7: Food, Day Five

Just to lift the mood a bit, here are two nice things about food week…

  1. Shopping. I may have only 7 items on my list but I have been making each one count, spending more probably than I usually would on some of those things and it has been worth every penny. Copella apple juice is a tad nicer than tesco value.
  2. Shabbat. There is a time for fasting and a time for feasting and I have been really enjoying planning and thinking about how we will celebrate this Friday evening with a Jewish Sabbath feast. There is real pleasure in anticipating.

Day four’s dinner was egg fried rice made with bacon and onions, day five we have gone all out for Valentine’s day and had fried eggs and bacon with potato waffles (we found some that were 100% potato). I was even able to make a mayonnaise to go with it (we’re missing the condiments) with just eggs,oil, salt and pepper. Rather proud of that little kitchen moment. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but deprivation is the father of creativity!

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7: Food, Day Four

The novelty is definitely starting to wear off today.

It was the cashew nut butter that did it. Sweet and creamy, it’s been the perfect pick me up and satisfies that after-dinner-sweetness-craving pretty well. Except that now it is all gone. Every last drop. You would think to look at the empty jar that it is already rinsed for the recycling bin, but no – I licked it clean. The jar was bought on day one and, at 4 quid for a mere 170g, it was supposed to last the week.

Even within the constraints of 7 food items, in a week to celebrate simplicty and curb appetities, I cannot help myself. The drive to satisfy every urge and craving ends up in greed and overindulgence. ‘Calm down!’, you say, ‘it’s just a posh jar of peanut butter. Don’t be so hard on yourself!’. But the reality is that when you reduce your eating habits like this for a period of time you get to see past the clutter and see the truth about how you treat food. Yes, of course it is just flippin nut butter, but what I see in my attitude to it this week is a tendency to go to food for comfort, to allay boredom, to be greedy just because I can. I ‘deserve’ it therefore I can have it. Really? Do I deserve it? And why do I need food to pamper me and make me feel better?

Eating to live and living to eat are two very different things. I remember my Dr telling me that when he broke the news about my food intolerances. In the west we have made food more than simply tasty nutrition but status, esteem, comfort, entertainment. We are told by advertisers to strike up a relationship with this food or that one and that the food we buy should reflect the kind of people we are (or want to be). Feasting, celebrating and enjoying food, is all over the bible and is a gift to enjoy but it seems like we have been programmed here to ‘feast’ at every meal, every day – and so we loose our appreciation, we increase our expectations and we end up unable to control our eating.

Even with a jar of cashew nut butter.

7:Food, Day Three

Dinner today was 97% Pork Gluten-free sausages, (don’t judge me on the missing 3%) with sweet potatoes. For everything else, see yesterday. And the day before that.

Today has been a kick-up-the-arse day. Jayber was taking a break from the pulpit this week and, as luck would have it, Mrs Martin’s other half took his place. Paul has been thinking a lot this past while about consumerism, our lives of excess in the west and how this impacts our generosity and giving. All very ‘7’ topics.  I think it was one of the best talks I have ever heard on these ideas and if you are starting to think about this stuff  then I highly recommend you listen to it over here. It was very challenging, very practical and Paul taught with a huge amount of honesty and humility.

Later on we had movie night with Food Inc. A great documentary, at times very hard to keep your eyes on the screen. It doesn’t pull it’s punches in its attempt to tell ‘the whole truth’ about the american food industry and how our food choices matter. Very compelling.

Neither of these ‘kicks’ today are easy to walk away from, to consign to momentary inspiration or entertainment. Both ask the question,  ‘So how will you now live?’. I can’t claim ignorance or innocence in terms of my responsibilities toward the poor, the broken and the planet. How I choose to live matters, it makes a difference one way or the other. So I am wrestling today, this week, with what kind of story I am going to write with my life. Simplicity, generosity, justice ; these are the words I am going to continue to let poke me and let the discomfort they create move me forwards.

7: Food, Day Two

Apple slathered in peanut butter fuelled me up for an expedition to the monthly food market in Coleraine. Between it and a quick dash through M&S we stocked ourselves up with as many variations on 7 as we could manage. We found onions from Dublin, potatoes from Garvagh, bacon from Coleraine, apples from Kent, ham from Ireland, Northern Irish eggs and British sausages (a controversial item, I fear). I think local rice and nuts may be a stretch.

