One of my favorite topics. A favorite topic for most of us. Just do a search online for your favorite dish, or an ingredient from your pantry shelf, or something you’ve been craving. You’ll come up with pages and pages of choices for recipes and how-to’s and pinterest and blog posts. Everyone is talking about food!
Chapter 8 is a delicious one! To get in the spirit of things, I polled the children one day:
“What do you think of when I say ‘food’?”
#1 answered “There are so many different kinds of food. I can’t think of just one”; #2 answered “Sometime, I think I want to try lobster.”; #3 answered “Mashed Potatoes!”; #4 answered “Sometimes I dream about food.” I couldn’t help myself. I asked her “What kind of food do you dream about? Her answer? “hhmmm, well, oatmeal. . .” (can you guess what we had for breakfast?) “. . . oh, and cereal, and toast. . .” I won’t go on, but you get the picture.
Edith Schaeffer approaches this topic with an enthusiastic and serving attitude. She points out, once again, that it’s really all about communication. Sure it’s about nutrition and sustenance. But it’s much more. Sharing a meal with friends and family, or a warm drink when you come in out of the cold, or a small snack in the midst of a chaotic day brings people together. It’s a bonding experience. It can help you relax and unwind. We have special foods to help us celebrate holidays and memorable events. It can comfort the sick and build up the discouraged. It ministers to the soul.
In this day and age, we can easily serve up dinner straight from boxes and packages and bags. While these conveniences can ease up the stress of getting food on the table, with some preparation and forethought we can serve up wonderful meals for our families and our guests on a regular basis. A little planning goes a long way. God The Creator has provided us with an amazingly diverse array of foods. Think about color and texture and size and shape. The possibilities are endless!
There are steps I take that help me accomplish the goal of putting healthy and tasty meals on the dinner table. At the beginning of each month I take requests from family members for meal ideas. I make note of special occasions such as holidays or birthdays. I peek in the pantry and freezer to see what I have on hand. With all this in mind, and using my Master Menu List, I put together a list of meals I’d like to have ready and available through the coming month. This is the foundation for my shopping list. And then of course, I tie on my apron and roll up my sleeves for my Big Cooking Day. This is how I plan. It may not be how you plan, but the operative word here is ‘plan’. Have a plan. Work your plan.
Another trick to getting balanced meals onto the table for my family is to think about color. I like to have a variety of colors on each plate. If I’m serving baked chicken, with potatoes and corn, I might add a green salad and cooked carrots. Like an artist’s pallet. This makes the food pleasing to the eye, adds in more variety, more vitamins and minerals. I also have a thing about shape and texture. If I serve spaghetti, I could serve green beans – regular cut green beans, not french-style. Spaghetti noodles are long and stringy, so are french-style green beans. Not as appetizing, in my book. Crazy, I know, but that’s how my mind works.
Mrs. Schaeffer stressed the importance of variety and how we should not get stuck in a rut by serving the same week after week. I disagree with her on this point. Though I do like making my menus interesting, I find having some routine simplifies life and reduces the stress of meal planning and preparation. We’ve had Mexican Monday, Pizza on Fridays, CrockPot Sunday around here for years. My children find it comforting. When my daughter calls to chat and asks ‘what’s for dinner?’ it brings back memories for her when I answer ‘Tacos’. She says “Oh, yeah! It’s Monday. I should have known — Monday is Mexican night!” And you should see how the troops get up-in-arms around here if they find out we are NOT having pizza on Friday night!
Working together in the kitchen is a wonderful way to bring everyone together. My family all pitches in during harvest season to peel and chop tomato, pepper and onions so that we can enjoy our own salsa all year round. My kiddos enjoy forming their own little balls of bread dough into interesting shapes while I form loaves of whole wheat bread. A rite of passage in our family is taking over pizza making. My ‘teens’ make fantastic pizzas, enjoying each others’ company and catching up on the latest while they are at it.
I especially enjoyed the story Edith Schaeffer shared from the early years of her marriage, in the days when hobos and tramps would frequent the doorsteps of homes near the railroad yards. They were hungry, she could provide a bite to eat. She and her two young children would prepare a tray with simple sandwiches, dressed up to become a feast for a stranger. She’d slip a small New Testament in so he could feed his soul as well as his stomach. What a wonderful way to teach by example, to disciple her children, to plant seeds for eternity. Some may think the ‘tramps’ were taking advantage of her, but she took the advantage to grow creatively.
I have a lot to think on as I set the table for my family, or gather them to work in the kitchen. My meal planning is done for the month, the week (thanks to Menu Plan Monday) but I’ll be looking to how I can artfully serve my family each day.
Earlier this week I shared lunch ideas for the kids, perfect for busy summertime. I incorporated some of the ideas we discussed in this post.
You can see what others are sharing in this ongoing book study at Ordo Amoris.
Now it’s your turn! How do you make meal time special for your family? What tips do you have to include some ‘hidden art’ in the kitchen?