Hope, could not be heard anymore. Though I didn’t expect praise when I returned from Long Binh Post, I was almost mistreated because I was a vet. Bob Hope was somewhat in the same category – occasionally he was jeered when he complimented our troops in Vietnam.

So Hope began to withdraw attempts for approval and appeal, and he became selective on his public appearances. His TV shows (usually 4 a year) were still popular, but he appeared in fewer movies. He made no effort to placate the protesters. He no longer hosted as the annual emcee of the Academy Awards. The country he had known during the Vaudeville era, followed by radio, movies and TV, which spanned from the 1920’s through the mid-1960’s, was not there.

As my law practice changed from trial work to estate planning, and as I met with thousands of families, I had little time to reflect on what was happening on a national basis. Like Bob Hope, and philosophically,  I wanted to live in the country I had been raised in, not the one that greeted me when I returned from Vietnam. Since that was not possible, my primary focus had to be on my family and my clients. Unlike Bob Hope, I was privileged to see my children every day, and still have a good relationship with them (one of Hope’s 4 children, all of whom were adopted, disowned him entirely – probably because Hope rarely saw his kids).

During his latter years (he lived to be 100), he continued having daily massages, and to the extent he was able, he played rounds of golf (or at least practiced on his own 1 hole golf “course”). His TV appearances were limited to the Tonight Show (Johnny Carson). He left the set after his appearance, and those infrequent interludes were all the public knew about Bob Hope. Though he was revered until the mid-1960’s, the generation who appreciated him soon faded in the background, and became dust blown by the wind.

I’m not certain Hope ever adjusted to the cultural changes which became part of the fabric of the US. The same could probably be said of those of us who were born in the 1940’s.

The title of the book, Hope: Entertainer of the Century, certainly fits his career. The book was an entertaining read, and gives a kaleidoscope perspective of life in the US during the 20th century.

Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper (Foretasting the Kingdom) 

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© 2012, By Chris E. W. Green (Ph.D.), CPT Press, Cleveland, TN

I gave this book a five star rating on Amazon; I did so by use of what a psychologist has labeled the “90-10” rule, which basically means, I am concentrating on 90% of the positive things about the treatise, and sublimating (and ignoring) the 10% which might be annoying and distracting. With that reservation, let me give my impressions.

Chris Green is from a Pentecostal Holiness background. He taught in the seminary college at Oral Roberts University, during some of the same years as did David Dorries (Ph.D). I will reference Dorries’ book, Spirit Filled Christology, because both he and Green would agree that Pentecostals have intentionally refrained from formulating any doctrines of their beliefs. The same might be said of Southern Baptists – for example, Hershel Hobbs, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who has written much on Baptist beliefs, doesn’t want his fellow believers to reduce to writing their core beliefs: “we (Southern Baptists) are a non-creedal church”.

Unlike Hobbs, however, Green and Dorries believe (correctly) that Pentecostals have, in fact, formulated doctrines (common, accepted beliefs) and practices (“praxis”). As a former member of two Southern Baptist churches, I could say the Baptists also have adopted common doctrines and practices; they just refuse to recognize them as such.

Dorries thinks the Pentecostal doctrine should center around Jesus Christ, and the Dorries’ book gives a wonderful account of what Christians (in general) believe, and adds to it a very interesting history of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (which started long before the Azusa Street revivals, which are the point of beginnings for the Chris Green book under review). At the conclusion of his book, Dorries formulates his own catechism of what Christians believe.

Green doesn’t go that far, but his lengthy work makes me thirst for a Eucharist similar to what is described in the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters. Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, banquet meals are “big deals” – people are invited, but they can always expect to be well nourished, accommodated, and enjoy what has been provided for them. To support his position, Green doesn’t list every meal mentioned in the Bible, but the concept perhaps begins with Abraham (who entertained and fed three angels, Genesis 18:8). Another meal in which God’s presence is specifically mentioned is recorded in Exodus 24:9, when Moses and the elders feasted in the presence of God . Weekly Sabbath meals, which were part of the Jewish tradition, carried forth this concept. There are even brief descriptions of enjoying a meal in the presence of God in a wilderness setting, which strips away the idea that the meal must be a “catered, formal event”. Jesus fed crowds of 4,000 and 5,000 in the New Testament. All of these events were recorded so that we might know that God was present with men and women and children, some of whom were not believers. The key thought is: God was present at the meal.

