Food is simple, right?. Eating is simple. Plants and animals are prepared in various ways for our energy and nutrition.
Three meals a day. Simple.
I go to the store. Or you go to the garden. Or he goes out back to get the chicken. Heat or chop or stir. Simple.
Five food groups. Simple.
There are entire book shelves at Barnes and Noble dedicated to the unhealthy relationship women have with food. Complicated.
There are Internet wars on GMOs and pesticides and preservatives. Complicated.
There is childhood obesity, and there are starving bellies. Complicated.
I’ve been feeling complicated lately as we are on a bare bones grocery budget this summer (the fact that my children eat like teenage football players isn’t helping the situation!) and are eating lots of, well, whatever the opposite of “whole foods” are. Partial foods?
Should I be as thankful for partial foods as I am for whole foods? (This is a very familiar place for me, if you remember this piece I wrote awhile back involving Hamburger Helper).
Food, a gift of God, envisioned and designed to be fulfilling and delicious and simple; cursed. Complicated.
As I was dealing with these issues by
having one of those unhealthy relationships I just mentioned with chocolate chip cookies praying and thinking and pinteresting I realized part of my particular frustration was from attempting to cook my usual menu items and familiar dishes without really being able to afford to do so – along with the feeling of constantly failing to keep our food costs down.
So, for example, a simple and inexpensive meal we have had this summer is grilled cheese sandwiches. But rather than whole grain bread (or you know, home made bread. Ahhh, more guilt!!!) and yummy extra sharp white cheddar, I am using the $1 Walmart bread (what in the world are all those things on the ingredient list?!) and orange “Pastuerized Prepared Cheese Product”.
This is gross!
But we have food!
But it’s not whole food!
But we have food!
(I don’t think my husband realizes how lucky he is that I am not an external processor)
As a mom who cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week it is easy to get stuck in a rut. Meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking take up a lot of my time and energy, and so it makes sense that it should be something I don’t hate.
Enter: My Solution.
A solution that I came up after these internal monologues (and after eating several bowls of ice cream. Homemade icecream. Whole foods. Booyah!), a solution that needed to be outside the box is to throw my traditional approach to cooking and menu planning OUT THE WINDOW.
I am not an expert in other cultures, their food, nor their economies but I think that we probably have more money than a lot of the world, or at least as much as (you know, the 99% and all that…) How does the developing world eat? How does the rest of the first world eat? Most importantly, Are they eating plastuerized cheese food in India?
Well, I still don’t know, but I made a guess and went from there.
Every week in our home, we are ‘adopting’ a different nation or area of the world and eating like them (to the best of my limited knowledge, like I said, not an expert). Here is what it has looked like so far:
Week 1: India Every meal we had homemade naan and/or rice and for that seven day period I made three different curry dishes, two of which were vegetarian, to eat with the rice and naan. We prayed before our meal for the people of India, for the poor, and for their salvation.
Week 2: Latin America Every meal we had tortillas, rice and black beans. I made a chocolate mole poblano (fail!) and ropa vieja. We prayed for Mexico and for Cuba in the same ways we prayed for India. (We also listened to lots of Buena Vista Social Club, but that’s not really out of the ordinary for me…)
Week 3: Britain Can you say potatoes? For three days we will have a beef Irish stew with homemade bread. For one day we will have a cottage pie. For one day we will have Irish potato pancakes with sausages or cottage pie if it is leftover. I know that is only five days but we had hot dogs one night and have a birthday party another night. We’re not legalistic about this, folks. We get to pray for Jon’s family over there and of course, the new royal baby!
Week 4: I don’t know yet! I am thinking Thailand or Uganda. Suggestions on where I might find and butcher a goat?
The benefits of my new menu planning are:
1) I am only cooking big meals 2 or 3 times a week, instead of 7. As we enter the school year and Jon and I are working nights this will be a lifesaver.
2) We are using up ingredients and not wasting as much, especially since when you cook from one ‘wheel house’ you overlap ingredients. I bought a bunch of (non-organic) cilantro and used it all up last week without throwing any out!
3) We are saving money.
4) We are exposing ourselves and our kids to other cultures and foods.
5) We are in prayer for the nations.
6) I am excited about cooking again. This is HUGE.
1) You put your whole day, heart and soul into making a mole and it’s gross and you’ve ruined three nights of dinners. I promise I will get over this…some day…
2) Although there is a lot of variety from week to week, after DAY THREE of coconut curry red lentil soup Jon was more than ready for something else (he didn’t say so but I could see it on his face!)
You should try it.
And you should definitely come over some time and break bread with us. Or naan. Or tortillas.
Mi casa es su casa.