Many people have a special dish, their pièce de résistance they can cook up at a moment’s notice and know that it will turn out beautifully every time.
My husband’s is pork spare ribs, marinated in a combination of spices and finely-sliced chilli mixed with honey and a homemade tomato sauce. Before popping them into the oven, he smokes them for 15 minutes with his nifty little smoking machine.
It’s not exactly a culinary treat, but my ‘cooking’ triumph is play dough. It’s amazing what I can whip up with a cup of flour, half a cup of salt, a tablespoon of cream of tartar and vegetable oil and water. What starts off as a white sticky dough can be transformed into a range of colours, from pastels to vibrant primary colours depending on how many drops of food colouring are added. Add some glitter for a bit of flair.
You might think it’s easy to make this, but let me assure you that’s not the case. Undercook it and your dough will be tacky and stick to your hands in a most unpleasant way when you try to mould it. Overcook it and it will crumble in your fingers. Get it right and the dough will feel soft, silky-smooth and squishy.
There are two things I like about play dough. The first is you don’t eat it, so there’s no stress about meeting any expectations about taste. The second is that it brings such satisfaction to the two little people for whom I make it.
They transform those lumps of glittery (often pink) play dough into all sorts of fabulous pretend culinary creations. They especially love making ‘biscuits’, rolling the silken dough onto the bench to press the cookie cutters into, decorating them by making patterns on the top with plastic, and handing them over for any adults in the vicinity to pretend to eat. Other favourites are play dough pizza and spaghetti; there’s something very satisfying about forcing a chunk of play dough into the spaghetti-making tube and watching the long, thin, worm-like pieces come out the other end.
The Bible compares us to clay, which is pretty close to play dough. It’s a symbolic, but accurate, comparison. We are shaped by so many influences in our lives—the people around us, where we live, our jobs, the media, our health, along with the good and bad experiences we have.
Isaiah chapter 64, verse 8 reminds us of the greatest influencer of all—God—if we are open to his direction in our lives. “We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” Are we be willing to be shaped into the people he wants us to be?