This morning I got up at 7:00 a.m. and made pasta. Sweet Italian Sausage with Fennel. It's a red sauce and I've been working on this recipe for a few years. It's Tim's favorite and his 55th birthday is tomorrow (April 16th). I'll let the sauce simmer all day while I record in our new home studio and Tim works on booking the holiday tour. I'm upstairs, he's down, but we will both enjoy the aroma all day. At the end of our work day, we'll hit the gardens outside until we get super hungry. I'll come in and boil up noodles, stir the red sauce one last time, and serve it in a shallow bowl with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil. Tim will pick the wine. It will be a fabulous and memorable meal. I can't wait. I'll be thinking about this all day.
I love to cook. I love great food. When Tim and I go on vacation, rather than walking the beaches and touring the museums, we opt to find the best restaurants in the town. Sure, they might be ON the beach, or NEXT to a museum, but it's the food that will draw us there. We spend a lot of time researching and reading reviews, and have so much fun planning our day around our three square meals. Our dream job when we retire would be to travel the world and be food critics. We'd be good at it.
I didn't really discover food until I was around 30 years old. (Kind of like hymns in church.) The first time I knew food was really special was when I was recording over at Studio M at Minnesota Public Radio. I had to bring in food for the musicians, and Peter Ostroushko and Dean Magraw suggested their favorite Thai restaurant. Well, I had never had Thai food before, so what a treat when I experienced curry, coconut milk and lemon grass for the first time. Tim was there, and we were off and running with the discovery of new flavors and spices we'd never had before.
We started traveling more, which introduced us to new food cultures. We went to London and had Indian food for the first time. A few years later, we wanted to try French food, so we went to Paris. When our kids got a little older, we took them to Africa on a safari and visited three countries. (I had never had a filet with hot chili chocolate sauce on the top.)
Because we were discovering marvelous food, I wanted to come up with some solid dishes on my own. I got my confidence up and started inviting important guests to dinner. They expected a chef or a caterer that night, but most times it was just me. The first important guest I cooked for was for Governor Jesse Ventura (and his wife Terry). I don't remember what I prepared, but I do remember that they dined with us until almost midnight.
Growing up, both Tim and I have very vivid memories of our families in the kitchen. My mom cooked a beautiful hot breakfast for us every morning before school, and dinner every night pomptly at 6:00 p.m. It seems we were always at the kitchen table. She was good at soul food and did the best she could to make everyone happy. The only seasoning I ever remember my mom putting on our food was salt (my dad was not fond of any spices, not even pepper or garlic). Neither Tim nor I ever experienced natural herbs from a garden, or even a fresh cut of fish. Can you imagine . . . no Minnesota walleye! It was all meat and potatoes. We never had ethnic food. Chinese food was Chow Mein out of a can with the hard noodles (remember that?). We had one cook book, Betty Crocker's Cookbook, and a collection of note cards from my grandmother of great pot luck recipes from church, and that was pretty much it. There was no Whole Foods, no Trader Joe's, Byerly's or Lunds. No Costco. I think our grocery store was Safeway. Still, both our moms did the best they could with what they had and our best childhood memories to this day remain around the kitchen table.
Honestly, the best part of cooking is not the food. It is the fellowship . . . the laughing, the good conversation, and if you are at our home, the prayer that Tim will lead before the meal. He is quite known (and lovingly teased) for his thoughtful words, praise and thanks to God. I have never heard anyone pray like Tim.
So, thank you God for this wonderful food. Food, glorious food.
LORIE LINE'S SWEET ITALIAN SAUSAGE WITH FENNEL PASTA
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp good olive oil
one sweet yellow onion chopped
one fennel bulb chopped (with 1 Tbsp of the top fronds)
3 garlic cloves minced
one package (of 5) PREMIO sweet Italian sausage (remove casings)
one pound ground beef
2 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
one 15 oz can diced tomatoes
two 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cups of frozen peas
On the stove, saute the onion and fennel in a large saute pan on medium heat with the butter and olive oil. When they are translucent and slightly brown, add the garlic at the very end for just one minute (so it doesn't burn). Remove the onions, fennel and garlic from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Don't wash the pan.
In the same pan, saute the sausage and beef together. Add the salt and pepper. When the meat is cooked through, strain the liquid. Put back into the sauce pan and add the onion and fennel mix to it.
Add your tomatoes and tomato sauce and simmer on low. Add the Parmesan cheese and basil. Cook on low heat for about an hour, or just let it sit and barely simmer off and on all day. Add the frozen peas at the very end, right before you are ready to serve the dish. Season to taste.
Boil up your favorite pasta noodles and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil on the top.
SING THE WONDROUS LOVE OF JESUS
Last year I played for National Communion Day at a beautiful church here in Minneapolis. It was just wonderful and the congregation was so touched. Many of the members were in tears because they hadn't heard music like that in years (you know, the traditional hymns that we all used to sing . . . and still love). I hope to be invited again, as it was such an inspirational day.