So the Eucharist event should be something special, an anticipated weekly meal, where there is fellowship, food, and enjoyment in the company of others. As Christians, hopefully these meals end with the Eucharist, i.e., the taking of the bread and wine, because these elements are part of an encounter with God. Dr. Green concedes that occasionally the participants will not sense the presence of God, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t there. Jesus said when we eat and drink the bread and wine, we are bringing his body and blood into our lives.

Stories of the meals in the bible, feasts, banquets, and the like, were joyous occasions, because God showed up. Those of a secular bent, who have discarded the mystical aspect of the Holy One of Israel, will not understand why Charismatics and Pentecostals are excited about the Eucharist, and I suppose that is to be expected. But Green obviously does not want to lose the excitement of being with God, even though there is an “uncertainty” as to how we will react in His presence. Green doesn’t want us to relegate this liturgy into a stale set of rules. To further illustrate the danger of embracing doctrines etched in concrete (that is, without the living presence of God), let me first quote from some Oswald Chambers writings:

If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Chambers, Oswald (April 29th reading). My Utmost for His Highest, Classic Edition (pp. 86-87). Discovery House Publishers.

Charismatics and the like look forward to Sunday worship services, because of the uncertainty of what God might engineer during those services. That’s a primary reason Dr. Green is correct in wanting Pentecostals to embrace the Lord’s Supper. It is a time of remembrance, reflection, thanksgiving and expectation, because God is part of the services.

Let me use another example, to support Green’s tenets of faith in a Living God. Most Christians believe the “Word of God” to be the printed pages of the Bible. That “limitation” is not part of the Protestant (and Catholic) tradition, and if I may borrow from Bainton’s book, Here I Stand, a definitive resource on the life of Martin Luther, the author distills some of Luther’s thoughts on the “Word of God”, which are much different than what we might think:

“The Word is not to be equated with Scripture nor the sacraments, yet it operates through them and not apart from them. The Word is not the Bible as written book, because the “gospel is really not that which is contained in books and composed in letters, but rather an oral preaching, a living word, a voice which resounds throughout the whole world and is publicly proclaimed.” The Word must be heard. The Word must be pondered. “Not through thought, wisdom and will does the faith of Christ arise in us, but through an incomprehensible and hidden operation of the Spirit, which is given by faith in Christ only at the hearing of the Word, and without any other work of our ours.” More, too, than mere reading is required of us. “No one is taught through much reading and thinking. There is a much high school where one learns God’s Word. One must go into the wilderness. Then Christ comes and one is able to judge the world.”

As Christians, we should long for and thirst after the “hidden operation of the Spirit” – who is a vital part of the Eucharist experience. Yes, there is an uncertainty in encountering God at the Communion Table, but Chris Green hopes the Pentecostal and Charismatic believers could embrace with open arms the opportunities afforded by the weekly taking of the bread and wine, and adopt the Eucharist as part of the liturgy and worship of their church services.

His is a good book – not always easy to read, but well researched, well reasoned and which gives not only food for thought, but also ignites the expectation of being able to celebrate the Eucharist with the Living God.

Footnote: It might help the reader to understand what happened to Fran and me, in Dayton, Ohio, during the years 1976-77. I hope this account places Dr. Green’s “picture” of the Lord’s Supper in context.

We met monthly on Saturday mornings at the home of Wil Schonsheck. There were at least a dozen of us (all adults, from many denominations; our kids were left at home with a babysitter or with one of the neighbors). After sharing a terrific breakfast (furnished by Wil and Helen, his spouse), we would sing a few praise songs, then Wil would give a short teaching, which was sometimes edifying, and sometimes somber. Occasionally there would be discussion about what he said.

When this was concluded, the group went into “ministry”. Since our group ranged in ages (from retirees to teachers, to secretaries and janitors, to sales people to lawyers to housewives and moms), we all had a variety of needs. We spent much time asking about those needs (families with cancer and poor health, in need of money, careers, counsel about children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, spiritual questions of concern, and so forth). We took time in counseling those who needed it, and in praying for the person seeking help. This was done on a one-by-one basis, and it was not unusual to spend 20 minutes on one person’s needs.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Wil distributed bread, and we celebrated Communion, drinking wine from a common cup. This was a time of elation, for we had experienced God’s presence throughout the morning, and the Eucharist was the culmination of participating in God’s work. We closed with a hymn, and were dismissed (the meetings were 3 or 4 hours long, but since we were somewhat in the cloud of God’s glory, the meetings were not long enough).

Fran and I thirsted for the presence of God in these monthly gatherings. I believe such encounters can (and ought) to take place when believers share in the Eucharist.