We are grateful to Mary Ann for this food-related Friday Funny.
More mealtime discussion on Monday!
for Carolyn, Kristin, and Janelle
I am the mother of two preschool boys who love to be where I am. So, typically they are in or around the kitchen. That’s where I spend a good bit of my day. In an effort to save money I began regularly packing my husbands lunch. About two weeks ago I received this endearing email from my grateful man. I thought you might get a laugh out of it as I did:
Thank you for the lovely spaghetti lunch. It was yummy. Please know for future reference that green play dough does not constitute a vegetable. Apparently the container in which my lunch was stored must have at some point been on the table during play dough time. There was a dime-size chunk of green play dough that microwaved wonderfully. There were several smaller cooked flakes as well.
As Cam would say, “Is this dessert?”
All this planning, shopping and cooking is leading up to something. Eating of course! But before we take our first bite of dinner, there’s one more aspect of the meal that needs our attention: presentation.
What’s so important about presentation? you ask. Well, imagine an artist who labors over a painting displaying it without a frame, or a businessman who develops a marketing strategy writing it out on a napkin, or an author who writes a masterpiece sending the publisher a rough draft. Presentation matters after all.
Listen to what Edith Schaeffer suggests:
“It is not necessary to have expensive food on the plates before they can enter the dining room as things of beauty in colour and texture….Eye appeal as well as taste appeal should be remembered…A plate can be thought of at times as a kind of ‘still life’—not a lasting one, of course, but lasting in memory…a thing of beauty. Not only does this give interest, atmosphere and pleasure to the meal, but it gives dignity and fulfillment to the one who prepared it.”
Now, I doubt you’d call any meal I prepare anything resembling a “still life.” But I’m inspired by Mrs. Schaeffer’s approach toward the appearance and arrangement of food. Attractive meal presentation can give pleasure to our family, it can enhance the dinnertime experience, communicate our love and attention, and maybe even make the food taste better!
Growing up, we did not usually have fancy or expensive meals for dinner, and neither would Mom claim to be artistic. But even as a young person, I noticed that she always gave thought to how the table was set and how the food looked in the serving dishes and together on the plate. She could make even hamburgers seem like a feast simply by the way she put the condiments in little bowls and arranged the tomatoes and lettuce and onions on a platter and filled a basket with individual bags of chips.
Mom taught me to at least try to consider food colors when picking the menu so the meal would look attractive on a plate. Or, as one author suggests, to consider “alternating colors and textures.” Oftentimes, this simply requires forethought as to what vegetable and starch would best go with what meat.
Of course, there are the artistic among us who can make oranges look like swans or do wonders with a few sprigs of parsley or a few motley vegetables. If you know someone like this who excels at food presentation, ask her to teach you some of her tips.
But even for those of us not blessed with artistic talent, let’s consider how we can give extra care to meal presentation. Let’s put that exclamation point on the importance of family dinnertime.
Thanks to Corrie for sending in this thoughtful response to last week’s book club question!
For everyone, your assignment for this week is to read Chapter Four and check back next Friday for more thoughts on the life and example of Elizabeth Prentiss.
The Question: How did Elizabeth display biblical womanhood as a single woman and how are you inspired to follow her example?
The Answer: Elizabeth showed bibical womanhood by:
Submitting to her mother and her leaders.
A. She stayed with her mother instead of acting on her own desire of going into the mission field. She felt that her mother’s desires should go above her own. “She honestly belived that her first duty was to own mother, and then to the mission.” (James pg 27)
B. She decided to stay at Richmond even when the hard times came.
“Elizabeth soon realized that she would never recieve full payment for her services, but she remained at her post thoughout this difficult school year out of a sense of loyalty.” (James pg 39)
One of the characterisctics of a biblical woman is that she is “...submissive to [her] own husband…” Titus 2:5 Though she was not married, Elizabeth was submissive to her dear mother and leaders. This, I believe, helped her to always be submissive not only to her future husband but her Dear Heavenly Father.
This has inspired me to always think of others more than myself. If I am to be more Christlike shouldn’t I myself do as Christ did and taught? It also inspired me to think of my parents and elders before I think of my own selfish desires.
Planning. Grocery Shopping. Recipe Collecting. Now we get to the fun part of preparing family meals—cooking.
I was in high school when I developed an interest in cooking. I began collecting Bon Appetit
magazines, attending cooking classes offered by the county and a local
cooking school, and experimenting at home. As a single girl in between
jobs I took a couple of months off to help my mom at home. I did all
the grocery shopping and cooking—sometimes for eight or more people!
When I got married I had to learn to cook for two on a budget. Now
my motto is “easy and quick is best.” My children need my time and
attention and it does not serve them for me to make complicated meals.
But someday, when they are grown and have families of their own I might
just re-enroll in that cooking school.
Whatever season we find ourselves—-just learning to cook, plenty of
time to experiment, or with a limited time and budget—-we can all
continue to become better cooks to bless our family.
I can’t provide an exhaustive list of ways to improve, and I’m sure
there are better ideas out there. But here are just a few to consider:
—Add one new recipe a month to your repertoire.