Playing all by myself in a church setting may be my favorite thing to do. I always pray that the Holy Spirit will put the notes (and phrasing) in my hands to help me connect with the people. I typically write down a list of my favorite hymns (those that take you back in time and make you remember EXACTLY where you were and where you sat in the church pew, and with whom) and I play them one right after the other. I connect them in a medley, and just when you think I've played your favorite, I hope to play another one. I think my "best" musical talent is arranging and playing hymns. It is a gift God personally gave to me.
Which makes my story quite interesting.
When the pastor introduced me, he said he was thrilled to have Lorie Line performing that day, and that I grew up in the church playing these beautiful hymns all my life.
OK. I am Lorie Line, and I was performing that day, I grew up in a Christian home, but never did I ever play the piano at church.
I grew up in an a cappella church. Those of you who may not know what this is, it is a voices only congregation. Four-part harmony. Singing only. No instruments in the worship service. No piano, no organ. The church I grew up in is called the Church of Christ and they interpret the scripture literally which says to "sing with thankfulness in your hearts . . . " (Colossians 3:16). They believe that because there is no mention of instruments, that God intended voices only. Now I don't want to get too technical, but the Old Testament refers to instruments and worship, but the New Testament (the new law, which they follow) doesn't. So, this particular church has a cappella singing only.
You might think I suffered terribly, being a young pianist and only able to sit and sing at church. But I didn't. You see, members of the Church of Christ start singing and learning music when they are babies, when you can barely utter a word or needless to say, carry a melody. You start learning how to sing other parts (alto, tenor, bass) by the time you are seven. Because the congregations are typically small, EVERYONE sings, and let me tell you, you have never heard 80 people sound like 500 people ever before if you've never heard this type of congregational singing. It is glorious.
So, growing up in the Church of Christ, you don't know anything else. It's like growing up Catholic, or Mormon. You come to only know that church. And a cappella music was all I knew.
Until I met a good Lutheran boy. Tim.
I was 28-years old, and Tim took me to Las Vegas to meet his folks. We were engaged. We flew there for the weekend, and upon arrival, his mom inquired about my piano playing and if I would play for their church service that Sunday. Janet was excited. I gasped, and sheepishly told her I had never played in church. Honestly, I was slightly embarrassed. (How do you explain that one to the brand new mother-in-law in one short sentence?) I had never played hymns before. And here I was, almost 30 years old.
Until then, no one had ever asked me to play in church. But I thought I could do it. Tim encouraged me, and I said "yes." (Would it be sinful? Is it self-righteous? Oh, I was nervous.) It was the very first time I wrote down a list of my favorite hymns, just like I do today, and that weekend I played for a bunch of very nice Lutherans at Christ Lutheran Church, Las Vegas, Nevada. It was 1986.
After that Sunday afternoon, I made a very big decision in my life. I was going to head in a new direction. I was going to play the piano for God. I was going to "sing the wondrous love of Jesus." On the piano.
A few months later, after we got married and arrived in Minneapolis, we lived in a cute little apartment in Eden Prairie while we built a small house. Down the road was a congregation called Edina Colonial Church and one Sunday we went to hear Dr. Arthur Rouner speak. He was supposed to be "famous" and we were intrigued. Well, to my surprise they had a full orchestra that day. When the music started, I started to tremble. I could not control myself. I shook all over and sobbed. I was afraid I was going to fall on the floor I was so full of emotion. A woman sitting next to me patted me on the knee. "There, there." She must have thought I was the greatest sinner of all.
No one knew but me. No one knew where I'd come from. I had attended church three times a week my whole life, but had never heard instrumental music played like this ever before. I was sitting at the gates of heaven.
A couple of weekends later, we walked across the street from our apartment to Wooddale Church. I met the music pastor, David Bullock, who played the violin, and asked him what it took to play at church every once in a while. He agreed to audition me. And the rest is history. I started to play and share my gift on a regular basis right across the street from our home, at Wooddale Church. (Funny enough, Dave eventually became an original member of the Pop Chamber Orchestra and ended up touring and working for me for years.)
After that, I auditioned and got the job at Dayton's. And if you've read my previous blogs, you know that story. God had His hands on my steering wheel. And now I was going 100 mph.
Today, I still visit the Church of Christ as a guest. I love the singing and do miss the music. But God had a different calling for me. He gave me this awesome gift and now I am thrilled to share it with others.
I always wonder why He puts us on a certain road. For me, I think all those years, as a child growing up and singing a cappella music, I was just learning and developing a good ear. Perfect pitch actually. God was teaching me how to arrange four parts of harmony. He was arranging it all in my head. And I was listening.
Like the pastor, I think there are a lot of fans who just assume I grew up playing the piano in church my whole life.
Now you know the true story.
Ms. Line has recorded and published hundreds of arrangements of hymns and is publishing her seventh album and music book, Heritage Seven, coming this spring. She has played hymns in church now for half her life, 28 years. To this day she remains friends with David Bullock and Dr. Arthur Rouner.
