Unpolitical Jesus in an Unjust World

Photo Credit BBC: “In 2001 forensic anthropologist Richard Neave created a model of a Galilean man for a BBC documentary, Son of God, working based on an actual skull found in the region. He did not claim it was Jesus’s face. It was simply meant to prompt people to consider Jesus as being a man of his time and place, since we are never told he looked distinctive. “

When I was a small kid I was bold and vehemently opinionated. I remember stepping between my large brother, who is 6 years older than me, and someone picking on him. I would readily argue with adults if they said something that seemed unfair. Everyone got an equal number of cookies at snack time as long as I had anything to say about it, and I shouldn’t have to be “it” every time we played tag, dang it! Fairness and justice, or my perception of them anyway, were paramount in my little world. As long as I wasn’t the one perpetuating the injustice, that is. Hypocrisy starts young, my friends.

Anyway, I remember pride and a somber feeling washing over me as I picked up my first protest sign and walked the sidewalk in downtown Denver with my grandparents, pleading for laws to be changed so the lives of unborn babies could be saved. I felt like I was doing something that mattered. I was doing my part. I look back with respect and awe at the reverence that my little self was able to embrace.

I planned to influence the world, because what other option was there? If you see something bad, you change it. I wanted to be a catalyst for good change. I wanted to make the world see things my way, not because “I was right”, so much as because what I believed happened to be correct (a slight difference). And there were prescribed ways of making people see things my way: argue, lecture, and protest. I was very pragmatic about the whole thing. Since then, I’ve come far. I’m generally non-political and neutral when it comes to public conversations about political or social issues. You can read some more about that in my Pancake post.

My passion hasn’t changed much, it’s become stronger in ways, but the vehemency and method with which I express that passion have changed. The change has come with time, some from learning to care too much what people think of me, but more so through maturing and growth. I’ve changed most as I’ve learned more about Jesus and how he lived his life. I no longer feel an urgency to change people through debate, protest, and political activism. I do feel an urgency to love people (check out Love Does by Bob Goff, it made me uncomfortable in a good way). Loving is harder than arguing and protesting and it’s more beneficial.

I’m still moved to sorrow by tragedies like abortion, racism, sexism, trafficking, and abuse. The number of ways humans have found to harm one another is staggering and disheartening. However, in the public, political fight against injustice, I mostly see emotional grandstanding and self-promotion, and very little active, compassionate love for people. Emotional provocation encourages behavior modification, not moral or spiritual growth, and behavior modification is not permanent. Do we want to argue people into “change” so that they behave better and appear to be “woke”, but have the same rotten hearts? Or do we want to love people the way we have been loved so that they’re led by kindness to open themselves to change? Jesus called people who had nailed behavior modification white washed tombs. Pretty and clean on the outside, nothing but death on the inside.

Jesus was born amid social unrest the likes of which we have never seen. His people had been marginalized, enslaved, and abused for much of their history (Sadly, this is still true over 2,000 years later) and he lived under the rule of Romans occupying his homeland of Israel. He was of humble origins, from a small town, and worked as a manual laborer.

As he grew up he dealt with prejudice throughout his life and even became the target of a murderous king at the ripe old age of 2. The king heard that a Jewish deliverer had been born. He ordered all boys 2 and under to be executed because he was afraid of the “King of the Jews” growing up to overthrow him. Jesus’ parents had to flee with him and live as refugees in Egypt until after the king had died, and even then they were unable to live in their hometown.

As he began his public ministry when he was 30, more people started to recognize the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of ancient prophesies about a Messiah, the promised deliverer. Their expectations weren’t far off from those of the murderous king’s.

The Messiah was expected to physically deliver the Jews from their oppressors. He was supposed to be a warrior and a political activist/visionary. I like to think that they anticipated a super-human, charismatic royal, like Clark Kent meets Prince Charming, who would overthrow the government and punish the oppressors.

In reality, the Messiah, God incarnate, came as a baby born in a cave while his parents were on a government-mandated donkey-powered road trip. Anticlimactic much?

Jesus grew to be a normal, peaceful, well-educated carpenter and although he was controversial, he basically ignored politics and government leaders except to tell people to pay their taxes.

