How Donald Miller Inspired Mai’s Brown Sugar Walnuts

by Maile on October 20, 2010

About a month ago, I read a completely life-changing book called “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. The Cliff’s Notes version would go something like this:

Don is a relatively famous author who is approached one day by a couple of film guys who want to make a movie about Don’s life. Don says, “why the hell not” and they begin collaborating on a screenplay. But before Don knows it, he realizes that his life isn’t all that exciting. He spends most of his time either in front of his computer being a writer or in front of his tv living vicariously through others. When he looks at his life through the lens of a story, he sees that he is living a very bad and a very boring story. So he decides to write a better one by living a more intentional life. He actually asks out girls instead of daydreaming about it. He loses weight, starts biking and eventually bikes all the way across the US. He starts up a non-profit for underprivileged children. Basically, he starts living a life that is inspiring and meaningful and beautiful. Then he encourages his readers to do the same thing.

I really needed this book when it came across my path. I was feeling stuck in life, not sure what my purpose was. I know, I know. I can hear it now, “But you’re a mom, and that is one of the most important jobs in the world; you should be proud of that role.” Believe me, I am. But I’m not content with that being my only role because I have other passions, particularly cooking, that can’t be explored in the context of motherhood.

Sure, I cook (multiple times at least) every single day for my kids and sometimes I do really enjoy it and find it rewarding. But what I really love is having the kitchen to myself with the ingredients for a challenging new recipe sprawled out on the counter before me, and all day long to learn and explore and finally create a piece of edible art to share with my family or friends. I miss that.
So after reading Mr. Miller’s book, I decided to take my life by the reins and look for opportunities to pursue my passion for cooking outside of my role as “Mama”. And tomorrow I get to make good on one of those opportunities: I’m doing a cooking demonstration for the Jars of Hope Food Pantry at the Gap Family Center–while families are picking up their groceries from the pantry, I’m going to be demonstrating how they can use what they’re receiving to make healthy, tasty meals at home.
It’s amazing to me how your soul seems to come alive when you are able to combine your passion with serving others. All week I’ve been concocting different kinds of recipes in my kitchen like some sort of mad scientist, and it’s been oh so fun. But at the end of the day, cooking is just a bunch of steam and victuals if you have no one to share it with. So that is why I’m most excited about going to the pantry tomorrow. I’ll have the chance to get to know the families, the moms and dads who may need a little encouragement or hope, or another grown up to talk to, or just something tasty to eat. I get to use my knowledge of food and cooking for more than just satisfying my own palette, a welcome change, I must say.
But for your at-home enjoyment, here’s a little recipe that I’ll be handing out at the pantry tomorrow…
Mai’s Brown Sugar Walnuts
2 tbsp. butter
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 c. walnut pieces
Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Add sugar, salt, and cinnamon, and stir until sugar dissolves and mixture just starts to boil (don’t burn-this will only take about a minute or two). Add walnuts and stir to coat nuts. Pour nuts onto piece of foil to cool.
I dare anyone to come up with a food that these would not taste divine on. Sweet potatoes? Yes, please. Yogurt? Absolutely. Pancakes? Hell, yeah! Roasted Pork Loin? Yep. Brie? Of course, and now I’m really beginning to tire of this exercise. They taste good on anything, people. Just eat them. Period.
Oh, and read Don Miller’s book. Period.

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