Her Recipe for Joy
Her Recipe for Joy
She thought she'd never marry, move back to Ohio or join a church. Guess what?
Thanksgiving morning I chopped bacon and Brussels sprouts—ingredients for a surprise dish I was serving with my traditional turkey dinner—and tried to calm my nerves. Robin, you’re a good cook, a professional food editor. Don’t worry, you’ve got this.
But it was the first holiday I’d be cooking for my new husband, Ken, and my three stepchildren—along with 25 guests. What if they didn’t like this recipe, or anything I made? Lord, I prayed, please don’t let me blow this!
It was funny, really, me in this scenario. Because I never thought I’d have a husband and kids to cook for. Or that I’d be talking to God. Or that I’d be living back home in Ohio.
I was the classic small-town girl with big-city dreams. Right after I graduated from the University of Dayton, I fled the state for culinary school in San Francisco. I was smitten with the city. I found the perfect job—restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle.
My career was my passion. I’d decided I didn’t want to get married. Marriage didn’t fit into my plans. Neither did God. I hadn’t grown up praying or going to church. Why start now? My life was busy enough.
Then, 13 years after I’d left Ohio, for good, I thought, my dad passed away. Suddenly big-city life didn’t seem so fulfilling. I longed to be near my sister and three brothers, who’d all stayed close to home.
One night I caught myself praying. Maybe not quite praying. The prayer seemed to say itself, but it came from me. Lord, if you want me in Ohio, give me a sign. The prayer kept saying itself. That had to be my sign, right? I headed home.
I had been back for about a month when I attended a University of Dayton alumni dinner. A handsome man with sparkly green eyes approached me.
“Hi, I’m Ken,” he said, extending his hand.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Robin. Class of eighty-seven.”
“Me too!” he said. Ken and I hadn’t known each other in college, but talking to him felt so easy and familiar. I told him that I’d recently lost my dad and he confided that he’d lost his wife to breast cancer a year earlier. He was raising their children, 10-year-old Ben and 8-year-old twins, Molly and Sarah.
At the end of the night, I gave him my phone number—something I’d never done before.
We started dating. It didn’t take long for me to see that Ken’s faith was what had carried him through his wife’s illness and death. I wondered what it would be like to have that kind of spiritual sustenance.
“I’d like to pray more,” I told him. “How do I do that?”
“Pray often and everywhere. Just talk to God. You’ll get the hang of it.”
The more I prayed, the more I felt certain that it was God who’d brought me back to Ohio—to this wonderful man and his beautiful children. Two years after we met, Ken and I were married in his church, which became my church too.
Suddenly I was a stepmom. I didn’t know much about kids, but I could bring one thing to the table: food. I made dinner, school lunches, breakfast on the weekends, and took the kids food shopping.
One day after a trip to the market, Sarah ran up to Ken. “Dad! It’s amazing! Robin knows everything at the grocery store!” she said. We all laughed. Food connected us, bringing us even closer.
Still, standing here in the kitchen on our first Thanksgiving together, I was nervous. All these people, including my new family. Could I really pull it off? Can I, Lord?
I prepared the classics—turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes. Then added the Brussels sprouts with bacon for the vegetable dish.
The recipe was one I’d developed at work. It mixed the steamed and halved sprouts with chopped bacon and apple juice—a delicious intermingling of flavors. But would my guests agree?