4 years ago one cold January afternoon, our cars pulled into the driveway at almost the same moment- coming from work and from gathering kids from school. It turned out to be like no other day. It was a watershed moment for our family. As Asher walked up to the front door, he saw stuff all over the floor inside and glass shattered at the back of the house. Our house had been robbed. We started frenetically moving about the house, checking every room. Someone had ransacked our house and taken many of our possessions, especially Asher’s electronics. When we saw that my jewelry was still in place but the gatorade from the refrigerator was gone, we had a hunch that it must been teenagers who did this. Which was even more complex and heartbreaking.
It was a Wednesday and we host a small group from our church at our house each week for a meal and group-time. I had German Chocolate birthday cupcakes on the table that I had made in honor of a group member, Hannah’s birthday. The menu was Asian. People had signed up to bring various items that they would cook or prep or pick up for the meal. Dave texted the group and let them know that “..group will not be happening as normal, because our house was robbed and ransacked and we have just called the police- but we would welcome you to come over and be in this with us. And bring your food, if you have it already, because dinner would be helpful.”
And come they did. Within minutes, people converged on our house, helping, hugging, setting up dinner, loving us so well. We ate a table full of all manner of Asian food. People worked in pairs with each family member to re-assemble each room. The mattresses had been pulled onto the floor, the dressers overturned. In this vulnerable state of being, we welcomed in our people- to help, to reassure, to bear witness to the shock, sadness, loss, overwhelm, and questions.
Patrick, a young man in our group, had made Mango Sticky Rice for the meal. I came down from repairing the play room upstairs and made a dish of it. It was comfort in a bowl. The creamy, sweet, fruity treat that was from another land was such a gift.
Within days, we had put back the pieces of our house. Within months, we had shaken off the trepidation of walking into the empty house. And within a year, it was a memory…though not ever resolved. (The case was kept private, due to it involving minors. Though I desperately longed to meet with the guys and have a good listen and talk with them. To tell them of what their life could look like if they changed their trajectory…or not. To humanize who we were and that these electronics were the gifts given to my 8th grade son for his birthday, and Christmas weeks before and items he had saved up to buy.)
It was a significant marker in our lives as a family and for our faith- especially Asher’s. Many lessons were solidified:
Home is the people, not the stuff.
God is faithful and true even when you are unjustly treated.
Crises can bring us together rather than separate us.
Each January, as the day approaches of our robbery “anniversary”, we remember these truths and the gift that community is when we go through hard things, and we make Thai Mango Sticky Rice.
Here is the recipe and a video of the chef making it. It will inspire you to go for it!
Thai Sticky Rice with Mango– inspired by Patrick, recipe by Jen Phanomrat
2 cups of sweet or glutinous rice
1 can of coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar (add more if you want it sweeter)
2 pinches of salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 ripe mangoes, sliced on diagonal
Sesame seeds, for garnish
(you can do this part ahead- it’s the time-consuming part) Rinse and drain rice, until the water clears. Soak rice for at least 1 hour. It is best to leave overnight if you want it to cook faster. Boil water in a steamer, and pour rice inside of cheesecloth and place in steamer covered. Check after 10 to 15 minutes to see if the grains are tender. If not, cook longer and taste again. It should be chewy but not hard in the middle of the grain. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Meanwhile, combine coconut milk, sugar, and salt in a pot and bring to a slight boil. Pour half of coconut creme sauce into rice, stir well, and let it cool and soak for about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, make a cornstarch slurry by combining the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon cold water. Stir into the rest of the sauce, and heat on low until thickened.
Peel mango, slice around pit, and slice on a diagonal. Serve mango slices along rice, sprinkle sesame seeds, and ladle additional sauce on rice and mangoes.
This dish is a sweet, creamy, and unique treat.