—Buy a new cookbook to inspire you.
—Take a cooking class with your mom, sisters or friends.
—Pick a challenging recipe and practice until you master it.
—Have a recipe exchange with friends (complete with taste test).
—Do a meal swap with a group of friends—-similar to the classic
cookie exchange, you make five batches of your favorite meal, find five
friends willing to do the same and you go home with five different
meals. Don’t forget to include the recipes.
—Try out one of the home meal assembly stores that are popping up
in various cities (where you and your friends can make pre-determined
meals in a professional kitchen and take them home).
—Learn how to cook several dishes of the same ethnic variety.
—Ask your mom or another woman who is a good cook to teach you.
—Subscribe to a cooking magazine or online recipe service.
This is just a reminder that your book club response for this week is due Thursday evening by midnight. And we forgot to mention that if we choose to post your response, you will receive a free copy of the next book club book.
Again, the question is: How did Elizabeth display biblical womanhood as a single woman and how are you inspired to follow her example?
My mom rarely used a recipe when she cooked. That was fine by me as I daily enjoyed her delicious meals while growing up. However, when I got married and wanted to make her yummy doughnuts, it became a problem. I still remember calling her as a new bride to ask for the recipe and hearing something like this on the other end of the line: “I use about this much flour and sugar; add some milk until it’s the right consistency. I throw in a pinch of this and a little of that. I knead the dough until it feels right; let them rise. And then I fry them in the Crisco until I can tell they are done.”
I tried to make those doughnuts. The whole batch ended up in the trashcan. I even tried them a second time—and again, the trashcan was their final destination. I knew then that if I were to ever enjoy my mom’s doughnuts, I would need her to make them.
Sadly, I can’t cook like my mom. I have to follow recipes. My daughters are not endowed with my mom’s gift either. They go by recipes too. So, before the three girls got married, and embarked on their cooking careers as new wives, I decided to create a notebook of all the recipes we enjoy.
Eight years later I’m only now finishing the compilation of this notebook. Of course I haven’t been consistently working on it all this time; the project simply got shelved along the way. However, this past summer I made a concerted effort to complete it.
I have taken all of our favorite recipes—found in numerous cookbooks, torn from magazines, accrued from cooking classes, collected from friends, and even saved from my wedding showers years ago—typed them out on my computer, printed them, inserted each one into a page protector (to protect from food splatters) and then placed them behind the appropriate tab of a big spiral notebook.
Though the original intent of this project was to help my girls, it has served me too. I’ve been able to throw away all the tattered recipe cards, messy pieces of papers and folded magazine pages and compile them neatly into one notebook. I no longer have to go searching through fifteen cookbooks before I find a recipe that was a big hit with my family. It’s also made meal planning easy. I can sit down with the notebook, flip through the different sections, quickly decide on a meal, and have all the meal’s ingredients listed right in front of me for my grocery list.
Now, by no means am I sharing the details of my system to suggest that you must do the same. I simply hope to spark your creativity—in case you desire a more efficient way to store and access your recipes and then to pass them along to your daughters (or anyone else for that matter). And if you do decide to create a better system, hopefully it won’t take you eight years like it did me!
All this talk about recipes and food is making me hungry. In fact, my mouth is watering for my mom’s doughnuts. Of course, I don’t have a recipe for them in my notebook. Maybe I’ll just give her a call to see if she’s up for making a batch for me!
As a young woman still living at home, I used to grocery shop for my mom. Then grocery shopping was fun and easy. I simply drove to the store Mom directed me to, bought the items on her list (plus a few for myself—she said it was OK!), paid for the groceries with her credit card and then took them home and put them in the fridge. Mom would use them to make great meals for the fam.
Then I got married and switched from Mom’s credit card to my credit card. All of a sudden, it got much more complicated. How often do I need to go to the store? What quantities should I buy? Which stores offer the best deals, the most quality food? How do I manage this on a budget?
I still haven’t found that magic list of rules, but the following suggestions have helped me become a smarter shopper:
Go with a list.
Critical for me. When I don’t have a list I end up wandering the store buying things I already have while forgetting the things that I truly need. No good!
Don’t go when you are hungry.
Someone suggested this with me in mind. I lose my ability to think clearly when I’m in the grocery store hungry. Of course I need more Cheetos, and you can’t eat Cheetos without Cherry Coke. I don’t need cereal for breakfast—where are my favorite chocolate donut holes? Need I go on?
Establish a pattern.
Find a routine that serves you and your family’s needs most effectively. Some shop weekly and others monthly. I’m a weekly girl myself, but I have a very shopping-savvy friend who finds monthly shopping (with weekly visits for milk) works best for her.
Do Internet research.
I ran into my friend Jenni at the store last week and she told me that before she heads out to shop she does a quick Internet search of the area stores to find the best sales. This helps her to decide which store she will go to that week.
Tailor a list to your store.
One reader wrote in with a great tip. She created a grocery list on her computer that follows the traffic pattern of her local grocery store. She keeps a copy on her fridge, and when it comes time to plan her meals, a quick walk through the list is all that’s needed to ensure she purchases the necessary ingredients. This maximizes her time in both the planning and the shopping.