Rather than overthrow the powers-that-be he hung out with lots of different kinds of people including fishermen, doctors, soldiers, sick people, political figures, tax collectors, who were like despised, sleazy used car salesmen/con artists, and not only women, which was taboo in and of itself, but also prostitutes.

Jesus didn’t orchestrate a social movement or go to war; he hung out with pariahs.

He wasn’t liberal, he wasn’t conservative. I wouldn’t even say he was neutral because it was more than just not choosing sides. He was altogether politically unconcerned. Religiously, though, he was a revolutionary. The Jewish religious leaders would try to trick him into choosing a side of the religious divide by asking him loaded questions, and he would simply give answers that highlighted how absurd the questions were. It pissed them off, and they killed him for it.

He was thoroughly educated in Jewish theology and doctrine and addressed crowds, small and large, with stories (parables) and sermons that challenged the widely-accepted concepts of God, morality, and love. He miraculously healed physical, spiritual, and mental illnesses. Along the way, he supernaturally created more wine for wedding receptions and meals for crowds of thousands, because parties and food truly are important too. He never once staged a protest or called for the government officials to be thrown out.

He was not only God, but also human. In his humanity he had parties with his friends, he was moved with strong, gut-wrenching compassion for people who were suffering, he cried when his friends died, he took care of people around him, he set boundaries and put people in their place when he needed to, he loved his mama. He was emotional. Most importantly, he didn’t use that emotion to manipulate people into behaving differently.

He taught people how to actively love. That was radical. Radical enough that he was murdered because of it. 

One of his closest friends literally sold Jesus’ whereabouts to those conspiring to kill him, and his fellow Jews, who had thrown him a big parade a few days earlier, took advantage of unrelated political unrest to publicly and heinously mock, torture, and murder him. All because he refused to perpetuate spiritual oppression and behavior modification and chose instead to love people.

Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies of the coming Messiah,yet he wasn’t anything like what the Hebrews expected their Messiah/savior/redeemer/superhero to be. He definitely didn’t do what he was “supposed” to do.

Love is a verb, not a noun. Jesus living this way has changed me. He built relationships, he ate with people, he got to know their names and their stories. He created community in varying levels of intimacy. He was kind. He highlighted the fingerprint of God in people–the Imago Dei. He stood up for what he believed in, but he didn’t lead revolts. He relied on God, not societal norms or expectations, to give him strength and direction. He loved people, even when it was difficult. He was unpredictable and unconventional.

In a world filled with unfathomable injustice, prejudice, violence, and bigotry he often took time to relax, and eat. He was a normal person, people bashed him for it, and he just brushed them off. Why? I can’t know for sure, but I think it’s because he knew where the real change would come from. He didn’t want to manipulate or shame people into behavior modification, he wanted people to have a change of heart, and make the right decision on their own. That’s not to say he didn’t have moments of passion and conflict, because he did. But he made more of an impact by connecting with people.

Am I saying it’s wrong to be an outspoken activist? Absolutely not. Am I saying we shouldn’t stand up for what is right? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that for me, it makes better sense to just live my life, and encourage change through my behavior, just as I know Jesus did in his life on Earth. That doesn’t mean I won’t hold others accountable, but it does mean that a relationship should precede the accountability. And my energy is better spent getting to know people, not telling them how wrong they are.

I’m still passionate about making the world a just place, but I want to do it with a smile, a yummy meal, a board game, and connecting over what I have in common with people, not arguing over what we disagree about.

The Problem with Wokeness | Ayishat Akanbi

I want to show people how Jesus lived. I don’t know anyone who has ever become more like Jesus because someone argued with them. I do, however, know people who changed because someone befriended them, and through the relationship, they were both encouraged to be better, to love better. Because heaven knows, we all need someone to show us how Jesus lived.

Until next time.


P.S. I paraphrased a lot of stuff from the Bible in this post. If you’re interested in reading about Jesus’ life, you can read more about it in any one of the books Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in the Bible. They’re all different eye-witness accounts written by different men, so they differ slightly from one another. Ignore the verse markings and headers, they just add confusion and are not in the original text.  I prefer the Message translation because it reminds me more of a story and less of Sunday School. 

Roasted Veggie Sauce

TL;DR skip to recipe

A few years ago, my roommate Erin started following a program called IQS, or I Quit Sugar. She was on it for quite some time before I said “hey, how about I join you and we split groceries and cooking duties?” So, we did just that.

