Becoming A Tender Person: How Butchers and Chefs Teach Us About Ourselves
The word tender likely leads you to think of a quiet moment between a husband and wife, a loving embrace between a parent and a child, a romantic dinner or song lyrics sung by Elvis Presley, Jackson Browne, Lionel Richie or Usher. In a culinary sense around the kitchen, tenderness isn’t quite so gentle or romantic. It describes the texture of pieces of meat. In fact, the process of tenderizing meat, either with seasoning or marinades, or by force with a mallet or meat hammer, is a thing of chemistry, brute force and actually transforming the physical make up of the meat itself.
Tenderizing Meat: The Blow of the Hammer, Penetration of the Knife or Exposure to the Process
Meat is basically tight strands made of muscle tissue. The muscle of any animal is intended for strength, skeletal support and mobility. Strong muscle is essential for optimal functioning. Think of any cut of beef, pork or chicken, each is made up of strands of muscle fiber bound together by connective protein filaments called collagen.
Tenderizing meat means breaking apart, flattening or elongating the tightly bound strands of muscle as well as softening the collagen until it turns into gelatin.
The softened gelatin soaks into the meat, tenderizing it and adding moisture to make the meat juicy. In the kitchen tenderization is either accomplished through physical means like pounding and perforation or through the chemical reactions caused when meat is exposed to the acids in marinades and powdered meat tenderizers.
There are two reasons to pound meat. One is to make the meat more tender by breaking up connective tissue when preparing particularly tough cuts of meat. The other is to flatten the meat so it can be cut into uniform portions and cooked in a shorter amount of time when broiling or frying the meat. Using a culinary mallet or hammer to “pound out” pieces of meat is a routine part of select recipes such as the pork tenderloin sandwich, chicken-fried steak, palomilla, and schnitzel, in order to make the cut of meat wider and thinner.
A Jaccard press meat tenderizer utilizes several rows of thin, penetrating blades, honed to a razor sharp edge on two sides that butchers or chefs press into select cuts of beef, pork or chicken, and even venison and other game, to create a series of small channels that break up the tight strands of tissue. The multiple slashes also open access to the center of the cut of meat creating channels for chemical tenderizers and marinades to penetrate the heart or center of the meat prior to cooking.
Natural chemical tenderizers can give any cut a more tender texture. One popular tenderizer is papain, which comes from the papaya tree. Papain works by breaking down meat proteins using a chemical process called hydrolysis. Meat proteins are very large molecules. In hydrolysis, hydrogen atoms and hydroxide molecules attach themselves to the larger meat protein molecules and break the large proteins down into smaller molecules. The resulting smaller meat proteins have a softer texture.
Tenderizing Me: The Blow of the Hammer, Penetration of the Knife or Exposure to the Process
Often times the actions of others and circumstances beyond our influence or control serve as a meat mallet or a Jaccard press our our soul.
Without much debate, we can agree that each of us have many life experiences in common; either having been told our skills and efforts are no longer desirable by a partner, spouse or employer or experiencing loss, lack of laughter or less love than we needed to thrive in the moment. We’ve either been pounded flat by the unexpected loss of a loved one, been stretched thin by the demands of our immediate family combined with serving as the caregiver for an aging parent, or perhaps been made juicy with the tears associated with the staggering trauma of divorce or devastation of being terminated from the work that defined our lives and supported our lifestyle. Suffice it to say, time spent living in a fallen world means we’ve been exposed to imperfect people and thereby frequently pierced to the center of our heart by the words or actions of someone we thought once loved and appreciated us individually.
I can’t miss connection to my own emotional, behavioral and spiritual formation or mistake the parallels between the tools and processes used to tenderize meat for a specific recipe and the force and processes required to penetrate the heart of human nature in order to tenderize us for specific leadership roles, influence and impact in life.
How about you?
Consider for a moment how God serves as the chef of our lives to prepare us like an artisan handling a select cut of prime beef? Or perhaps similarly during different seasons in life, He acts as a master butcher skillfully carving the experiences of our lives into select cuts, using His tools and techniques to tenderize the heart of our stubborn human nature according to His divine purpose, chosen very specifically, for our lives?
Seldom are we receptive to a just little dash of divine seasoning or patiently soak in the holy marinade of God’s presence or His word.
Let’s be honest.
Do we typically allow the teachings of Holy Scripture to penetrate the center of our hearts and do the most work to soften and tenderize our spirit during the tranquility of prosperity or seasons of flourishing in our lives?
