Friday, February 25, 2022

Making Haystacks

While researching a story I was writing, I came across an article that caught my attention. I am always curious about how people view my church. The following paragraph in the essay intrigued me. "Many Seventh-day Adventists adhere to specific lifestyle principles that can make them stand out from those in other Christian denominations. Whether it's going to church services on Saturday or the popular Adventist entrée of "Haystacks." Haystacks are a popular Adventist meal, especially with large gatherings. This is because haystacks are made from various toppings with the base of corn chips, beans, or rice. They are quite similar to taco salads, but the name "haystacks" is specific to Adventism."

When people of other faiths talk about Adventists and their distinctives, I am used to hearing about things like The Sabbath, Soul Sleep, Vegetarianism, Prophecy, and Ellen White. But I had never heard of haystacks as an Adventist distinctive. "Do people of other faiths not eat haystacks," I wondered? It seems they do not. "How can that be," I pondered. Haystacks represent Adventist culture; people have eaten similar things, but the term is new. Haystacks are served when Adventist churches, schools, clubs, or communities gather together. They're popular because they can be made in many ways, which means everyone is bound to make one they'll enjoy.

On the website, I found a recipe for Haystacks – Seventh Day Adventist Style. The ingredient list read, "1 bag corn chips, 3 cans vegetarian beans or make your own (black, pinto, kidney, or chili), 1 head lettuce, 1 bunch green onions, 4 tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1 green bell pepper, 3 avocados, 1 pound cheddar cheese, shredded, 1 container Sour Cream, 1 jar Salsa, 1 bottle Ranch Dressing." The instructions said, "these are served buffet style. Heat beans until hot. Chop all vegetables and put in separate serving bowls. Shred cheese into its own dish. Place chips on plate and crush. Add remaining ingredients in any order. Top with sour cream salsa and ranch dressing. Serves 4-6. It's an excellent meal and I'm very surprised that it is not more well known. It's been popular in Seventh-Day Adventist church circles for decades but is little known outside the church."

That recipe is close to the haystacks that we make at our house. We always use pinto beans, although they will probably have added chili powder and maybe some grillers crumbles. Just add sliced olives and cilantro to the ingredient list, and you have the perfect haystacks. Everyone makes their haystacks a little different. A unique perspective of the Adventist haystack is the biblical symbolism that can be drawn from them, and it's best explained in this quote from an Adventist Review article. "We believe the symbol of the haystack represents something significant to help us convey the message of The Haystack: that each person can bring something to the table. Everyone has something to contribute, and each person can bring an ingredient, and yet we can create our own individual, and tasty, haystack. It's a great illustration of how we can be as a church."

I will permit you to make your haystack the way you want to, but there is only one way for me. I must have the proper ingredients, and more importantly, they must go in the appropriate order. Start with a large helping of Fritos corn chips. Not tortilla chips. Not generic corn chips. It must be Fritos to make the perfect haystack. Next, add the beans. I prefer pinto beans made in a crockpot with a chili seasoning mix. The cheese goes on top of the beans. The order is essential because putting the cheese on the warm beans melts the cheese and optimizes the haystack experience. You can add the veggies in any order that pleases you. For me, the final topping must be salsa. 

People other than Adventists eat haystacks, but they call them by different names such as crazy nachos, taco salad, or Frito pie. A restaurant chain, Petro's Chili and Chips, serves a haystack as their signature dish, the Petro. They describe the dish this way, "At the bottom of our Original Petro is a Fritos Corn Chips or Pasta base. Next, we ladle our signature layer of your choice between our signature chicken or plant-based chili. Finally, customize your Petro with cheddar and jack cheese, diced tomatoes, fresh green onions, sour cream, and to top it off the optional black olives and jalapeños! Be sure to also ask about our amazing Premium Petro's with additional exciting toppings!"

Once, a friend of mine was at a restaurant with his vegetarian son. The boy looked through the menu, wondering what he could have to eat. My friend suggested the taco salad, removing the beef. His son wanted to know what a taco salad was. "It's similar to haystacks," my friend answered. The waitress gasped and looked up from her order pad. "That's what my parents call it," she said with wide eyes. She left for a moment, and when she returned, my friend asked her, "Did you by chance grow up an Adventist?" "Yes!" She said. "Honestly, I don't know of any other group of people that calls these delectable edibles "Haystacks!"

