the practice of the presence Of God
by brother Lawrence
I take refuge in the kitchen when I tire of writing/politics/religion, when I require solitude, or companionship of sorts with the family or need lunch, dinner or breakfast. The kitchen is really a good place for this woman sometimes. Thank God for Brother Lawrence!
This Sunday morning, I am improvising on a Chinese bah kut teh recipe. Don’t imagine Brother Lawrence ever did that but then he wasn’t born like I was in multiethnic Malaysia. He also did not have a hungry family of men to feed.
Some days, home is a good place to be. The family is tired, the doughnuts and coffee at church struck us as blah. I am adjusting to new personal and family schedules. The humblest of activities, cooking is suddenly an act of service that will nourish my family. I have come to learn that God is not absent in daily tasks and the ordinary little things we do around and about the home. Perhaps this is how my Hindu-Tamil mother survived the challenges of her lifetime. The gospel of Jesus Christ may not have reached her in ways that caused public profession, testimony and confession but she did attend Catholic school, managed an ‘A’ for Cathecism if I remember correctly what she told me and lived her life in the presence of the living God, going about her daily tasks. I remember her, for her joy. While she observed tradition, she did not preach hatred or division. There must be many, many women in Malaysia of all different faiths like her, why do we not all rise up and speak up?
Bah Kut Teh brings back wonderful memories. Bah Kut Teh is a pork rib soup with Chinese spices. We enjoyed Friday evenings in Malaysia when we drove to our favourite restaurant in Petaling Jaya, SS3, chose a table facing the outdoors and ordered bah kut teh, yee char kwai (chinese crullers) and hot sweet coffee. The man who made the Chinese crullers had a stand or stall under a tree outside and fried the crullers in hot oil in a large kuali. All the while he carried on a loud conversation with his customers who milled around.
I miss that sense of loud, noisy community. As a Christian in America, I realize I can get drawn into and swept away by all the activity at church but I also always have the choice and the freedom to engage as much or as little as I want to. I wonder what church in Malaysia is like today given that there is no freedom of religion. I know from reading The International Herald Tribune that Muslims who convert to Christianity have to keep a low profile. Hindu temples are demolished and the people who follow that religion have to petition and appeal and appease the Muslim government.
There has to be a balance between taking charge of the world and attending to the mundane and simple tasks that pertain to the enjoyment of life such as Jesus died for us to possess. I wonder why multiethnic Malaysia does not shrug off the repressive national religion, identify itself as one nation under God like the United States and categorically refuse to identify itself by language and religion? Why do Muslims in Malaysia not begin to speak out against the repressive nature of Islam in Malaysia? Why exalt one religion over the other? I notice that in the United States, any one of any race, religion or nationality can walk into any church. In Malaysia, the mosque is not a place anyone can walk into seeking solace. And given the current laws, obviously no one can walk out.
While I ponder that, I’d better record how I made Bah Kut Teh in Colorado without all the Chinese spices. So I remember.
1.Chop fresh ginger root.
2. Saute in oil.
3. Throw ribs and chopped pork in
4. Small piece of cinnamon stick
5. A star anise
6. 1 tsp salt
7. 3 tbsp light soy sauce
8. Some brown sugar to taste
10. a pinch of Chinese 5 spice from a jar
It really turned out very good. I served it with hot rice. Don’t know how to make the Chinese crullers yet. Sek fan. Cantonese for “Eat!”, I think.