You cannot believe how many social gatherings Tim and I attend (right in our own backyard) where people have no idea what we do. We spend the entire evening answering questions, explaining how we make a living in the entertainment business. I'm the introvert, so Tim takes the lead. "Lorie plays the piano. She has about 40 CDs and has published 40 books of music. She has a pretty famous Christmas show and we tour the United States, but we're mostly known right here in the midwest."
After people get it that I play the piano, it is pretty much the same run-down. They look back to Tim. Buckle up . . . here we go. "And what do you do?" It's always funny listening to Tim downplay his role in our lives. He tells the intrigued person how he handles everything from "light bulbs to legal." Tim is modest. (People who know us well know he does EVERYTHING in our business.) "So you manage Lorie?" Tim has his candid response. "She's unmanageable." They laugh. The next follow-up question is always the same. "Oh, so do you go on tour with Lorie?" And this is where I butt in and say, "no, I go on tour with him. He's in charge." Back to Tim. "Do you play an instrument?" He doesn't. Now Tim and I look at each other with the same non-verbal message . . . time to move on. I don't want to sound like I'm full of myself or "too good" to deal with all of this, but we have been at this for a very long time and this is a typical exchange in almost every public setting. As we walk away, Tim always mutters under his breath, "people need to get out more. They must live under a rock."
Because we are in the public eye, this puts all of my family in the public eye. The most common comment said to my parents is, "you must be so proud of your daughter." My dad has always had a good sense of humor and his response is always the same. "She's the best investment I ever made."
When I first started piano lessons with Mrs. Day, they cost $24 a month ($6 a lesson). When I went to Mrs. Jack, the price increased to $28 a month. Then, at age 10 I moved to Alleta Gray, the best in town, and my parents forked out $32 a month, or $8 a lesson. It was certainly an investment for my parents and I remember them tearing out that check in the checkbook every month and handing it to me. To this day, I so appreciate it. I think about that a lot. I did the math and figure my parents probably spent a total of about $3800 for my lessons.
When I was 15 years old, my dad went into his own business. Times went from lean . . . to really lean. I remember funny things. We'd mix Carnation instant powder with real milk to make it go further. My mom would buy a bag of pinto beans for $1 and we'd feed seven peple an entire dinner of just beans and cornbread. (It was one of my favorite meals and to this day, I love having a pot of beans on the stove.) Sunday afternoons after church we'd dine on one baked chicken, corn we had frozen from my aunt's farm that previous summer, and English muffins from the day old discount bread store.
My dad was a paralegal and in these days my mom worked at home for him as his secretary. In the evenings, at the top of the stairs she would sit at an old oak desk and type all of his dictation and legal reports. (Clack, clack, clack, clack. Return.) I remember these years well as they went without for a very long time. My mom sewed for all of us, but not herself. My dad had two sports coats and a few pair of slacks to mix and match. When his two pairs of shoes (black and brown) got a hole in them, he had them resoled. He'd do this twice before splurging and buying a new pair.
While all of this was going on, I was a sophomore and gave my first public piano recital. It was held at my high school theater. I had studied with Alleta Gray for five years and she really pushed me. That year I tackled and performed seven huge pieces. The two that were most memorable and challenging were Chopin's Revolutionary Etude and Dohnanyi's Rhapsody in C major. I really didn't like these compositions, but forced myself to learn them. And Alleta didn't give me options. To this day, I still have these two pieces somewhat in my hands.
After that big year, Alleta sensed our family needed the extra $32 a month, so she made a big announcement at the end of one of my lessons when I brought her my monthly check. "This is the last time you have to pay me. I'm putting you on scholarship." I think she just wanted to make sure that finances wouldn't get in the way and I'd have to quit. She shared my dream and hoped I'd get to go to college. So, my final two years of studying with her were free.
My dad retired at the early age of 55. Ten years later, Tim and I employed him. When we toured, he and his wife Anne would come to Minneapolis from Florida and stay for two months. They packed orders, watched our kids, and some years even hopped on the bus and helped us sell CDs in the lobby at the shows. At the end of the run, we'd have a festive and elaborate Christmas and they'd go back home the next day. It was so much fun.
My dad went on his last tour two years ago at the age of 80. He is now officially retired.
Lorie Line Music, Inc. employed him for 15 years.
So, yes, now that I think about it, my dad's joke might be totally true. I just might have been "the best investment he ever made."
PHOTOGRAPHY: Lorie with Alleta Gray at her sophomore recital. Also, Lorie's concert program, Valentine's Day, February 14, 1974.
The red dress was made by Lorie's mom.
Click below to read past blogs!
MY CHILDHOOD HOME
THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
PRESENTING MISS LORIE PORTER IN RECITAL
HELLO ALLETA GRAY
THE ELKS CLUB
AND THE WINNER IS . . .
HOW I MET TIM
MY FIRST PIANO TEACHER
THE TOP 10 CHEAP BEAUTY PRODUCTS I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT
THE TOP 5 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN MY LIFE