Have you ever wondered why haystacks are such a part of the Adventist culture? Were they served at camp meetings in the 1800s? Did Ellen White serve them at Elmshaven? It may seem like haystacks have always been a part of the Adventist culture, but it wasn't until the 1950s that they became a part of Adventism. A Seventh-day Adventist named Ella May Hartlein came up with the recipe for haystacks in the early 1950s. She and her husband lived at Arizona Academy (before it became known as Thunderbird Academy), where Mr. Hartlein was dean of boys. The young family enjoyed dining out at a local Mexican restaurant, and they were fans of the tostadas. Before long, the Hartleins moved to Idaho, then to Iowa, serving at an academy there. With no Mexican restaurants in those areas, the Hartleins missed their beloved tostadas.

The dish you are familiar with started in Mrs. Hartlein's kitchen. She devised a concoction of chips, beans, cheese, and vegetables to satisfy her family's desire for Mexican food. For a picnic, faculty women at the academy got together to figure out what to serve the crowd. Mrs. Hartlein had a suggestion. "I'll tell you something we've had," she said. And out came the story of how she began using Fritos for tostada shells and adding beans, lettuce, other veggies, and cheese. "So this is what I suggested to the other faculty ladies to serve at the picnic," said Hartlein. The kids thought it was terrific, so the school adopted the recipe and served it every week.

The local newspaper approached faculty members at the academy to share recipes for a small feature article. One of the ladies turned in a recipe for Mrs. Hartlein's tostada-inspired dish and labeled it "Hartlein Special." From there, the dish began to spread through Adventism, although it is unclear when people began referring to it as a "haystack."

Many years later, when a local pastor first came to Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland, where Mrs. Hartlein was a member, she introduced herself to him. He immediately asked, "Are you connected with Hartlein Special?" The dish, now known as haystacks, is loved the world over. It is the most beloved of uniquely Adventist foods.

I want to tell you another story that is very important to the development of haystacks. In the summer of 1932, the United States was in the grips of The Great Depression. The stock market had declined by nearly 90 percent since 1929.  Twenty-four percent of the workforce was unemployed. Bread lines and soup kitchens were commonplace in America's towns and cities. Farmers could not afford to harvest their crops and left them rotting in the fields while people were going hungry. Those that were lucky enough to have steady employment saw their wages cut or their hours reduced to part-time. Many people who had savings lost them as nearly half the country's banks failed. 

It was July 10, 1932, and Charles Doolin was sitting in his family's San Antonio café, Highland Park Confectionary. His parents started the business as a candy store and later added ice cream, soup, and sandwiches. Customers were few, and the café was struggling. Charles was looking for something to increase sales and keep the business from closing. As he read the classifieds in the San Antonio Express, he saw a short ad that caught his eye. "Corn chips business for sale. A new food product making good money."

When Doolin responded to the ad, he met Gustavo Olguin, a Mexican cook who perfected a curly chips recipe made by frying corn masa. Gustavo needed cash to move back to Mexico, and Doolin was impressed with the chips. Charles pawned his mother's wedding ring and paid Olguin 100 dollars for the recipe and a list of 19 clients who had been buying the fried chips. 

Charles and his mother started making the new corn chips every night in their kitchen at home. They could make about ten pounds of chips every evening. The fresh corn chips became a popular side dish to go with the soups and sandwiches in their café. Charles named his new chips, Fritos, and started putting them in wax paper bags to sell in local stores. Within a year, he had invented a machine to increase production. The corn masa came out in ribbons and was cut with scissors as it dropped into the hot oil. The operation moved from his kitchen into his garage, and soon he was producing one hundred pounds of Fritos an hour.

Before long, Charles was driving his Ford Model A all over Texas, selling his Fritos. There was no money for a salesman or even for Charles to sleep in hotels. On his selling trips, he would sleep in his car. He said, "I slept in front of the best hotels in the state of Texas." Charles innovated new ways to get his product in front of consumers. He invented the clip rack that hung many bags of chips in a small space and talked stores into putting these new racks near the cashier. He understood impulse buying.
Charles' new product and his innovations in production and sales made Fritos a success. By 1955, the company owned more than fifty production plants. In 1961, The Frito Co. merged with the H.W. Lay & Company, and the new Frito-Lay Company became the largest snack food company in the United States. Last year, sales for Frito-Lay were up 6.5%, to over 16 billion dollars. Fritos has gone from ten-pound batches made in the Doolin family kitchen to sales worldwide. Frito-Lay sells twenty-nine snack brands in more than 100 countries. 

