I’m a week late and going to try to double post today to catch up with the book club at Ordo Amoris.
Chapter 8 of Edith Schaeffer’s Hidden Art of Homemaking is about food, and there are so many ways to take this hidden art that I haven’t been able to find traction in any one direction. Cooking is a hobby of mine. It has been an area of hidden art in my life since I was 10 or 11. Breadmaking is a hobby (one my [skinny] husband encourages). “I bet I could make that myself” runs through my head whenever I enjoy a food outside my home. I mastered yogurt this year. It’s actually pretty easy. I make most of our food at home from scratch, largely because I enjoy doing so and because I think it tastes better that way.
I spent several years figuring out and organizing a way to get simple, homemade, hearty fare on the table without taking hours a day or hours to plan and shop weekly. I solved that problem for myself, then made it pretty and now have a little income coming in from selling it as Simplified Dinners. It really is how I actually menu plan and cook, to this day. I only stock the ingredients on my master pantry list, saving me coupon-clipping and grocery-list-generating time and also means I can keep my sanity at the grocery store (with 5 children) because I walk by 90% of what they’re trying to sell me.
Someday, perhaps, I will expand again and get gourmet and experiment with different flavors. My style right now is homespun. And I think it’s great fun to see the real diversity of food that can be created with the limited palette of my pantry items. Often artistry and experimentation and fun are aided by limits and boundaries, and food is no exception to that principle.
Besides the art expressed in the making of the food itself, there is the enjoying of the product together:
The cook in the home has opportunity to be doing something very real in the area of making good human relationships.
There is something both elemental and symbolic about feeding people. It is a tangible grace that we can give our families and any others God sends our way.
When we have newborns, we see more easily the connection between love and feeding. Babies nurse and feed their bellies as well as their spirits with the milk made just for them. That doesn’t actually change after they are weaned. They still receive the food provided for them as tangible, edible care, affection, love.
Hospitality is another way of showing through table and meal fellowship that we care for one another: body and soul, whole person together.
And sometimes that hospitality is not even in our homes. It is also edible love and hospitality when we take meals to families with new babies, people with a serious illness, and the elderly.
A church function simply wouldn’t be a church function without coffee and refreshments shared together. Where two or three are gathered, there will be cookies. Eating together knits us together, both as nuclear families and as the Body of Christ.
But all that food must be made.
And if there is fellowship in the eating of the food together, how much more so is there in the making of the food together.
Mrs. Schaeffer writes,
For growing children at play, there is nothing so interesting as really ‘doing things.’ To ‘help cook’ is one of the most enjoyable things of childhood – to say nothing of being a sure way of producing good cooks.
“Dinner helper” is often one of the first resolves I neglect when my time or temper or energy runs low, but it would be better if I could take a breath, get the grace, and still invite my children in with me during that crazy time of day. After all, living together is what we’re all about, right? And what is more elemental to living together than preparing meals?
My children love being dinner helper. They peel carrots, chop olives, help roll rolls, top pizzas, stir the pot, open the oven for me, help me clean as we go, grab things from the cupboards and pantries and fridge, spin the salad, flip tortillas or flatbreads, scrub potatoes, crack the eggs – and then pinch out the shell bits. It is this kind of participation in the kitchen that will give them poetic knowledge of food and cooking and meals.
The kitchen should be an interesting room in which communication takes place between child and mother and also among adults.
The kitchen is where people naturally congregate. It is the least artificial of environments. The living room helps us all put on our manners and sit and converse politely, but in the kitchen real stuff and real life happen. There it is easier to share life. There we should invite in not only guests, but even our children. It is so tempting to send them off and get them out of the way so we can just make dinner already, but the easy way is so often not the best way.
So I, for one, am encouraged by this chapter to revisit opening my kitchen and my time to my children and taking the time and using the energy to really, truly live life together.
My “Essential Recipes” @ Simple Pantry Cooking
- Easy Artisan Bread
- Turkey-Rice-Cheese Casserole Non-Recipe
- Chicken Pasta Salad for a Crowd
- Best All-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Homemade Hummus Without Tahini