Today food has become more of a necessity, a fuel for our bodies, that we consume in odd places like cars, at a desk, standing alone over a sink or while quickly walking to various appointments. With our liquid lunch in a paper Starbucks cup the other hand is free to hail a cab, type out a proposal or drive while consuming quick calories and energy, not missing a beat in the race. Families go from class to class eating from paper bags with lovely yellow arches on them as mom drives them out of hockey practice and onto dance rehersal. Food is a necessary evil that we must endure for our very survival but I’m sure if many of us could take a pill to get all of the vitamins and nutrients needed, we might opt for something that fits in our hand which can be swooshed down with water rather than a cumbersome sandwich or a dish that you have to use a fork to consume.
Convience has won out over quality. Have you even been in line at any sort of ‘fast food’ chain and had to wait a few minutes for the person in front of you? It’s like being slapped in the face. How could they make us wait this long? Unfortunately I think there is something greatly missing in the art of making and eating food.
Every week I meet with a group of friends who have been dining together for almost four years now. We rarely miss a week. Sometimes we even do holidays together. I set it up four years ago potluck style and each family rotates as the host. This way we would each have responsibility rather than it all falling on my shoulders. Plus, if people have ownership of the event they are likely to be more involved and take it more seriously, which is exactly how it has happened. I think there are many who have learned to cook better as a result and I know of at least one family that mentioned to me how these weekly events have taught them how to host people in their home. There is a beauty in cooking and a celebration that happens as we gather together around food. As a person of faith I had come across a verse in the BIble that strengthened, in my mind, how God values the aspect of celebration:
“If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the LORD your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the LORD your God blesses you,
then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.
“You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; andthere you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (boo-yeah!)
Deut 14: 24-26 my added parenthesis
What I have learned making my own food:
1. Patience. It sucks to try things that fail, ie food that you hoped would be good but tastes as if it should be in a nappy that washed up by the sea. How disappointing! But I keep trying new things and getting better and better at judging what works, such as spices that go well together (fyi: basil and cumin in the same dish will kill your guests!). I’m usually pleased with my efforts but that was not the case about 10 years ago when I started my commitment to cooking. I remember one meal in an attempt to impress a guy who loved calzones. I made those bready Italian bastards with low fat cheese and instead of fresh basil I used dried bay leaves thinking they would rehydrate whilst baking. They didn’t. It sucked. I was mortified.
2. I appreciate the process of cooking and all that goes into making a fine meal and I am more interested in the finer things in life because of good food. My meal can be as simple as grilled cheese but there is a way to make it good and healthy. There is a lot that goes into the process of making quality food and there are loads of people who throw their love into a dish.
3. Cooking has the potential to create community! This is a huge one today because we are all crying out for community. We want a tribe and like minded people to gather with. Food is one of the best and most practical ways to do this. Look at most culutures who still stay away from a Western, convience diet. They eat together as a family or with neighbors. Food is a central part to a lot of cultures and the process of cooking and eating will often last hours as people gather together. The ritual of eating is sadly dying but I do think it can be revived.
4. I’ve had to think more about what I am putting in my mouth as I watch “how much sugar I just used to make those lemon bars”. When I can’t see it being made I’m more likely to consume freely without even thinking about what I’m putting into by body.
As a woman of faith I am convinced God is about community, family and celebration. If I were Jewish I could use all of my childhood memories to prove that to you. Those people can get down! I’m impressed how much I read about an historical Yahweh giving instruction on how to gather together to celebrate, remember and to create bonds of solidarity within their network of community (Network of community? How’s that for a 21st century cliche?).
There is something profound and beautiful in slowing down to cook and slowing down even more to enjoy the meal in which you labored. I highly recommend gathering people together to eat. The opportunities to creating community, friendships and a taste for something better are all there. Try hosting a meal this month, even if it’s just for one other person. If you have wanted to have someone over but felt silly asking them out to ‘just hang’, ask them if they want to come over for dinner or a weekend brunch. Pick out a simple menu and don’t forget to read the whole thing before you start cooking. Sometimes you run into problems if you were suppose to let something chill for 3 hours and your guest is coming in one hour. If they ask if they can bring something let them bring the wine. If it’s too weird with one person invite three people and put some music on or play a game after dinner. Try to stay away from watching a movie. If it’s awkward just eat and hang out for a bit then tell them you’d love to do this again but really have an early morning. If that doesn’t work, break out the scotch and tell them deep, dark things about yourself in attempts to scare them back home. Works every time… except if they’re even creepier than you. Could go either way really. Here are a few easy meals to test your food sharing experience.
*all photos by Tracie Bonjour
Easy Spaghetti Bolognase sauce:
1. Chopped medium-large yellow onion (they are a bit sweeter than purple)
2. two cloves of fresh garlic, chopped (don’t used crushed, it burns too quickly)
5. balsamic vinegar
3. 1 lb ground beef or chuck (chuck is less fatty)
4. 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes or four large tomatoes, diced.
6. handful of fresh basil or dried if it’s out of season
7. salt and pepper to taste
8. serve with angel hair pasta and a LOT of freshly grated parmesan. Goes with with Pinot Noir or Bordeaux
a. Fry up your meat until completely cooked and set aside. Add a few T. of olive oil and sautee onions and garlic together over med. Try not to let garlic get brown. After about 3 min add 1T of Balsamic vinegar or red wine. This helps the onions carmelize. Fry a few more minutes.
b. add cooked meat. Stir. Add tomatoes and stir. Add basil, salt and pepper. After you form a slight boil set to low and let simmer with it’s lid on for 20 min.
c. boil noodles and grate cheese. This should be served soon after noodles are done.
*My friend Anima lives in India and I asked her to send a recipe. If you’d love to try out a simple, healthy Indian meal, dig in! Thanks Anima.
Mixed-green stir fry
Cut up the following vegetables in the size and shape of your choice.
1/2 bunch spinach
1 small size cabbage. If there is no small size then 1/2 of the medium size cabbage is good.
2 medium size carrot to make it look pretty
1/2 bunch mastered green ( if mastered green is not available radish green or beat root greens also may be used).
5 garlic pod cut up.
(Usually I put dry whole chilly with the garlic. It gives different a flavor to the vegetable.)
In a wok heat a little oil and brown the garlic till it is fragrant. Take care so that the garlic does not turn black. Put all the cut up vegetables in to the wok then add a little salt to taste. Mix well and cover and cook till just cooked – for about 15 minute. It should be cooked just 15 minutes before the meal is served for the best taste.