A Brief History of Hallee’s Galley and Why We Eat What We Eat
I’m Gregg and Hallee’s my gal. It is my honor to inaugurate and welcome you to Hallee’s Galley, a soon to be ever growing collection of absolutely wonderful and delicious and mostly biblically inspired recipes, and also some just plain good eating for both young and old.
What kind of recipes and cooking tips will you soon find here?
Our family follows a Levitical Diet. This fact may have raised your eyebrow as it certainly raises some eyebrows here in small town Kentucky. “What? You don’t eat pork? Not even bacon? How about lobster? Shrimp? Clams? Oysters? CATFISH?” I think the fact that we don’t eat catfish hurts their feelings the most, really.
I assure you that the recipes you will find here are going to be among the most delicious, the most memorable, and the most versatile you have ever tried despite the admitted absence of pork and bottom feeders. Hallee’s Galley and blessing others with biblically inspired recipes is one of the main reasons my beloved bride started this blog, a fact that makes my heart swell with love and admiration for her.
So, the question we most often field is WHY? Why do we do this Levitical Diet thing?
The Short Answer
If you expect a lecture because you’re sitting there reading this while finishing off a week old bag of BBQ flavor Pork Rinds that you’re dipping in a diet Coke until the frozen Hagendaas softens, I’m going to disappoint you. I cannot imagine a circumstance where any member of this house would ever lecture another person over the food choices he or she makes. (Romans 14:2-17) We do not, and would never, condemn anyone who does not follow our chosen diet. It is OUR choice and we live with the consequences just as each living soul has to make and live with the consequences of his or her own choices.
The short answer is that we observe this diet as a form of worship by which we show reverence to our Provider, by whose hand all things were made and all things are handed down to us. It is an expression of both respect and gratitude for His bounty and a tool He has entrusted to us to use in His ministry in feeding His sheep and bringing glory and honor to Him.
That’s right. Our diet is a ministry.
Now, I know you’re on the edge of your seat –and the ice cream is getting soft enough to scoop up with the pork rinds — so you have time to read a more lengthy explanation which is a bit more, well, LENGTHY, and hopefully at least somewhat interesting as it puts the short answer in better context.
As I said, I will not lecture. Instead, I will share the story of how we were led to grow, choose, prepare, eat, share, and glorify our heavenly Father with our chosen diet.
The (REALLY REALLY) Long Answer
As an aside, just about every single vegetarian, vegan, or convert to this or that fad diet I have ever known has felt compelled at one point or another to lecture me that I, “really shouldn’t eat [fill in the food] because,” usually followed by a lengthy sound-bite about how this or that evil corporation is responsible for killing seven acres of old growth in the South American rain-forest because I am thoughtlessly and carelessly consuming an all-beef hot dog. Listen. Even though our reasons for choosing to follow a very strict vegan diet while observing a fast, for example, are far more spiritual than political in nature, if you happen to be a strict vegan, vegetarian, or stick to a macro-biotic diet, the Daniel Fast friendly and Orthodox friendly recipes that you will soon find here in high numbers are going to come to you as a real blessing, and we are honored to share the blessing without the politics. Please take them as our gift.
To understand all of the context, you should first understand that our diet and health related lifestyle is a radical change from about 5 years ago. For example, when Hallee and I met over 7 years ago, we both loved — I mean loved — smoking cigarettes. We were pack or pack-and-a-half a day smokers. And, we loved junk food. Now, when I say “junk food” I am not talking about sweet tea and Big Macs. I am talking diet Dr. Pepper packed with Asparetame and extra high fructose corn syrup and a bacon wrapped Twinkie deep fried in trans fats and topped with artificially colored artificially flavored strawberry cool whip. YUM!
Not long after I returned from my first tour of duty in Afghanistan, after eating food for nearly a year that I will never discuss in public in deference to what are certainly your delicate sensibilities, I stumbled upon a book entitled “The ABS Diet” written by the editor of Men’s Health magazine. My experience with diets to that point had been that there were three types: starvation, ketonic, and fad. And my experience was that none of them were healthy. This book claimed to be different and based on 30 years of documented research so I gave it a read.
