A friend and I were talking about all of the books and blogs and articles we had recently encountered whose subject was that elusive thing called simplicity. Food, we decided, must be one of the cornerstones of the so-called simple life.
“But, why?” my friend burst out. “Why does it always sound so complicated?”
Like me, you’ve probably seen the documentaries. You’ve read the books.
You know that farmers and animals – indeed the whole beautiful earth – pay a high price for keeping our bellies full, our fast food fast, and our cheap food cheap. You know that we all pay that price with our health.
Eating with simplicity is one solution. Perhaps, even, the only long-term solution. In other words, eating real food we prepare ourselves from local or otherwise sustainable sources.
Yet somehow I have never found this knowledge very inspiring. If I think about those documentaries at five pm on a weekday, while my hungry children swarm like flies, it is usually with guilt. Not joy.
Why is it that the food choice that would seem to be one of the simplest for me, a drive-through burger and fries, is actually the antithesis of the simple life?
Food is God’s gift to us. It is one of the first gifts he gave. It is both astonishing, like wine, and utterly mundane, like bread. Is it any wonder the church remembers Christ at a table?
And yet it lies within our power to diminish the gift of food.
The blessing of food is at its fullest when it blesses the one who eats it, the one who prepares it, the one who harvests it, the one who grows it, and even the earth which sustains it. The food from the drive-through may be a blessing to the busy mom, but the blessing ends there.
There is grace for that busy mom, and I am myself that mom, more often than I like to admit. But my prayer is that God helps me to live in such a way that I can receive the full blessing of food more and more often.
My prayer is that, more and more often, I can release that blessing back into the world.
Eating with simplicity is not simple. Frankly, it can be a bit of a hassle.
It begins when we say “No.”
We say no to fast food. To pesticides. To processed chemicals. To out-of-season fruit flown half-way around the world. We say no to overeating and no to consuming special treats as if they were our daily bread.
But after no comes yes.
Yes to the warmest and ripest strawberries from that farmstand in June. Yes to the casserole prepared, with love, by our neighbor. Yes to eggs from chickens we raised ourselves and yes to taking our kids to the local ice cream shop on a Friday night in August.
Yes to the ease of beans and rice. Yes to the complicated birthday cake that tasted so much better than it looked.
Yes to rich stock made with scraps we once threw away. Yes to buttered noodles when the shelves are suddenly bare.
Yes to apples in September and asparagus in April.
We say yes so often and with so much joy we hardly remember all the nos with which we began.
Yes, we say, yes, we say, and again we say, yes.
One of the simple eating pleasures in our family is homemade yogurt. It blesses our budget, our bodies, our local dairy farmer, and our taste buds, especially when we stir in a little homemade strawberry freezer jam.
You can find many online and published sources for yogurt making. My own version is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila.
I use an inexpensive yogurt maker because I love the little individual glass jars, but if you are really committed to keeping it simple, you can find directions online for keeping your yogurt at low heat in a crockpot or in towel-wrapped mason jars.
- 4 1/2 cups whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized
- 1/2 cup full-fat, plain yogurt, store-bought or saved from a previous batch
- Let one ice cube melt in a heavy saucepan. This cold layer will help prevent your milk from scalding in the pan while it cooks.
- Once the ice has melted, add milk and place pan over medium heat. Do not boil. Remove from heat when milk reaches 180 degrees. Chill pot in a bowl of ice water.
- When milk has cooled to 110 degrees, remove one cup milk and mix with yogurt. Return yogurt/milk mixture to pot and whisk well.
- Pour mixture into glass jars and heat in a yogurt maker for 5-6 hours. Once the yogurt has set and tastes tangy, chill completely.
- Enjoy with a swirl of jam or honey.