Not only did I detox from sugar, causing me to despise almost all convenience food (most of it tastes as sweet as candy to me now, even pizza), but I also learned some of the best recipes and methods for cooking.

One of my favorites, and the one I make the most frequently, is the recipe for roasted veggie sauce. It’s so easy that once you’ve made it a couple of times you don’t even need a recipe anymore.

I pair this with some whole wheat or protein pasta and I don’t feel bad about eating a big bowl at all.

All you need to make a big batch of this sauce is tomatoes, onion, garlic, assorted fresh or frozen veggies, olive oil, salt and pepper, a cookie sheet or two, an oven, and a blender. I also like to use foil because it makes clean-up infinitely easier, but it’s not necessary.

Start by lining your cookie sheet(s) with foil if you like. I used one half-sheet cookie tray, but I wish I would have been able to use another sheet as well. When we moved into our apartment there was only one oven rack, so I was limited. I recommend you use two large cookie trays so there’s more caramelization of the vegetables and less steaming.

Spray the foil with cooking spray or a hefty drizzle of olive oil. I LOVE this kitchen gadget called Misto. I can use whatever oil I want for my non-stick spray, and I don’t have to buy the stuff from the store, which seems wasteful and expensive to me.

Next, cut up your veggies! You always want to use tomatoes if you can. They add a lovely acidity and the moisture helps the sauce along. Use 8-10 Roma tomatoes or the equivalent of vine-ripened or beefsteak tomatoes. You also want to use onion. I used 1 whole red onion because it was what I had. Use whatever you have, but if it’s too small or too large, adjust how much you’re using if you like. The one I used was about the size of a tennis ball.

After that, I just threw in what I had in my fridge. I had bought 10 oz. of frozen butternut squash earlier in the week because I like how it tastes, but the original recipe calls for diced pumpkin. If you’re not a squash kind of person, just skip it. I rough chopped 2 zucchini, tossed on about 2 cups of broccoli florets and a cup of baby carrots. I’ve used asparagus and yellow squash in the past, I’m sure fresh green beans, mushrooms, cauliflower or sweet peppers would be great, or even some raw spinach thrown in when blending. Use your imagination!

Toss the veggies on your cookie sheets and spray liberally with your cooking spray, or give them another hefty drizzle of olive oil. You don’t want your sheets to be as crowded as mine is in these photos. Give the veggies some room to breathe.

Sprinkle with a liberal dose of salt and pepper.

Put your trays in an oven heated to 400° F and let them roast away for 30-45 minutes. Keep an eye on them, you want some charring/caramelization, but not too much. After about 25 minutes my broccoli was done, but the rest of the veggies weren’t quite there, so I pulled the broccoli out and set it aside, and flipped everything else over. You might need to do this too depending on the level of crowding and how well your oven behaves.

At this point, I also added some unpeeled garlic cloves to the sheet. I had cut off the root end but left the husk on. This helps keeps the garlic from burning. You can also wrap peeled cloves in foil, or leave it out and add raw garlic later when you blend everything up.

I popped it back in the oven and roasted for another 15 minutes. Then I pulled everything out, let it cool, and added it all to a blender, including all liquid from the bottom of the pan. You should be able to just squeeze the garlic out of the skin.

Trust me, let your veggies cool completely unless you have a vented lid for your blender. You do not want to have veggies spattered all over your kitchen.

This is really all you need. At this point you could blend until everything is smooth, but I decided to add basil and a little bit of crushed red pepper for some extra flavor. I prefer fresh basil, but this is what I had on hand.

Blend away! This sauce will be thick, but you want it to actually be a sauce, mine came out more like a thick paste initially. I ended up having to add a little bit of water to thin it out, but you could also add veggie or chicken broth if you want more flavor. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it! It stores in the fridge nicely in an air-tight container for a couple of weeks and freezes well for a few months (I just put it in a freezer bag). Mine yielded about 40 oz. this time, which is almost 2 large jars of spaghetti sauce.

I would rather have this than marinara and Tim likes it as much or more than tomato-based sauces.

