Journey Mercies . . . Every Recipe Tells a Story

Journey Mercies . . . Every Recipe Tells a Story

Journey Mercies . . . Every Recipe Tells a Story

We all know what recipes are . . . they’re guides that help us be creative and try something new.  They teach us to follow directions, make us feel like we’ve done our best, and when all is said and done, we end up with an incredible meal!  Right?  Well, maybe just sometimes ; )

What I do know is that creating a great meal is a lot like creating a great life.  No matter what ingredients you have in your cupboard, all it takes is envisioning what the end result will be. We all have gifts and we all can make our recipes matter. There are many of us that will need help, but who doesn’t most of the time?

It’s all in reading the recipe, taking our time and being patient. It’s in giving and receiving help. And then, we wait.  And waiting gives us the joy to savor the results of our labor!

I first learned of my family’s recipes through my grandparents on both sides.  In one of my last blog’s I talked about my father’s parents. Because they entertained a lot, I grew up eating many things that most people now a day might never think to serve, let alone cook.

Roast leg of lamb, mint jelly, pearled onions, creamed beets, carrots and parsnips cooked and mashed together (yuk!), riced potatoes, gravy, lime Jell-o with cottage cheese and pineapple chunks or orange Jell-o with grated carrots and raisins.  Then there was rhubarb for dessert.  Who makes rhubarb anymore?  When my grandmother cooked, every pan, every dish, every glass and every utensil in her house was used!  Etiquette was always on her mind.  She would have made Emily Post proud!  My grandmother was also Irish, so when she wasn’t cooking for others, she remembered her roots and there were lots of soda bread, cabbage and corned beef and potatoes Not often, but she managed to offer it.

And then, there was my mom’s family. They were a world apart in stature and in life.

My maternal grandparents were very poor dirt famers in Arkansas.  They raised chickens for eggs as well as food, had a cow for milk and butter, raised pigs, and had two mules that plowed their potato field and took them to town in a buckboard.  Life was so very different there. The outhouse was about 75 feet from the back door. There was no running water, but a deep well outside the house and a bucket that hung from a hook with a dipper so you could get a drink. The smells from the wood-burning stove reminded everyone that Grandma was cooking.

And the food . .  . oh, the food!  Fried chicken, baked ham, black-eyed peas, fresh string beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, corn bread, biscuits and gravy, bacon with just about every meal, and sweet tea in a mason jar.


My kids & grandkids love family dinners. And I find that our best times together revolve around really good food.  When my kids were little there were lots of favorites: Chicken and Rice casserole, momma’s homemade mac and cheese, fried chicken or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, potato cheese soup, corned beef and cabbage, and momma’s Sweeties for Thanksgiving with my special Turkey gravy.  Then there was snicker doodles, and decorated sugar cookies, Norwegian Leftsa and Rullepulse (commonly know as Rulle, which translates to “rolled meat”) for Christmas.  I don’t cook like that anymore.  But my kids do and they’ve carried on the traditions.

There are literally thousands of recipe books available.  But the one I loved way back when was Chicken Soup for the Soul, which came out in 1993. It was filled with stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It wasn’t meant to heal the body . . . it was meant to heal the soul.  That’s where I first realized that recipes for life are all around us. I learned that not everyone’s recipe is the same.  I also learned that if you embellish something, you might get a whole new flavor.  I learned to be open to try new things, even when you don’t think you’ll like it.  I also learned that you can add so much to some one elses life if you just add a pinch of love and kindness.

Life’s recipe calls for joy, happiness and success, but we all know if we aren’t careful we can ruin the dish.  Too salty, too watery, undercooked, forgot an ingredient, or simply didn’t pay attention and burned it up.  It happens all the time.  Life is like that too. We need to be purposeful in how we create our life’s recipe.  Take your time, read the directions carefully, keep tasting, and wait until you have just what you think might be the best one yet before you start experimenting.  In the end, your favorite dish just may end up being Joy, Happiness, Success, . . . and Love!

My Recipes for Life:

Respondto your needs and to those of your family and friends.  Be the “salt” that can turn anyone’s feelings from hopeless to hopeful.

• ExperimentDon’t be afraid to try “different”. Don’t keep yourself on one page of the book. As Forrest once said, Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what your gonna get” 

• CreateStep outside your Betty Crocker and savor the joy of creating something fresh & exciting!  If at first you don’t succeed, you’re one step closer to to perfect!

InitiativeTake the first step toward “new.”  Use all the “cook books” you can find.  Look at it as a journey.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

PersistentNever give up on your life’s recipe.  If you know that you are a valuable component in the overall recipe – keep on trying.  The proof is in the pudding!

Enjoy – Savor every morsel.  Bite off a big chunk of life and be all that you can be!

