Cheap Substitutes

As a newlywed (almost 40 years ago) I wanted so much to excel in my role as wife. Having grown up on the “Leave To Beaver” model, I desired to learn to be the domestic goddess that June Cleaver would be proud of – minus the string of pearls, the fitted shirtwaist dress with matching pumps. I had to draw the line somewhere.

I figured that my first challenge would be to learn how to cook.

Coming right out of college dorm life into my own frying pan made it a little hard to develop my own culinary style. Except for a few recipes that I had gleaned from my mother’s verbal cues and those I had dog-eared in my Betty Crocker Cookbook I had gotten as a wedding gift (which I still use) I was flying by the seat of my pants. It occurred to me after a few months of serving a constant rotation of hot dogs, home-style spaghetti, and some casserole made out of ground meat, rice, and canned soup, that I could expand my menu options by clipping recipes from magazines. I found one that I thought looked easy enough and sounded quite exotic. I forget the official name of the chicken dish; however, for the last 40 years it has been referred to as “purple chicken.”

You see, I gathered the ingredients (chicken and some ancillary components for a sauce) just like the recipe said. There was only one element that I did not have or knew where to find. It was vermouth. Having grown up as a Baptist and having married a Baptist minister, my libation knowledge was a little limited. However, the recipe had an asterisk. *You may substitute grape juice for vermouth. So I did – with Welch’s Red Grape Juice.

The chicken went into another wedding gift, a hardly-ever-used Corning Ware dish, just like the recipe instructed. The sauce components were mixed in a separate mixing bowl (also from my bridal registry) and in went the Welch’s. Well, the red grape juice turned the sauce a strange shade of fuchsia, and the more I mixed the darker it got.  But I topped the chicken with it anyway, popped the dish in the oven, set the timer, and waited. Maybe the grape juice would dilute in the oven and therefore the color would fade into something that looked edible, I thought. I hoped. However, the heat of the oven only vulcanized the goo atop the chicken and enhanced the color into this aubergine brew. (Maybe it was supposed to be white grape juice?) If it had been near Mardi Gras I might could have gotten away with it, but I had to admit that this was a horrible disaster and I was a failure as a wife. Dennis ate it and said it was great, but I knew. It was a mess and I was a disgrace to my domestic sisterhood. I vowed never to cook again. Of course I did, but with much trepidation – and with not much better results.

The point is – and there’s always a point – that substituting the real thing with something else, even if it’s permissible, might not be the best idea. Whether in a recipe – or in the rest of life– there is nothing like authenticity. Follow the instructions. Stick to the tried and true recipe. Don’t try to substitute the real thing for a cheap imitation. It might turn out okay, but then again how much better will the end result be if you stick with the original prescription?

In light of the debacle coming from the pulpit of The Osteens, I thought of cheap imitations and poor substitutes and how easy it is to buy into that philosophy. I then went back to Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Second Timothy 4: 3-4 in the NASB puts it this way:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 

And then there’s Colossians 2:8.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

chicken-256Paul warned believers not to be “kidnapped” by philosophical jargon that might sound good but in the end produces nothing more than…purple goo over half-baked chicken. You get the point.


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