I usually pair this with pasta, often with panko-breaded eggplant and cheese for my version of eggplant parmesan but it’s also good on hot sandwiches. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it would be amazing as a pizza sauce too. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Roasted Veggie Sauce

10 Roma tomatoes
1 medium-size onion
Assorted vegetables of your choosing. I used:
2 zucchini
2 cups broccoli, fresh or frozen
1 cup carrots
10 oz. frozen butternut squash

4-6 garlic cloves, roasted in peel or minced and raw
1 teaspoon dried or semi-dry basil, or 1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil and/or cooking spray
2-8 oz. water or broth, if needed

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Rough chop all veggies and place them on 2 sheet pans that have been covered with foil and sprayed with cooking spray or drizzled with olive oil. Spray or oil the veggies as well.

Roast for 30-45 minutes until slightly charred and caramelized, checking every 15 minutes or so, and removing any vegetables that are cooking faster than others, or stirring/rotating as needed to prevent burning.

(optional) 15 minutes before you pull all of the veggies out, add unpeeled garlic cloves, or peeled garlic cloves wrapped in foil, to the sheet.

Cool veggies, peel/unwrap roasted garlic, then place them in a blender with basil, red pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil if desired. Blend until mostly smooth. If needed, add water or broth to reach the desired thickness and blend again. Taste, add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with pasta, on sandwiches or pizza, as a dipping sauce or anything else that sounds good.

Yields roughly 40 oz.

Thought Dump

I woke up a few days ago next to an empty half of the bed. My husband had already gotten up without me noticing, which means I must have been sleeping harder than usual. I laid in bed half-awake, enjoying the quiet. Tim came out of the shower, got dressed, and kissed me goodbye before he headed out for his day filled with customer service, heavy lifting, and problem-solving. Having a husband seems like a small miracle to me. 3 years ago I had made peace with the fact that I may never get married.

After he left for his long day of deliveries and repairs, I laid in bed, trying with all my might to get up and find some way to be productive with my time that day, willing my muscles to move. I struggled.

I remember my mom telling me stories about her first job working at Dairy Queen in the 70s. They weren’t allowed to lean or sit when it was slow and had to wipe down counters repeatedly even when they were spotlessly clean.

That’s where I find myself during this pandemic. Not able to leave, or do, or work, but nothing seems to be left undone. So, I redo what’s already been done, and that is my day.

Didn’t I just scrub this tub? Didn’t I fold these sheets yesterday? I thought I just brushed the cat. I made this meal yesterday…. or was it 3 weeks ago? Didn’t I already watch this show? The French have a word for this feeling: ennui.

I finally pulled myself out of bed and made it to the couch. Once there, I proceeded to cry while I watched The Masked Singer and ate breakfast.

This is one of many sides of pandemic life for me, and probably a lot of you. It’s a weird in-between state. I’m unexpectedly emotional as I’m facing, without escape or distraction, my own form of working to earn my worthiness. Or as Brene Brown would call it, hustling.

I’ve uttered the words “I feel useless” to my husband more times than I care to admit. Somehow, through all of my emotional, spiritual, mental growth, and learning, I missed this about myself. I wouldn’t have ever said that my perception of my own worth was wrapped up in my doing or in my accomplishments. But here we are.

I feel useless without an occupation that seems to be changing or earning something and I compare myself to Tim, who has gone out through the pandemic to work.

So now, I’m faced with a new reality. I know something new about myself, and I get to chose what to do with that information. I think that my value as a human is somehow wrapped up in my accomplishments, even though that flies in the face of my values and belief system.

I’m choosing to be curious so that I can learn. Or at least I’m going to try. When those feelings of uselessness come up I’m sure I’ll sulk in them for a bit, but then I hope I can ask myself “why do I feel useless?”

This is so much easier said than done. I don’t know what it is about negative emotions, but it’s so much easier to try to distract ourselves from them with ice cream or TV than to actually feel them and wonder why they’re there.

But wondering is the braver choice. I’m going to wonder. And I’m going to remind myself that I’m loved, flaws and all, just as I am.

I’ll let you know if I ever come to the bottom of this newly found part of me.

Until next time.


Growing Up Crooked

The idea of “sin” is normal in our culture. Sinner is a word used by some sad, mistaken people to make others feel bad about who they are and the things they do. It’s a word worn by some as a badge of honor, showing that they live their lives “to the fullest.” Others know it, but it has no bearing on them or their lives.

