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15 April 2012

A Rosemary By Any Other Name...

I'm not above telling about the times I've done stupid stuff. An old post, Adventures in Yardwork, is a classic example of a story that might make you laugh at me and think about just how stupid I can be. Here's another (slightly longer than usual) story that may enable you get a chuckle at my expense.

My dad came up with an incredible pizza recipe many years ago; before I was born, I assume. When I was a kid I spied on him when he made pizza so I could steal the proverbial "secret sauce" recipe. Only it wasn't proverbial -- it actually was secret sauce -- and I didn't "spy," per se. I just asked him what he was putting in there.

Flash forward to the present, in which my wife and I are really getting into planting things and making food with fresh herbs, vegetables, and all that stuff. Not just because it's healthy (after all, chocolate chip ice cream with caramel topping is an evening staple for me), but food made that way tastes substantially better than it does when using dried spices or canned vegetables.

I was home alone the other night and had some work I needed to do on a project that's in the works. I decided to make a pizza so that my brain would be in a good mood for the job I had ahead of me. I went outside and clipped a couple of leafy stems off of the rosemary plant growing in a pot on our back deck. I sniffed the plant as if it were a really good-smelling herb, which it is. I took the stems inside, pulled the leaves off, and in gourmet style chopped them up to put into my sauce (and now I've just blown part of the secret sauce recipe).

Unfortunately I had to use dried spices for a couple of other ingredients because our plants aren't grown-up enough for me to go treating them like adults and pulling off their leaves. That was okay, because rosemary is the key spice.

Over the next 20 minutes or so I prepared what was to be an awesome dinner. I got my laptop set up in the living room and when the pizza was finally ready I cut two slices, sat down to start typing, thanked God for the food, and took my first bite.

Almost immediately I started Googling the term "sweet rosemary," because something was hosed up with my pizza. It tasted like I'd poured a cup (okay, maybe 1/3 cup) of sugar into the sauce. I wasn't able to find anything about a rosemary plant variety with the quality of "super-sweet."

Then, a minute or two later, I remembered pulling the little tag out of the plant when I transplanted it from its original pot into our pot on the deck. I remembered making a mental note that someone had apparently switched tags and put a "lavender" tag in the rosemary plant we'd purchased.

So I Googled "rosemary lavender" and found something interesting. Here's a photo I made this morning that may give you an idea of what I discovered:


It's a photo of a lavender plant and a rosemary plant together in the same pot. Can you tell which is which? I obviously couldn't. And to be honest, I can only barely tell by looking, even now that I have this awesome new botanical wisdom. But I do know that using lavender instead of rosemary in your pizza sauce makes for one nasty pizza.

In the process of making my culinary masterpiece nothing indicated that I wouldn't have great results. I made it the same way I'd always done, used a delicious, healthy-looking, fresh spice, tons of cheese, fresh mushrooms, and more, but I discovered that looks can be terribly misleading sometimes.

One of the first things that popped into my mind after finding out how Mother Nature had fiendishly deceived me was this shocking statement Jesus made to the scribes and the Pharisees -- people in charge of keeping up with the law and preserving religious tradition: "“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:27-28, NLT)

Jesus said it far better (and much more concisely) than I have here. No matter how my efforts and good work look on the outside, if my intentions and motives are corrupt or wrong, the efforts are not just tasteless to my Father, but are repulsive to Him (just like a lavender pizza was to me). Along these lines, Francis Chan once explained Revelation 3:16-17 in a way that hit home for me. If you've ever picked up a cup of coffee, sipped it, and discovered that it wasn't hot but was room temperature, your reaction would likely be, "Gah!" (or something like that) and you'd want to spit it out immediately.

May the life we live and the way we serve and love in Jesus' name always be made of pure, genuine ingredients; not just sweet-smelling and with the proper appearance, but with a fresh, delicious, honest-to-goodness rosemary-flavored result.

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