Saturday, June 08, 2013

Hidden Art of Food (Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 8)

"Variety in Meals.––But, given pleasant surroundings and excellent food, and even then the requirements of these exacting little people are not fully met: plain as their food should be, they must have variety. A leg of mutton every Tuesday, the same cold on Wednesday, and hashed on Thursday, may be very good food; but the child who has this diet week after week is inadequately nourished, simply because he is tired of it....But give them a variety; do not let it be 'everlasting tapioca.' Even for tea and breakfast the wise mother does not say, 'I always give my children' so and so. They should not have anything 'always'; every meal should have some little surprise. But is this the way, to make them think overmuch of what they shall eat and drink? On the contrary, it is the underfed children who are greedy, and unfit to be trusted with any unusual delicacy." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education (1885)

"One should not be able to say, "Oh, yes, Monday, bread pudding"--anywhere. Meals should be a surprise, and should show imagination." ~~ Edith Schaeffer, "Food" (1971)
The subject of food is familiar territory for this blog!

Or maybe not, after reading this chapter of Hidden Art.  Chapter 8 is not so much about being a good cook, as it is about expressing creativity, gratitude, and caring through food.
"It is not necessary to have a large food budget to make meals interesting.  In fact it is often the other way around.  The need to "stretch the money often gives birth to ideas in cooking and serving."  ~~ "Food"
Edith talks a lot in this chapter about appreciating colours, textures, tastes. And how beautifully you arrange whatever it is on the plates; food as still life, if you like. Except...I hardly ever put food on plates for other people.  How would I know how much they want to eat, or who's in the mood for carrot sticks but not pickles or the other way around?  Even at holiday meals, we serve "family style", and on quick dinner nights, we're more likely to let each person serve themselves from the stove.  (Our main eating place is in the kitchen.)  Food styling is just not our thing.  Walnut sandwiches are definitely not our thing. And as far as putting raisin eyes or something on a pancake or a piece of bread--then at least two of my kids probably wouldn't eat it, because, like Alice, it's not polite to eat food you've been introduced to.  (Strawberry mice, for some reason, were acceptable--see photo above.)
"Food should be served with real care as to the colour and texture on the plates, as well as with imaginative taste.  This is where artistic talent and aesthetic expression and fulfilment come in."  ~~ "Food"
And there we go again, you see...just as flowers on the table are not our thing, neither is getting "artistic" with food, though we do like to cook here (all of us, not just Mama Squirrel); like to shop together, like to eat.  We like fresh garden lettuce, good sausage, the smell of muffins baking.  I do get a "there, I used it up" satisfaction from combining leftovers; but I wouldn't say that means artistic fulfillment. I'm not into food photography, I'm not a chef; I don't dream meals.  Although if you read this chapter carefully, it's not only about the aesthetics of food, even for Edith. Parallelling earlier chapters, she picks up the idea, several times, of using what you have creatively--stretching a small meal to feed more people; or picking up what's available in a small store, and still finding surprises.

None of us are Edith clones.  I'm not Cindy, or Jeanne, or the Prudent Homemaker.  I have my own limits, my own interests, my own goals, and so do you.  But that doesn't mean we can't stretch a little, find our own ways to explore and enjoy God's gift of food.
Be gentle when you touch bread
Let it not lie uncared for--unwanted
So often bread is taken for granted
There is so much beauty in bread
Beauty of sun and soil, beauty of honest toil
Winds and rain have caressed it,
Christ often blessed it
Be gentle when you touch bread.
(poem quoted in The More-with-Less Cookbook)


Cindy Rollins said...

Yes! This quote from Charlotte is one of my all-time favorites. It is so freeing. We do often see fussy children overly concerned with their diet. It does not turn out well.

I have never been a model homemaker even though I enjoy being in my home and making it. Yesterday I got so overwhelmed with the mess in our attic I did my usual stress-out thing. I threw a bunch of stuff away. Trips and trips to the dump. The kids kept saying, "We could have a yard sale," but I was too stressed by all the stuff to put off dealing with it any longer. I am not sure it that is a good thing or a bad thing but I feel much better today.

Dana in Georgia said...

Meals should be a surprise, and should show imagination

I almost used this quote in my synopsis as well.

Sara said...

Hi! I'm Sara, and I've never commented here before. I'm re-reading Hidden Art with Cindy's book club and enjoying it so much. I'm not big on arranging food & such just so. I enjoy delicious food (and so does my family), but it's enough to get it on the table (or on the counter/stove---we do buffet style quite often!) I appreciated the "use what you have" attitude throughout Chapter 8--so practical. I love that quote by Charlotte Mason. Thanks for sharing.

M.K. said...

Love that little poem at the end! I got a copy of "More With Less" in college (30 years ago!), and still use it some. Good cookbook.

I do think you can communicate love and care to your family with meals, without very much fancy or frilly. Sounds like you all enjoy doing it together, and that's a wonderful thing.

hsmominmo said...

You said
"it's not only about the aesthetics of food, even for Edith. Parallelling earlier chapters, she picks up the idea, several times, of using what you have creatively--stretching a small meal to feed more people; or picking up what's available in a small store, and still finding surprises."

That's it! That's the message! Simple and straight forward meals are a for sure way of blessing your family.

I also have a worn and faded copy of More with Less, a gift from my Mother-in-law. It's one of my favorites!

Cheryl said...

I love each of the quotes that you have included here! Lots to ponder...

Beth Starr said...

I took away the need to stretch from this chapter also. I'm never going to be awesome in the kitchen, but that doesn't mean I have to settle for so-so meals.