We hear the word sin in movies like Original Sin and Seven and songs like I Write Sins Not Tragedies by Panic! At The Disco. Even Las Vegas is known as Sin City and capitalizes on that reputation.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, chances are you hear the word “sin” a lot, and might not really know what it means. I was raised in a Christian church and have always been interested in Christian theology, and have just recently started to form an understanding of what sin is. I think a lot of the confusion comes from the fact that we only use one word regularly for “sin” but it has many different meanings.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting with one of my best friends, who is in school to become a minister, and another woman, an ordained minister who was in town to speak at a conference about Jesus. In the course of our conversation the idea of sin came up, and the minister brought up the 32nd Psalm in the Bible.

That one conversation was integral in shifting the way I see the world and the way I see God. Here’s what we talked about:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

King David, Psalm 32:1-2 ESV, emphasis mine

This song, known as a psalm, is about being honest with God, and God responding with blessings and refuge. It was written by King David. People in the Bible don’t have last names, but I always want to give them one. David should be David Jesseson or something. Anyway…

David was a young musician and shepherd boy, probably middle school/high school age, when he was selected to be the King of Israel. He became king in 1010 B.C. and he was considered to be God’s chosen, a man after God’s own heart. He continued to write songs about his life and God well into his reign.

David, God’s chosen, had a life riddled with scandal and bad, bad decisions. Which, I think most of us could relate to if we were thrown into being royalty. His most well-known screw-up began when he spied in the night on a woman who was bathing to ritualistically cleanse herself after her period, a normal part of the life of a Hebrew woman at the time. David thought she was beautiful and sent someone to find out who she was.

After learning who she was and that her husband was away fighting in a war, he apparently decided that this woman belonged to him, and had her brought to his palace so he could sleep with her, then sent her back home. Many Christians refer to this as “David’s adultery,” but I don’t think that comes close to telling the whole story. Let’s call a spade a spade.

A king in ancient times summons a woman to his palace so he could sleep with her. Do you think consent was a part of the equation there? Highly unlikely. Was the power in this relationship lopsided? Absolutely. Whether or not the encounter was violent, by modern standards, he raped her.

After raping this woman, whose name was Bathsheba, he found out she had become pregnant. So, he sent for her husband to come home, hoping to quickly hide what he had done.

Plot twist, when her husband came back from the war, he refused to go home and be with his wife. He insisted upon solidarity with his fellow soldiers who were still fighting; he slept on the ground outside of the palace.

The next night, David invited him to have dinner so he could get him drunk, hoping he would go home to be with his wife. Instead, he went and set up his mat on the ground in front of the palace again. This guy was annoyingly principled.

The following morning, David wrote a letter to the commander of his army. He told him to put the husband on the front-lines where the fighting was the worst, then pull every other soldier back so that the husband’s death would be guaranteed. The commander followed the king’s order and the husband was killed in battle. Covering up the rape didn’t work, so David added murder to his rap sheet.

After Bathsheba observed the normal period of mourning for her husband, David had her brought to the palace and made her one of his wives (in addition to his concubines). I can’t even imagine what she was going through, and to top it off, her baby died shortly after birth.

Pretty messed up, right? It’s like an episode of Scandal.

Here’s the thing about David: in his writing, it’s obvious that he was very practiced in messing up, and he knew it, but he was also very practiced in coming clean to God. Over and over he talks about the ways he has let God down and recognizes that he needs God to help him. He owns up to his mistakes and tries not to repeat them. He learns.

If you want to read a Psalm that David wrote after his friend confronted him about the rape, murder, and cover-up, look up Psalm 51. It’s pretty intense. Scholars aren’t sure what situation David is writing about in Psalm 32, some think it might be about the situation with Bathsheba and her husband, but the words are striking either way. His word choice was very intentional, honest, and if you know anything about Hebrew poetry, it’s really beautiful. If you get a chance, look up the whole Psalm and read it. I especially like the Message version.

In this song, David writes about three different ways he messes up. Not three specific things he’s done, but three methods of screwing up, if you will. Three kinds of sinning to put it in Christian-y terms. We really only have one word for sin in English, but in this song, David uses three different Hebrew words.