Far from describing a starvation diet (Eat one meal every other day and take diet pills in between!), or an unbalanced diet designed to put your metabolism into ketosis (Eat nothing but grapefruit! Eat nothing but meat!), or a crackpot fad diet based on arbitrary and fallacious criteria (What blood type are you? What’s your birth sign?) the book outlined an in-depth, methodically researched, scientific, time tested and proven –eating lifestyle– that went hand in hand with how human bodies were actually designed to take in and process nutrition.
Believe it or not, this secular book convicted me. I shared the highlights with Hallee and we started checking the ingredients at the grocery store. After only a few shopping trips, we realized just how many available foods contained artificial sweeteners (like high fructose corn syrup and Aspartame) and unhealthy toxins (like trans-fatty acids and MSG) and just how few did not.
Then, on the way home from a lone road trip one night I had a flat tire. When I changed it, I got stung by a tiny little insect. Later that night, I found myself in the ER in the throes of an out of control full blown allergic reaction and gasping for breath on the edge of anaphylaxis. This brought about the necessity of a chest x-ray. And that brought about the reality that my smoking days were going to come to an end one way or another. The x-ray showed that I had spots on the tops of my lungs.
As it turned out, about the same time, my lovely bride at the young age of merely 30 something needed a tonsillectomy. In the weeks leading up to that event, we decided that the day after her surgery, we would commit to quit smoking and start eating better. We reasoned that her throat would be too sore to want to smoke, and she would be on some mild pain killers that would take the edge off anyway, so why not?
It turned out to be a little more difficult. Quitting smoking wasn’t hard for me. It was very challenging for Hallee. Choosing and preparing and eating healthy foods apparently came as effortless for Hallee. It was harder for me.
As another aside, the first effect of quitting smoking I noticed was that I woke up feeling rested instead of feeling tired and craving a cigarette. The second effect was that since I wasn’t scorching my taste buds, the flavors of my food and drink were enormously more rich, detailed, and satisfying. I learned that while sleeping, our bodies make all the little repairs needed from a day of work, and our liver flushes out any toxins that came in during the day. When you smoke and eat unhealthy foods, you overload your body with toxins and your sleep cycle can’t keep up. Because my diet had improved just by eliminating most junk, and my sleep was actually working like sleep ought to work because I wasn’t smoking, less than two months after the surgery, I had lost about 20 pounds of fat and gained about 10 pounds of solid muscle. This, even though I was in my late thirties.
At some point, I read Dr. Jordan Rubin’s book entitled, “The Maker’s Diet.” The principles of that book were amazingly similar to the secular, “The ABS Diet” except that “The Maker’s Diet” also pointed out the biblical reasons for the dietary laws handed down in the Old Testament banning things like pork and bottom feeders. I followed up with his second book, “The Great Physician’s Rx for Health and Wellness.” This was also information that Hallee and I discussed and shared. We began purchasing beef and turkey substitutes for the pork products we so commonly use. We cut way down on the shrimp and lobster which we both loved.
At the time, we lived in a cozy ranch home in Tallahassee, Florida. The kitchen was so unbelievably small, that Hallee and I had to turn sideways to walk past each other in it and, even so, would have to squeeze by. Being newlyweds, we really didn’t mind the physical contact, but cooking that way every night takes patience and resourcefulness. We had to cover the sink with a cutting board in order to have any useful counter space. In the course of preparing a meal, Hallee would often have to do her prep work on the dining room table, which sat in a partitioned portion of our living room. It was so small, she literally had to step out of the kitchen to use the kitchen.
That tiny kitchen became known in our circle of friends as Hallee’s Galley, and Hallee’s Galley pumped out one incredible, delicious, healthy, wholesome, giant feast after another — despite its diminutive stature.
We hosted our pastor and his wife and children often. We hosted many friends from work and from church who were endlessly amazed at the meals and the biblical inspiration behind each of them. We fed many a missionary and visiting evangelist who always remembered the food.
