Friday, October 25, 2013

Straight to the Heart (and a recipe for Anticuchos)

 My adventurous mom with Malachi.

Yesterday was (for us) full of adventure.
My friend Jamie had invited me to a Women of Hope event to benefit TreeHouse, a local teen ministry.
Our church has been involved with TreeHouse for years, although I haven't heard as much about it recently, but I didn't know what to expect. I had put off finding a sitter for Malachi, vaguely hoping that Nate could be home from work on that day. Suddenly the 24th was upon me, and I had to send out a desperate mass text to friends asking if anyone could watch him. No one could.
But my Julia came through. She usually does. It was her free day at school, and so I dropped Anna Kate and baby Mick off to hang out with their big sister for a few hours.
On the way to Julia's college, I called my mom and dad and invited them to have lunch with my kids. They lost no time (typical of them) and were soon on their way from Red Wing.
Meanwhile, the luncheon was lovely.
For starters, the guest speakers were Gabby Douglas and her mom Natalie, and a TreeHouse teenager named Jozee.
Hearing Gabby tell her story, and listening to her mom's perspective (she saw her daughter for just 30 seconds after Gabby won her individual all-around gold medal), made me unaccountably weepy.
I am often unaccountably weepy. But here was this young girl, who left home at fourteen to train for the Olympics, having no idea if she would ever make the team.
And here were her sisters, cheering her on. And her mother, who had $35 in her bank account when she found out her daughter was on the U.S. Gymnastics team.
But Gabby was full of talent, and she had her family to give her courage when hers ran low.

Then the TreeHouse girl spoke. Jozee doesn't have Gabby's kind of family. She has the same tooth-grinding determination, but she's had to survive by her own wits. The support and love of her mentor at TreeHouse probably saved her life. The mentor told Jozee she was of great worth. She seemed fragile and tattered as she told her story, but she sounded brave. I think all of us in the room sorrowed with her, and rejoiced with her. Peace be on you, precious Jozee.

I thought, it's all about the heart. The heart that we are given at the beginning, that beats regularly at just a few weeks' gestation, and does not stop until we draw our dying breath. Our heart is what He is after.

My son is in his first year of med school, and the students have cadaver work. (I hope this isn't too much for you. I find it fascinating). I asked him if they started slowly, with fine physical details like skin and muscle layers.

"No," he said. "We pretty much dive right into the pectoral and start with the heart."

Start with the heart. It's apparently the best way to begin knowing the mysteries of the human body. It's the place that Jesus wants to know us. He created us the way He wanted to, beautiful, with delicate details and invisible wonders. But when he wants to change us, or heal us, or jolt us back to life, he goes for our hearts.

So that was my day. I returned to Julia's college to find my girls, my parents, and my baby in the Student Center, waiting for me. They had had a fabulous time. The baby had been somewhat terrible at first, then slowly cheered up. We hugged all around, and then we parted ways.

I went to prepare supper, and for the only time all year, because a cow only has one heart, we had true Anticuchos. When I was growing up in Peru, the local cooks would come to our jungle center and set up a barbeque. All day we smelled the astounding fragrance of these marinated beef kabobs. Now I wonder, Why did it take all day? Why did we have to wait so long before we could buy and eat? I can't figure it out, because these only take about three minutes on the grill.

But it's a lovely memory: the lake, the pequi pequis chugging slowly through the water, the smoke and mouth-watering goodness of anticuchos wafting from the shore.

(Made with regular beef, these are delicious and not quite so alarming. Anna Kate said our meal was "morbid." Nate said it was like something out of Fear Factor. But we ate them all.)

Beef Anticuchos

(We buy half a cow, so we only get half a heart. This recipe is for way more meat than I had, so I didn't use all the marinade).

2 1/2 lbs. fresh beef heart, cut into thin strips
1 cup red wine vinegar
4 T. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. salt
5 big garlic cloves, crushed and peeled and chopped
2 T. fresh parsley or oregano
4 dried chiles (I used a combination of red pepper flakes and chipotle peppers)
1 1/2 cups oil, divided

Blend all ingredients except the oil in a large bowl.
Take out about half of the mixture.
Add 1/2 cup oil to the remaining mixture to make a soft paste.
Stir the beef strips into the marinade.
Allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

To reserved spice mixture, add remainder of oil for a basting sauce.

Thread beef onto skewers.
Place on grill.
While the meat grills, brush with marinade.
The recommended brush is made with shredded corn husk, which works great if you're on a picnic, since you can later toss it.
(I used a silicone grill brush).

Allow fire to flame over the meat as you baste.
Cook about 1 1/2 minutes per side.

Best when served alongside corn and potatoes. I was pretty scattered last night, so we didn't have good side dishes. We ate butternut squash soup, anticuchos, mashed potatoes, and rice, all in succession since nothing was ready all at once.

Half a beef heart. I admit this made me a bit queasy.

Marinating beef.

I wish you could smell these. Finicky feelings would vanish, and you'd gobble them up, just like we did.


  1. Thanks for anticucho recipe. You've just become my favorite blogger! :)

  2. Haha Ron, it's online too. You can google almost anything! But you don't get a Yarina story with the other recipes.