He talks about transgression, which means intentionally doing something wrong. Rebelliously breaking rules. Stomping on someone’s foot because you’re angry and you think you’re entitled to hurt them.*

Sin is used specifically to mean missing the mark. You’re not intending to lose your temper and act out of anger, but you slip up and stomp on someone’s foot. *

Iniquities refer to things that are crooked, bent, or distorted. I like to think of these as things learned or inherited from parents or culture; nurture and nature. Some people might call them “generational curses.” You’re stomping on people’s feet because you have big feet and no one ever taught you to watch where you’re stepping. So, you stomp on feet like your mother, and your mother’s mother.*

Growing up crooked was the picture that I was left with after this coffee-shop conversation about sin. The minister presented the concept that this crookedness of iniquities can be compared to a seed that has fallen into the soil on the face of a steep cliff. It somehow manages to grow, but can’t grow straight up due to the terrain. So, it grows crooked, through no fault of its own.

Immediately my own life phased into focus a bit more. I saw the things in my life that I did intentionally, knowing they were wrong, the things I tried not to do, but struggled with, and knew that there must be things I was doing that I didn’t realize were wrong. If I saw these things in my own life, they had to be true of other people too.

I had a whole new understanding of empathy and love. God is with us and forgives us for the bad things we know we do, and the things we don’t understand we’re doing.

David basically says: “You’re very blessed when God lifts the burden/debt of your intentional rebellion, when God covers the price/punishment for your habitual wrongdoing, when God does not count the harm you’ve caused unintentionally, because you grew up crooked, against you, and when you don’t hide who you are and what you’ve done from God.”*

David continues to write about what it’s like when he hides things from God–the description sounds a lot like anxiety and depression if you ask me. Then he goes on to explain what a conversation with God looks like. He tells God how he messed up, and God lets David know that if he stays near to God, God will guide him, and protect him.

David says he acknowledged, did not cover, and confessed his mistakes, indicating that he won’t knowingly repeat them. He says “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” He is vulnerable with God, and God loves him. This is how their relationship works. It’s freeing and personal, much like a healthy parent/child relationship.

That idea I had built of a cold God, somewhere far away, judging everyone in frustrated silence has been fading away since long before that conversation, but the conversation helped it along quite a bit.

Have you seen this video by Vintage Church?

Jesus Video #3 by Vintage Church

My mom and I quote it all the time and laugh. “Now it’s time for me to tell you all what you’ve done wrong…” It’s absurd, and Jesus’ high-pitched voice is perfect.

Even though we laugh at this satire, it’s actually a bit too close for comfort sometimes. I think we buy into this perception of God because it’s hard not to. We think God is around to tell us what we’ve done wrong, and that’s about it. In reality, it’s in our best interest to tell God everything, and ask for help with the things we’re not doing right, intentionally or not. God designed us, so who better to consult when something isn’t working right? But, God is not about to force intimacy on us. God’s waiting patiently to hear us talk about it, and help us through it.

It’s so much easier to breathe when you see God in this light, don’t you think? Sin seems to have lost its power.

Until next time.


*I used ServantOfMessiah.org and EnduringWord.com for my research for this blog.

Okonomiyaki: Japanese Street Snack

What the heck is okonomiyaki?!

I’m not geeking out on elvish. Okonomiyaki (say it with me now, o-ko-no-mee-YA-kee) is a beloved Japanese street food which originated in Hiroshima and Osaka.

My brother has always been interested in Japanese culture, he’s even worked towards teaching his kids how to speak Japanese and write kanji, and I have a Japanese-American friend who has fed me tasty sushi while protecting my sensitive sensibilities from scary-sounding names. “Just eat it” she says.

Other than those two weak connections to Japanese culture, I really hadn’t been exposed to much from Japan. Not until I met my husband. Tim loves Japanese culture all around and was able to visit Okinawa a few years before we met. He’s introduced me to a lot of really cool things about Japanese culture, my favorite one being the food.

Okonomiyaki is one of the things he introduced me to. I had never heard of it or anything like it before. I was missing out, let me tell you.

