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Simple Advent Sandwiches

November 28, 2011

The month before Christmas is a busy time in our culture. There’s Christmas preparations to do (gifts, baking, decorating), events to attend (work parties, church parties, family gatherings, children’s concerts and plays) along with one’s regular responsibilities of being an adult with people to care for, which as we well know, is plenty on its own.

Frankly, I think it’s too much. There’s too much to do and too many expectations, especially considering that the four weeks proceeding Christmas have traditionally been a time of fasting and reflection for Christians. The season of Advent is supposed to be time of waiting and preparation, not a time of worry and preoccupation (“Should I put up three trees this year? Do I have enough gifts for my children? What should I wear to that office party…”).

One of my favorite authors on the subject of the Christian calendar writes the following, “The season of Advent invites us to underscore and understand with a new patience that very feminine state of being, waiting. Our masculine world wants to blast away waiting from our lives. Instant gratification has become our constitutional right and delay an aberration We equate waiting with wasting. . . . As in a pregnancy, nothing of value comes into being without a period of quiet incubation: not a healthy baby, not a loving relationship, not a reconciliation, a new understanding, a work of art, never a transformation. Rather, a shortened period of incubation brings forth what is not whole or strong or even alive. Brewing, baking, simmering, fermenting, ripening, germinating, gestating are the feminine processes of becoming and they are the symbolic states of being which belong in a life of value, necessary to transformation” (Gertrude Mueller Nelson, To Dance with God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration.)

So in lieu of fancy, complicated recipes this week, here are three simple vegetarian sandwiches (to honor the tradition of fasting during Advent) to make for supper in the weeks proceeding our celebration of Christ’s birth. When you eat dinner with your family, consider eating by the candlelight cast from your Advent wreath. It will give you and your family space as you consider what it means to wait in darkness for God’s light.

Bean and Cheese Sandwiches with Salsa

Prepared salsa OR a mixture of the following seasoned with salt and pepper:

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 small white onion, chopped

1/3 C. chopped fresh cilantro

2 T. olive oil

2 T. lime juice

1 T. minced serrano chiles with seeds (optional, of course)

Sandwiches:

6 T. olive oil

1 C. chopped white onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 15-16 oz. cans black beans, drained

1 t. ground cumin

8 small round french rolls, about 3” in diameter, cut horizontally in half

1 1/2 lbs. Mexican Manchego cheese OR Monterey Jack cheese, thinly sliced. (Manchego is better, but Monterey Jack is much cheaper and still good.)

Heat oil in a large nonstick or iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add beans and cumin to skillet. Using potato masher, coarsely mash beans. Stir until bean mixture is heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Place bread halves on large baking sheet, cut side up. Broil until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Divide bean mixture among bread halves, then top with cheese. Broil sandwiches until cheese melts, watching closely to avoid burning, about 2 minutes. Serve passing salsa separately. (If you have a small family, the bean filling can be served as sandwiches again, another day.)

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