Holiness in our midst – Session 23

Holiness in our Midst


One of the comfort foods I turn to in stressful times is the beef stew created by my late father, Lloyd Pyle of Lakewood, Colorado. Unfortunately, I cannot share the exact recipe; it is never the same stew twice. The ingredients are commonplace but they always seem to taste better blended together. Like different people who seem to fare best in community, much better than they do individually.

Dad’s Beef Stew: Begin by browning beef stew meat and onions in hot oil in a large pot.  Add enough water to cover the meat. Pour in lots of tomatoes. I usually use a combination of tomato juice, stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes. Home-canned tomatoes are best. Simmer on the back of the stove for a couple hours. Then add vegetables like celery (with leaves), carrots and cabbage. Optional ingredients include green beans, corn and turnips. Simmer another hour. Add potatoes the last hour. Season with salt, pepper, garlic salt and bay leaf. Dad’s secret ingredient was a pinch or two of brown sugar.

What I can also tell you is that life-giving, comforting things happen when I make it.

My first memory of my comfort food is the times it bridged the generational, political and ideological gaps that kept my father and me from being on the same page. We often said that the tasty goodness of this beef stew was one thing we could agree on.

A second beef stew memory takes me back to the early 70s. I was a feature writer/food editor living in Cape Canaveral working for Today newspaper which covers the Space Coast. A fellow reporter named Linda was visiting my house one evening. We often worked together laying out the pages of the Lifestyle Section of the paper. I was at the stove making Dad’s Beef Stew for us when the phone rang. It was my brother Jerry calling. He said that he was making beef stew at that very moment and was thinking about me. How was I doing? Doing just fine, I said, making beef stew here, thinking about family. My co-worker never forgot the coincidence. She was in the middle of a divorce and feeling disconnected from her loved ones.

A third beef stew comes to mind. In the early 80s, I lived in downtown Chicago. I invited a young woman that I had just met in church over for dinner. We seemed to have a lot of friends in common. As we ate Dad’s Beef Stew, which is a slow food to make and to eat, she opened up about her dilemma. Earlier that week she had learned that she was pregnant and the father was no longer in the picture. Her parents were urging her to have an abortion. I just listened as she talked and talked. By the end of the meal, it was clear that she wanted to do the harder thing and keep the baby. She had made her decision as we talked. A year later, when we met again, she called her little girl “our baby.” I give some credit to a life spared to the beef stew. Perhaps, if we had carried in “fast food,” she wouldn’t have had time to explore her true feelings.


STORY CIRCLE QUESTION: Share some memories of a comfort food and the recipe.


  1. Read the above reflection aloud.
  2. Write a journal reflection about the role of food in your family’s life. What is the story behind one of your comfort foods?


  1. Read aloud Session XXIII.
  2. Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Question.