I wiped the dry erase calendar clean next to our pantry and wrote in pretty black letters:
A New Year is here. Isn’t it strange that we’re almost to the Roarin’ Twenties once again? That throw-back radio stations now advertise the “best of the 90’s”? That my children have no concept of screens that don’t obey you simply by swiping your finger across them? Time is a strange sort of thing.
It is also the crux of the mother with young children: the days can feel long, the years are so short. And as I try to fully grasp these little ones in front of me, wrap my arms around them, hold them tight, they keep slipping past — suddenly bigger, suddenly more “grown up,” suddenly able to get their own cups of water.
Last night, on a date night in the livingroom, my husband and I watched Michael Pollan’s PBS special, In Defense of Food, based on his book of the same name (which was one of my favorites last year). It occurred to me, while watching the special, that for our family 2015 was very much about the subject at hand:
FOOD! (But also, much more than that.)
We completely changed the way we ate last year — and went on a voyage to eliminate (most of) the processed food from our life.
It all started when I received the 100 Days of Real Food cookbook (which I love) as a gift, which introduced me to Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food — and from there I went on to read Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules. Based on my enjoyment of his books, I stumbled upon Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (which I have reviewed here before) and during this time, I also read French Kids Eat Everything by Karen LaBillon, which offered a very interesting insight into French food culture while also sharing tips for parents of picky eaters.
The books were all very different — but had many of the same themes — and in the end, they inspired me to do what I had been itching to do for awhile: Cook more from scratch and try to grow a lot of our food ourselves.
But what surprised me is how much I would love the process.
I never realized how soul-stirring this journey would be. Or how beautiful.
Even from a simply aesthetic standpoint, my heart is full when fresh, flour-dusted bread is rising in the oven and the smell of yeast, salt, oil, honey and whole-wheat grains wafts through our hallways. I love letting the loaves cool on the wooden cutting board before tucking them away to rest in a ceramic bread box. I love the uneven bread slices, sawed with a serrated knife. The way real butter melts into the warm, spongy texture.
I delight in snipping rosemary from a pot on the back porch in barefeet — and the way fresh-pressed garlic stays on my fingertips. The choreography of dancing from cutting board to cast iron skillet, the sizzle and pop of sauteing red peppers.
I love walking by the tower of fresh produce that sits in the middle of the kitchen island. What a work of art! A pile of bright yellow lemons, neon key limes, ruby red tomatoes (or sometimes a deep plum). Food this gorgeous begs to be eaten and enjoyed and cared for. It is thoughtful food — food for thought. And oh my, what about divine dark chocolate or rich whipped cream. A little truly does go a long way. (As Karen Labillion’s French mother-in-law said: “I only need a little or I won’t enjoy it as much.”)
It’s not a surprise to me that cooking shows have skyrocketed in popularity and restaurant-goers post their plates all over Instagram — we live in a world saturated with cardboard boxes and artificial additives; authentic, robust, and wholesome nourishment is longed for.
And maybe that’s the point of it all anyway. The authenticity. It’s always the most nourishing. In romance, in friendship, on our plates. For in this efficiency-focused world of convenience, it is all too easy to substitute a quick and fast version of all sorts of things, only to be left wanting more.
Some people make a “word of the year” for an upcoming year — and I’m not so sure I have one yet for 2016. But it’s easy to see clearly looking back. The word for last year was nourishment. Focusing on slowing down to fill up — on family and friends and food and faith and love. And I suppose, really, it is a theme I will carry with me for every year, forevermore.
May your 2016 be filled with people, places and plates full of nourishment.
A handful of favorite recipes you may enjoy this year:
This is the bread recipe that I make every other day on average. I have tweaked a couple of things, but it’s delicious.
I love these 5-ingredient granola bars for a quick snack.
I love all of the recipes out of the 100 Days of Real Food cookbook. And there are tons of lunchbox packing ideas and snack ideas for kids.
For whole wheat pizza dough, I use Ina Garten’s recipe, but sub whole wheat for 2/3 of it and add extra honey. (I love all of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.)