I know I typically don’t.
But consider this. Could the most difficult seasons of life merely be the seasoning used to shape, tenderize and prepare us for a very specific recipe? Or perhaps the blunt force trauma of life is actually a divine meat mallet simple breaking loose the well-fed, perfectly aged, yet tightly wound muscle of ego and selfish character that has developed over a lifetime?
Typically the self-reflection that leads one to do the humbling work of personal transformation comes well after we stumble in our relationships, suffer heart break or find the circumstances of life nearing a dead end.
Instead of patiently allowing God to work on the tight muscle of our soul and the human nature of our heart. We frequently opt for rushing through life and being exposed to the searing fire of trials, traumas or temptations before we’ve been tenderized and properly shaped.
The brutal truth is that at times we require God to use the culinary mallet or Jaccard press to flatten our spirit and pierce our heart before we are truly prepared to receive His power and purpose.
Aligning the Big Idea with Scripture: The Blow of the Wind, Penetration of the Holy Spirit and Exposure to the Truth
The second chapter in the Book of Acts contains a story describing the very moment when the earliest Believers first had their hearts pierced like the sharp knives of a Jaccard press. In the the moment when the Spirit of the Lord was revealed to the Apostles and others in Jerusalem, it is recorded that they felt “a rushing wind all around them.” This penetrating power left them in humble awe. They saw each other differently and heard each other differently. The penetrating work of Holy Spirit on the muscle of their human spirit tenderized their human nature. They realized all the things they had in common as Believers.
The Apostle Peter was the first to stand up and call the others to clarity around what they had all just experience, boldly and urgently saying to his fellow Jews,
“All of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight… the Son of God, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of the Father, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, He was handed over to die. He was pinned to a cross and they killed him. But God untied the ropes of death and raised him up. Death was no match for him!”
Peter went on speaking for a long time, urging them over and over,
“Get out while you can; allow God to change you hearts, get out of this sick and stupid culture!”
And it is written,
“Their hearts were pierced by what they had seen and heard. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Excerpted from Acts 2:14-47 (The Message).
Take Aways and Practice: Life Application and Further Reflection
Unlike a choice cut of meat made more tender after being pounded flat or repeatedly pierced, our human nature typically gets harder the more we experience trauma. Our human psyche is hard wired to survive threats and to build resistance to external forces or threats over time. This is one of life’s great paradoxical lessons; the more we are pierced and beaten flat without God the more hardened our inner core becomes. Whereas the more we face our circumstances and the experiences of life with God the more tender and receptive our spirit becomes to God’s divine work in and through us.
How is God tenderizing you? Have you begun and committed to the sustained work required to submit your human nature and will to His spirit and to His perfect will for your life? Have you yet been tenderized such that you to see all that we have in common with other Believers and accept the call to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself” ?
Talk these questions over with your life team, stretch group, spiritual advisor, life coach or a personal partner whom you trust.
If you have unanswered questions or need prayer, email PrayerRequest@FlexSolutions.llc
How Does Meat Tenderizer Affect Meat? Brynne Chandler. https://www.livestrong.com/article/522809-how-does-meat-tenderizer-affect-meat/
Is There A Downside to Tenderizing Meat?. https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/42976/is-there-a-downside-to-tenderizing-meat
What Makes Meat “Tender?”. Don Glass, September 18, 2013
Acts 2:1-47 The Message (MSG)
Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+12%3A30-31&version=NIV
Dr. Mark Kolkman uses the soul of story to reveal the heart of what matters.
Mark is an influencer whose reputation for integrity, empathy and consistent reliability spans the Chicago metropolitan market for almost 30 years. A personal brand ambassador with a dynamic flare for public speaking, he has taught in the classroom, coached on the field and coached or consulted in the marketplace and in life. Mark has delivered commencement addresses before audiences of more than 5000, preached sermons to congregations of 50, 150 and 500 and has led professional development seminars for groups of all sizes. His engagements range from keynote speeches for small businesses, institutions in private sector, schools, colleges and universities to local civic organizations. Mark also leads daylong workshops for businesses and retreats for church leaders tailored to outcomes based on the select needs of his clients. In any setting, Mark inspires his audience with a vivid call to action and authentically weaves the leadership lessons of his lifetime with the practical tenets of faith, people-centered ethics and values based on conscious leadership.
You can learn more or follow Mark anywhere you connect socially @DrMarkKolkman or email him directly at mark@FlexSolutions.llc.