Surprise – What you thought you wouldn’t try – becomes your ultimate favorite!

What’s your favorite recipe?

What recipe in life do you hold fast?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Maureen O’Day says:

    As usual, Patricia blesses our days and never disappoints. What a treatsure!

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Hello Maureen
      So great to see you on our blog page. I do hope you have enjoyed reading everyone’s blog. We are all so diverse . . . and yet the same!

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I have missed seeing you at our workshops, but I hope that next year you will put us on your calendar and stop by. It would be so great to see you again!
      May your holidays be blessed!


  2. Molly says:

    I love this post because of how true & encouraging your metaphor of a “life recipe” is. We have so much power over what we put into our lives and the attitudes we season it with. The other wonderful part is that if we make something that turns out badly, we almost always have a second chance to start over or maybe just change the temperature a bit to ensure a better outcome.
    The positive language, yummy foods, and encouraging message of your words inspires me & helps me as I think about what I put into my day, who I surround myself with, and how much I enjoy the things around me.

    Thank you so much!!
    Love you!


    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      What a gift our lives truly are. Life’s recipes are a culmination of who we are, who we want to be and what mix we use to get there. That’s what makes us all so very special. Being our true self, helping others along the way, and giving our very best every day is a recipe for success. Does the cream always rise to the top? No, but it does give us a chance to make changes.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I love you dearly . . . you are the sugar to my cookie!

      Aunt Pat

  3. Anne says:

    What a nice cozy blog for this season of the year. Thanks for sharing.

    My favorite family recipe is the Cornish pasty, an all day process and done usually once a year with my niece. This was a 1 dish meal, consisting of meat and vegetables in a crust. It was popular in our area of upper Michigan because the miners took it deep into the copper mines for their hearty meal to sustain them often up to a mile beneath the surface of the earth from dawn to dark.

    My recipe for life is listening to the hearts of others and when appropriate, adding hugs and prayers. It has benefited many in my lifetime and me as well.
    You will have to let us try what you bake this year.
    Merry Christmas!!

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      I remember tasting your pasty’s, and when I visited Michigan several years ago, I made a point to have them while traveling though Traverse City. Yummy stuff those Michigonians cook up!

      We all have recipes that heal the body and the soul . . . you have a wonderful recipe that you are not afraid to share . . and I have been blessed by it. Thank you for your comments and the opportunity to know you intimately. You are a gift!


  4. Diane Kopylow says:

    I loved reading tis, Pat. As food gives us nourishment, we thrive. Of course, we all go to our favorite recipes for this when we know we need comfort as well, having come from fond memories of times well spent with dear ones. As in life, we also all go to those we know who can give us the nourishment we need to travel beyond our spaces and accomplish our dreams. Thank you, dear friend for pointing this out in a charming, well-written way. Diane

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      My sweet friend . . .
      You have been someone that I love being around. Your contagious smile, your fun, witty sense of humor and your zest for life in a balm to my heart and my soul.

      I must say that it would have been such a wonderful experience having you for a teacher. Knowing you the way I do, I know your students LOVED YOU! And I believe with all my heart, that you will have former pupils talking about you and the way you cared for their mind and their soul for years to come! You are a person/friend to be cherished . . and I do!


  5. Lor Bristol says:

    Well, now that it is 6:00am and I’m starving!!!!

    This is a beautifully written post. I’m flooded with so many memories of family dinners both my grandmothers and my mom have made over the years. Many of the dishes are the same as you have mentioned. In fact, when Granny was well enough to go to Polly’s, her favorite pie was rhubarb!

    I love how you have made the connection between cooking and life. We all need to be open to adjusting our recipes for life now and then. Recognizing it and willingness to participate in that change can sometimes be a challenge.

    Enjoy whatever recipes this holiday season brings to you!

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Hello Number 4

      Not everyone recognizes what you have said. And that’s the very first step in sweetening the day, the relationship, the moment. We can make something that’s sour and distasteful into a really palate pleasing potion just by adding a little “sugar”. It’s tasting and stirring, adjusting and tasting again. Sooner or later the recipe is just right and we have the perfect flavor. Not everyone wants to take the time to adjust. They want the receipt to be perfect right now. The frustration lies when we don’t take our time.

      We can always throw out a bad batch. This gives an opportunity to start fresh, with new and different ingredients. It’s simple, really. We tend to make it difficult because we want perfect, and life just isn’t that way.

      I always appreciate your comments and thank you for all your contributions.


      • Lori says:

        Number 4! That has a very nice ring to it!

        • Patricia Kolstad says:

          The fact that we have such a special relationship is wonderful. I’m so glad that we have had the opportunity to get to know one another on a whole other level. I appreciate you!


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