The first time we unmistakably heard God’s voice was when He blessed us with the opportunity to minister with food. Wednesday nights at our church became the night for the Cuisine Team ministry. The plan was for Hallee to prepare good, wholesome food to be served from 5:30 to 6:45, just before Wednesday evening services. In this way, we reasoned, that families could leave work and school and arrive at the fellowship hall for a good, healthy, home-cooked meal and then go into the services and get fed. This would eliminate the need for busy parents to shuffle the kids into the car, throw a bag of burgers or tacos at them, and rush to church — or worse — not attend. We could feed those in need, or neighborhood children who lived near the church and who, sadly, rarely enjoyed a home-cooked meal. Members could make a small donation to cover the costs and members could confidently invite visitors to partake, knowing that they were in for a blessing that might bring them back.
I purchased a ton of groceries as my tithe that first week. That first Wednesday night, we fed 19. The fourth Wednesday night, we fed 49.
A few months into the ministry, our pastor announced that he believed that we, as a body, needed to fast and he proclaimed a Daniel Fast. Hallee designed a Daniel Fast friendly meal for the next two Wednesday nights and we fed around 60 each time and the numbers continued to climb.
By the time we left Florida, we were feeding nearly 100 every Wednesday night.
A few short months later, when we were house shopping for the house that would become our home in Kentucky, we knew we had found the right place when we walked into a 15 x 13 kitchen appointed with new appliances and square feet of potential and possibilities. If Hallee could turn loaves and fishes into feasts in “Hallee’s Galley” imagine what she could do in a real kitchen!
Feeding the Stars
Soon after we moved to Kentucky, Christian artist Eddie James came to perform at our new church and Hallee served the band her signature travel sandwiches. Her rationale was that they could eat some now and take some for the road. I am sure my gorgeous wife will share the recipe and technique but, in short, you take homemade bread and put all the ingredients together wrapped up tight for several hours to marinate and they are just the best sandwich you could ever imagine. If you ever wondered if kalamata olives taste good with roast beef, I am here to testify that, yes, they do. Anyway, when the Eddie James band came back nearly a year later, Mr. James got off the bus and immediately asked where Hallee was and could the band get some more travel sandwiches!
The Law of Moses
After the birth of our second son a year ago, we found, “The ABS Diet for Women” and Hallee became a thorough convert to our new eating lifestyle. The research in this book provided the current body of knowledge that she needed to meet her specific needs –which, at the time, included nursing an infant–while maintaining a healthy diet. She was able to nurse in a very healthy way while simultaneously shedding extra postpartum weight.
This year, Hallee reread the most authoritative 5 book set on dietary laws, starting with Genesis and going through Deuteronomy.
Combining the biblical principles with the secular research proved an easy fit for us. The reason I believe that we have continued and will continue is because it works for us. It may not work for everyone and we are not going to stand on a soap box and try to sell anyone snake oil proclaiming that we have found the end-all be-all miracle diet. We will proclaim that it works for us, satisfies us, and makes us happy, and blesses us and those around us.
We are convinced that we are not unique and that many of the recipes we have encountered can work for others, either as part of a healthy eating lifestyle, or good food for special occasions, or even as a form of worship or part of a hospitality ministry.
If you have always wondered if lamb would make a good substitute for pork or if beef bacon grease (tallow) keeps as well as lard, you will undoubtedly find the information that will arrive here as a gift and a blessing. If you are interested in starting a hospitality ministry like the Cuisine Team at your place of worship, or feeding a team of hungry softball players, or hosting a spread for a family reunion, I am confident that you will soon find recipes here that are simple, scalable, fast, easy, healthy, cook up in no time, and that your guests will remember for years as the most delicious meal they enjoyed in a long while.
So, the reason we observe our diet has been a journey of several small steps, like most of life is. Gradually, we were led to a place where we now honor God by eating the way we believe He intended us to eat and stewarding that which He has entrusted to us as wisely as we are able. We planted a small garden in the back yard. We choose organic produce as often as possible. We use whole grains and whole grain flour. We pickle and can and seal-a-meal and preserve and — I believe most importantly — we share the bounty that God has granted us so that food is part of a hospitality ministry that is very much a part of our day to day existence, interwoven into our very lifestyle.
I am so very honored to have had this opportunity to write this inaugural post in the Hallee’s Galley section of this blog. I am honored that she accepted my request that she become my bride those seven years ago, that I have the opportunity to serve as her sous chef or chief bottle washer on occasion, and that God entrusted me with the responsibility of providing for her and for our children. I pray that the love that we share and the God-given talent that she enjoys serves to bless you and inspire you in your journey.