When you go through a cashier's line in most stores, you are very aware of Charles Doolin's impulse buying strategy. Rows of candy, gum, and other snacks meet your eye. I'm sure that most of us have bought something that we didn't intend to because of the strategic impulse buying layout that most retailers use. Impulse buys are relatively universal, with a study from finding that 84 percent of Americans say they have made impulse buys. The same survey found that over 20 percent of Americans have made an impulse purchase of over 1,000 dollars. Being impulsive can have a significant impact on your life. 

Impulsive shopping and impulsive Christian living have a lot in common. Neither one is the best way to approach life. Making a good decision is essential whether you are shopping or making crucial moral life choices. The human tendency to be impulsive is the source of many bad choices. When we decide quickly with very little thought or planning, we often make a poor choice.

Ideas and actions are continually presenting themselves to our minds. The best approach is to use time, thought, research, advice, and Christian ethics and morals to filter the good ideas from the bad ones. Nearly all of us have sometimes bypassed the usual filters and acted on impulse. The idea seemed so great, the urge so strong, that we immediately jumped at the thought. At times our impulsiveness works out all right, but often we pay a heavy price.

God wants us to be thoughtful and intentional in our relationship with Him. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, "Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God." God also wants us to temper our impulsiveness in dealings with other people. "He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly." Proverbs 14:19

Waiting is one of the most challenging things we do. We are all born with an instinct for survival, which tells us that whenever there is a problem, a desperate need, or a chance for us to obtain some great desire, we must act immediately. Act before anyone else, get there ahead of everyone else, and don't let any grass grow under your feet. Abraham Lincoln said, "things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle."

When you always feel that you must act immediately, you reveal that you believe everything depends upon you. "If I don't act soon, my whole life will fall apart. If I don't move now, I lose everything." Such an attitude suggests you have zero faith that God can hold your blessing in place for you. You think that blessing is so fragile, so fleeting, and so transitory that only by the greatest haste will you be able to receive it. But God wants us to wait for His blessings; wait for wisdom; wait for Him to open doors for us; wait for answers to prayer. Impulsive, hasty people know nothing of this waiting. For them, it is always now, now, now.

 Our sinful nature is highly impulsive. Words flow freely from our lips without giving much thought to their consequences. We make purchases we cannot afford and promises we can't keep. We make imprudent decisions. Our impulses get us into trouble. You've noticed, I'm sure, that things aren't always what they appear to be and that making impulsive decisions based on only a few facts can often get you in trouble. 

Have you heard the story about how the impulsive business owner handled his lazy employee? The new owner of a large factory decided to make a surprise visit and check up on his staff. Walking through the plant, he noticed a young man standing idly by the office door. "Just how much are you being paid a week?" said the owner angrily. "Four hundred bucks," replied the young man.

Taking out a wad of bills from his wallet, the owner counted out 400 dollars, slapped the money into the boy's hands, and said, "Here's a week's pay — now get out and don't come back!" The boy grabbed the money and ran out. Turning to one of the supervisors, he said, "How long has that lazy bum been working here anyway?" "He's not an employee," said the supervisor. "He was just here to deliver a pizza!"

While it makes a funny story, the truth is, making impulsive decisions often leads to negative consequences. Had the business's new owner taken the time to look more carefully at the situation and ask a few questions, he could have saved 400 dollars. On the other hand, when we are measured in our actions and slow to respond emotionally, we will better understand our situation. When we are patient instead of impulsive, we will think before we act, speak, make purchases, or make promises that we can't keep. 

Impulsive decisions often work out poorly because our sinful self is louder than God's Spirit. When you are confronted with options and must decide, the first voice you will hear will be that of your selfishness. The Bible tells us that "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish." Galatians 5:17 And Peter writes, "Dear friends, since you are immigrants and strangers in the world, I urge that you avoid worldly desires that wage war against your lives." 1 Peter 2:11 (NCV) He does not say you will never experience worldly desires. He does not say those bad ideas will never enter your mind. He says we must avoid these desires and not give in to our impulses. Taking the time to think through our decisions allows reason and spiritual insight to take over. 

I like the way Galatians 5:13-16 reads in the Common English Bible. "You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don't let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don't get eaten up by each other! I say be guided by the Spirit and you won't carry out your selfish desires."

The next time you eat a delicious haystack, remember Charles and his corn chips. Remember how he invented the clip rack that hung many bags of chips in a small space and then talked stores into putting these new racks near the cashier. He understood impulse buying and used it to turn his lowly corn chip into a sales powerhouse. Proverbs 18:2 tells us, "A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart." Don't be a fool. Don't be an impulse buyer.

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