More ham omelets, cashew nut butter and yes, even the apple rings rounded off the afternoon. Dinner was a Delia favourite. This has been one of our favourite dishes for years and, with a little local bacon, felt much more feast than fast, yet is the very definition of simplicity.

No voices from the sky so far, or fingers writing anything on our kitchen chalkboards, but I have been enjoying the ‘mindfulness’ part of this experiment. Just to pause to think of and thank those who have had a hand in my meal has been both humbling and enriching. My food becomes more than nutrition or craving, but story too.

Poor Jayber has gone cold turkey and become the closest I think I’ll ever see him to ‘grumpy’. Headaches and lethargy from caffeine withdrawal have hit him hard. But he is being a trooper to ‘7’, and doing his best to stay kosher. Except for that moment this morning at the market, when I had to bodily intervene between him and a free sample of cracker and lemon curd. I think the lady at the stall may have thought it all a little strange. We mumbled something about ‘lent’ before moving on to the next stallholder who tried to tempt me to taste his homegrown salad leaves. Get behind me, Satan…

7: Food, Day One

An apple, a ham omelette, cashew nut butter by the spoonful, ready salted crisps, a pork chop, mashed potatoes and caramelised onions and apples. on the side. Many apple rings. More cashew nut butter.

(Apple rings are actually a bit vile. They taste like an apple thats been down the back of the sofa for a few months. And then been microwaved. It’s the kind of thing we all might eat after a nuclear disaster. Jayber agrees and yet we can’t help ourselves, the bag is nearly gone. This is what desperation does, people.)

Week One: Food

Pork, Rice, Potatoes, Apples, Onions, Nuts, Eggs.

This will be my menu from Friday for 7 days.

Just to recap, this is being done in the spirit of a fast: from excess and towards simplicity. It’s being done partly to repent (now there is an untrendy, scary word) for the ways in which I am greedy, irresponsible and ungrateful for the resources I have been given. Partly to identify, with the other 98% of the world who I am richer than and the 50% who live on $2 a day. But mostly I am doing it to create space in my overstuffed life for God’s kingdom to break in. In radically removing excess from my life for a time I expect God to challenge and speak in ways that will last longer than the next 7 weeks.

So, food. While slightly more hassley than the others, I have to confess I am not expecting this one to be the hardest. Four years of gluten and cow dairy intolerance has taught me to cook from scratch, sometimes with unorthodox ingredients and also to curb my cravings. Now, clothes and spending will be a whole other board game. The fact that I am already breaking into a cold sweat trying to work out how to get the most funky little outfits out of 7 items WITHOUT ACCESSORIES is setting off the warning bells.

But back to food. I think the important thing this week will be to not try and find ways round things but to keep the focus on simplicity and sacrifice. Jayber, (who, in the parallel universe he often inhabits, thought we were skipping the food bit. <sigh>) got a bit of a shock when I showed him the seven items. Mostly because there was no soy sauce  – the only extra bits allowed are olive oil, salt and pepper. He would like to plead that in Japan soy sauce is salt but his case is still pending. This whole 7 thing may just inflate my legalistic tendancies….

For me this week is not just about the absence of variety but also about being mindful about what food we choose to buy. When we lived in Vancouver we read and thought a lot about the food we ate and where it came from. Vancouver is hippyville and it was easy to buy organic and local, swap vegetarian recipes and think about food choices as part of a community. I used to work in the Regent kitchen on Tuesdays and we would make soup for 350 people for 1 pound a bowl with local, organic ingredients, or as close as we could manage. I find it much harder here, it takes much more time and energy to find locally grown food, ironic since 78% of Northern Irish land is agricultural. But the majority of that land is of poor quality and only good for grazing, so 82% of agri-output here is livestock and livestock products. Only 18% of farms here grow crops. But apples, you say, what about those famous Armagh apples? 97% of local apple production is processed and sold outside of Northern Ireland as concentrate. It will be interesting to see just how many of my 7 I am able to find that are local and organic.

Other items of interest in Food week:

  • we are hoping to have a movie night and show ‘Food Inc’.
  • we will be trying to make good choices about the the provenance of the food. Local, organic and fairtrade where we can. Saturday morning we will be going to the open air market in town to stock up.
  • hopefully celebrating Shabbat, Jewish Sabbath, on the following Friday evening. Ending the week with a feast and thankfulness.

I might blog once next week, I might blog five times. Who knows, it is entirely dependent on sleep and stress levels. Or maybe hunger pangs?