Eat Two Things

Supper, or dinner — no matter how many people are in your family, or how elegant or plain the fare, the evening meal is important in the life of your family.

Sociologists have long told us that. We get to converse with those we love most about our days and share laughter. Families bond over meals. The modern family that doesn’t sit down together for dinner loses out on an eating-together-relationship that can’t be replaced by other activities.

Yet how do we make time for cooking dinner when we work and get home tired and unorganized; or have to pick up the kids and take them to practice; or have evening meetings, classes, or homework; or…fill in the blank here.

Maybe our standards are just too high… Where is it written and how did it come to be that a good dinner includes salad, meat, potatoes, another vegetable, bread, and dessert? Restaurants who are trying to make money? Oh yes, throw in an appetizer there too. Few of us cook meals like that at home for family. And we shouldn’t. It’s wasteful; it’s too much food; and we’re all too fat anyway…But that’s the ideal, isn’t it? Little feasts as everyday dinners. More is better.

Lately I’ve been reading about the Rule of St. Benedict — medieval rules for monastery life. Not because I want to become a monk and not because I believe rules are inherently good for us, but because I’m interested in simplicity. I’ve been trying to simplify my life for at least five years now, and I’ve only partially succeeded. One of the intriguing rules of simplicity from the Benedictines is Eat Two Things. Bread and soup. Soup and salad. Rice and vegetables. Oatmeal and fruit. Cheese and fruit. Eggs and vegetable. Rice and beans. They are lovely duos, aren’t they? (Surely salad and dessert fits in here somewhere too?)

This intrigued me because I had just been considering the fact that when I made three things for dinner, I felt that I could call it a Nice Dinner. But just two? I was usually mildly guilty — as if I could have done better. Not that we were still hungry. We weren’t. But call it what you like — American society, Western food habits, Restaurant-itis, Foodie culture — two dishes didn’t look like a real meal to me. My go-to thoughts were not of gratitude, but guilt — that I didn’t make that salad, or those brownies, or the extra vegetable. And can I just say that we don’t usually go hungry at the cottage?

So for the rest of May, we will be trying this for our dinners. Two things. For the sake of intentional eating. Simplicity. Health. Gratitude.

*except for Saturday evening when we are having company for dinner and yes, we’re having appetizers, bread, salad, steaks, mushrooms, potatoes, and two desserts. Eight things. For hospitality’s sake…

**just in case you are interested, here are the appropriate words about food from the Rule: (notice the suggestion of vegetarianism for all but the weak and sick…and that indigestion is caused by excess…)
Making allowance for the infirmities of different persons, we believe that for the daily meal, both at the sixth and the ninth hour, two kinds of cooked food are sufficient at all meals; so that he who perchance cannot eat of one, may make his meal of the other. Let two kinds of cooked food, therefore, be sufficient for all the brethren. And if there be fruit or fresh vegetables, a third may be added….
If, however, the work hath been especially hard, it is left to the discretion and power of the Abbot to add something, if he think fit, barring above all things every excess, that a monk be not overtaken by indigestion. For nothing is so contrary to Christians as excess, as our Lord saith: “See that your hearts be not overcharged with surfeiting” (Lk 21:34).
Let the same quantity of food, however, not be served out to young children but less than to older ones, observing measure in all things.
But let all except the very weak and the sick abstain altogether from eating the flesh of four-footed animals.

Ordinary Days : a letter to my future self

light behind the storm clouds
Dear You,
Remember that rainy September day?
The cloud-filled sky and the freedom
from the sun’s tyranny?
No need to finish up summer today.

You gave yourself permission
to bake bread and make
a long slow simmering stew,
pore over knitting patterns
and write a poem to the future you.

You wanted to write in longhand
(not that there’s anything wrong with Pages or Word
or an online thesaurus)
but a letter deserves a pen.
There was that old found notebook and
There was your old found self in the pages.

Gardens you have planted — elsewhere.
Prayers that have been answered — somewhere.
Wisps of words you loved — written there.
Lists of books to read that now,
here in the present future,
were read in the long ago past.

And there was that quote from Chesterton
about the best book he never wrote…
You’ve written yours.
Begun in one life, finished in another.
It changed and grew with you
as you changed and grew.
Mais plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Blue sky behind gray clouds
Have you been grateful for your two lives—
three or four, really if it comes to that—
Have you been grateful for the sameness of those lives—
the sky, the stars, the seasons, the circles, the cycles?
for that sameness enables us to see
the unpredictable unexpecteds
the extraordinary exquisiteness
the glorious graces
of those ordinary days
that make unordinary lives.


Like every book I never wrote, it is by far the best book I have ever written.
–G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

Moments

Reblogging this from November 19th a couple of years ago…It’s just a reminder to count your blessings and give something to your local food pantry sometime soon…

Today I worked for the food bank from 8:45 to 2:15.

5 1/2 hours. 330 minutes. 19,800 seconds.

Plenty of moments to get a photograph.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t get a picture of the little boys singing and riding the rocking horse in the nursery.

I didn’t get a picture of two truckloads of food being unloaded.

I didn’t get a picture of volunteers packing food in boxes.

I didn’t get a picture of people waiting for their turn to get food.

I didn’t get a picture of the lady who broke down crying because Thanksgiving was so hard for her.

I didn’t get a picture of me praying with a woman who had just lost her grandson.

I didn’t get a picture of the ladies who got belligerent when they didn’t get commodity boxes because they made too much money.

I didn’t get a picture of the laid-off coal miner who said he’d never had to ask for help before, but his wife had just died of breast cancer, leaving him an out-of-work single dad with two kids under five.

Instead I got a bleak picture of poverty.

People just like you and me who have been handed a rough deal. Some are grateful for what they have; some are angry; some are barely dealing with it. They are vets, diabetics, seniors, men out-of-work because they hurt their back, women who were making it okay until they took in their son who lost his job and his girlfriend and her three kids. It goes on and on…

I was the intake person. The person who told them they made too much money to get a senior commodity box (for a household of two the line is drawn at $1,736 per month); the person with whom three people  cried; the person who heard the political diatribe about the (*&^% in Washington who don’t know how to run the government. The person who filled out the forms, did the paperwork, read them the rules, and wrote down their income. $350 disability + $369 in food stamps for a family of 7…

I got home at 2:30. Not glad that I had helped, but burdened with the cycle of poverty that I saw only a small glimpse of today.

My moments.

I have three clocks that tell me the moments. A green clock that matches my kitchen; a bird clock that chirps the hours; an expensive bedroom clock that shines the time and temperature on the ceiling…

And yesterday? I went grocery shopping for Thanksgiving. I went to two grocery stores and the beer store and mildly complained at how much everything cost. But my pantry is full; there are a few little extra luxuries for Thanksgiving dinner; and I still have some money left. I’m going to donate some of it to the food bank, and I suggest you do the same. To make someone else’s moments a little better.

 

and I’m grateful to have a full pantry and some money left over…