Okonomiyaki is a savory dish made on a griddle that many people compare to either a pancake or a pizza. It is a bed of batter and cabbage fried with various toppings that can include but are not limited to, noodles, vegetables, pork, shrimp, scallops, egg, mayo, a sweet sauce, nori (seaweed), bonito flakes, sesame seeds, pickled ginger and so much more. The word “okonomiyaki” means “whatever you like, grilled,” so the sky’s the limit.

The description does not do it justice. This savory treat is absolutely delicious. I was a bit skeptical when Tim described it to me initially, mainly because I am extremely picky when it comes to any kind of seafood or sea flavors. But, I was pleasantly surprised by this warm, flavorful, comforting hodgepodge. And, it’s easy to make at home!

We have always bought a kit at an Asian market, but I have seen lots of recipes online using all purpose flour. Although, to get the authentic flavors you need a lot of ingredients that are not typical in American homes or markets. It seems to be substantially easier to use the kit. You can find the kits online if you don’t live near an Asian market.

The first couple of times we made it, the kit came with instructions in English or at least parts in English. This one did not, so I just Googled some instructions. Easy peasy. We’ve only used pork, but if you feel like using shrimp or something else, go for it. The web is full of ideas, and the dish is called “whatever you like,” after all.

You start by finely shredding 150 grams (about a third of a pound) of green cabbage. Or do what we did and just buy a bag of coleslaw mix.

Then, in a medium mixing bowl mix 80ml (just under 3 ounces) of water with the packet of yam powder. I assumed this was for thickening, but I’m not so sure now. I did find that it provides a smoky, nutty flavor.

After that, mix in the floury mix. Then add the cabbage, 1 egg, about 2 tablespoons, give or take, of green onions, sliced thinly lengthwise, and tenkasu (tempura flakes) and mix well. We also added about a tablespoon of pickled ginger. I highly recommend doing this, it adds such a beautiful, sharp and floral flavor, but you will have to buy it separate from the kit.

Heat a large, oiled skillet with a lid over medium-high heat to just under 400° F. Spread half of the batter in a round shape about 2 cm, or just under an inch, in thickness in the hot skillet.

Cook this for about 3 minutes uncovered, then add 1 1/2 slices of good, thick bacon cut in half to the top and press it down just a bit to help it stick. Traditionally you would use pork belly, which is delicious, but we like the extra saltiness and smoky flavor added by using bacon. I recommend using Wright brand bacon, or buying it from a butcher where you can specify that you want it sliced very thick.

Then flip your okonomiyaki over so that the bacon is on the bottom, place the lid on top, turn your heat up just a bit so that it reaches about 450° F, and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes until the bacon is cooked.

Take the lid off, flip it over again, so the bacon is on top, and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

At this point, we put the finished okonomiyaki in the oven and set it to 180° F to keep it warm while we followed the same process for the other serving. If your skillet is large enough, you could probably cut back on the cooking time by making them both at the same time.

Once they’re both cooked, place them meat side down on a plate and top with the toppings of your choice. You absolutely need okonomiyaki sauce, and Kewpie mayo.

Okonomiyaki sauce is a sweetish sauce that kind of reminds me of hoisin. You want to put on as much as you like and spread it all over or drizzle it on in a pretty pattern.
I really don’t like mayo, but Japanese mayo is much better than American mayo, and you need it on okonomiyaki. If you must use American mayo, use something high quality, like Just Mayo.

After that, add what you like. We added toasted sesame seeds, nori, or aonori flakes (seaweed), bonito flakes (shaved, dried tuna), and more ginger. Bonito flakes are not included in the kit, but Tim already had some. Tim added WAAAY more nori and bonito than I did because he loves seafood. I just want the subtle, underlying flavor profile to be present. He wants to be slapped in the face with it. If he didn’t have the bonito flakes, I would have just skipped it. The cat, however, tried to convince me that she needed dried tuna.

This one’s mine.

There you have it. A beautiful Japanese “snack”. We had ours for dinner because they are not light on the calories, but follow your heart, or stomach. Enjoy!

Want to know more about okonomiyaki? Click here for the history of the dish.

Want to buy a kit and some sauce? Click here for an online Japanese store.

Want to make it from scratch on your own, kits be damned? Click here for a recipe at Budget Bytes, one of my favorite food blogs. This recipe doesn’t seem to be authentic, but I’m sure it’s still delicious.