Cheez-its, Grace and Innovation

I’ll be the first to tell anyone that I’m not a natural-born cook. I’ll never starve, mind you. But I’m not the guy to turn to if you’re trying to decide whether fennel or anise is the right spice for your recipe. I have no idea what kind of dish requires herbs with fancy names like that. And frankly, I’m not that interested in learning about it.

But I do like to eat. A given. And sometimes, eating requires you to learn new things.

Like the recent situation when I decided to make a skillet of cornbread to go with my quarantine homemade chili.  Simple enough. A staple food from my childhood that remains a survivalist’s best friend when the world appears to be coming to an end. Cornbread has the trifecta distinction of being easy to fix, cheap and delicious. Like the best things in life, cornbread is made of simple things: stone-milled corn, self-rising flour, milk, and vegetable oil.

But what if you lack one of those ingredients?

Here’s the truth. I forgot to buy self-rising flour. Ok, rookie mistake. But I asked: How does a survivalist make cornbread without self-rising flour and not cook up a bunch of corn bricks?  Well, here’s how:  you scour your pantry for a workable self-rising flour substitute.  And there it was: a bag of Cheez-its. Yes, I said it: Cheez-its.  Every single man of a certain age has a bag of Cheez-its in his pantry or it’s time for him to turn in his man card. In my survivalist brain, Cheez-its qualified as a flour substitute – they’re made of wheat flour and crushed up they look just like flour. Plus, they deliver an added cheddar pop! Bonus.

Now you may be one of those people with a rack of cookbooks and a dictionary on spices that gives you the proper French way to pronounce anise. If so, the gloat in your chest over my novice innovation on cornbread may be putting dangerous pressure on your heart. But, against your expectations, my cornbread was delicious. It was a revelation actually. An aromatic delight with all the texture and cheesy flavor of a culinary masterpiece. Ok, that’s overstating it a bit. Maybe a lot. But the cornbread was definitely digestible. And it taught me something of a spiritual nature.

It taught me the importance of learning to work with what you have, learning to innovate when things aren’t perfect, when you don’t have everything you want or even need. It taught me that Cheez-it cornbread may not be the same as Martha White self-rising flour cornbread, but it’s still pretty tasty. It still serves the purpose of keeping a single man’s belly full and his body nourished.

It taught me to look for graces in the most unexpected things - a bag of forgotten Cheez-its sitting in the darkened corner of my dusty pantry. Graces that add flavor to my life that I would never have considered had I not been forced to look around from a situation of lack or need.

No, I’ll likely never write a cookbook or discover my hidden inner Gordon Ramsey. But with Cheez-its, God’s grace leading me, and a little creative innovation, I’ll likely never starve.

Pastor Frank

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