We here at girltalk hardly fit the category of “grocery-shopping experts.” These suggestions are just to get you started. We hope they inspire you to fine-tune your grocery shopping technique. Consider doing a google search for more grocery shopping tips. Even better, consider your network of relationships and corner a friend who seems to have this grocery shopping thing down.
Grocery shopping may require time, thought, and skill. But by learning from others we can master this crucial task in order to prepare memorable meals for our family!
Last week we reflected upon the powerful effect that consistent family meals can have over time. This week we will consider the meal itself—how to take it from merely an idea in our head (or a craving in our stomach!) to a lovely presentation on our dining room table.
I suggest that we begin with a plan. To do so, we need to figure out where we best fit on the planning continuum.
Some of you can get by with a simple “staples plan.” As long as you keep certain ingredients on hand, you can easily produce a delicious meal in a short period of time—depending on your creative urge that day.
I’m feeling a little envious even as I write this because if I tried to pull off a meal like that, it would be a disaster! Therefore, I’m part of the group who is at the other end of the planning spectrum. I need to rely on a “menu plan.”
Wednesdays are my normal day for planning a week’s worth of menus and grocery list and Thursdays are my grocery-shopping day. I always plan the meals with my calendar. That way, I can coordinate the meal with the day—plan easy meals for busy days and the more elaborate meals for the less demanding days.
Also, to simplify the menu-planning process, I plan meals from the same category of foods for certain days. For example on Sundays I make a breakfast meal since CJ and Chad like breakfast foods. On Mondays, which is my husband’s day off, I use a meal from my freezer. Then again on Saturdays, I make sandwiches for dinner (and add a dessert to make it a little more special!) because that is the night I babysit my grandsons.
I’ve found it helpful to keep a running grocery list on a tiny dry-erase board (a freebie from a seafood market that I frequent) that is on the side of my refrigerator. The moment I run out of a food item, I jot it down so I won’t forget it come grocery-shopping day. Certain family-members like to add to the list as well. This past week “cherry coke” appeared. I knew immediately—Janelle’s been here.
Then there are times when all my planning goes awry! The meals don’t get planned on Wednesday. I’m running to the store a few times a week to buy ingredients for a meal that I’m throwing together at the last minute. Or I serve cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and hot dogs and chips for three consecutive evenings. Even though weeks like this are bound to come along, my menu plan helps me get back on track.
Whether you’re the ultra-creative type who can do a lot with a simple plan or whether you need a more specific plan like me, an effective plan is key to consistently providing well-balanced, delicious, within-budget, and peaceful meals week in and week out.
So take a few moments to consider your plan—how’s it working for you? If one aspect of your plan needs tweaking or if you’ve never developed an effective plan, let me encourage you to draw from the wisdom of other women. While we are all different, by learning from each other’s strengths, we can all grow in planning meals for our family.
In keeping with our dinner theme this week, our friend Trillia from Knoxville sent us the perfect Friday Funny. A group of men in her church have a blog called “manspeak” and one of the contributers took a rather humorous look at the differences between men and women when it comes to cooking. Check it out here.
We will be back with more food talk on Monday!
on behalf of Carolyn, Nicole, and Kristin
In Chapter Two we learn that “Elizabeth professed faith in Christ…at the tender age of twelve” but that “she would look back in years to come and seriously question whether she had truly been converted at that time.”
Mrs. James goes on to record her spiritual wrestlings: “she vacillated: at some points she felt very sure of her faith, was diligent in Bible reading and prayer, and devoured Christian books; at other times she would become completely absorbed in novels, poetry, music, drawing, clothes, and friends.”
Then, in the midst of a local revival in 1838, Elizabeth began to be tormented by doubt: “while she was leading others to faith in Christ, she lost the assurance that she herself was a Christian.” So intense was her despair that it even affected her physical health!
Finally, after many months of distress and prayer, “she was assured her sins were forgiven and she was full of joy.”
Many of us can relate to Elizabeth’s struggle with a lack of assurance. Or, if we have children, we can be unsure how to help them evaluate the state of their soul. Few things are more important than discerning the legitimacy of our child’s profession of faith or coming to a place of personal assurance of salvation.
So, we called in a pastor for this one—Dad of course! He is our go-to-source for the best books and resources on any given topic.
If you are personally struggling with assurance, he recommends:
How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian? by Donald Whitney
The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
Holiness Chapter Seven: “Assurance” by JC Ryle
For parents, he would encourage you to read/listen to:
Your Child’s Profession of Faith by Dennis Gundersen
“How Children Come to Faith in Christ” by Jim Elliff (audio cds)
“Childhood Conversion” by Jim Elliff (online article)
“New Life: Conversion” and “New Life: Sacraments” by Mark Mullery (audio sermons)
We hope these resources serve you and your children and that God may grant you the same joy and fellowship with Him that Elizabeth experienced!
BOOK CLUB ASSIGNMENT: In Chapter Three, we learn about Elizabeth’s single years. So teenagers and singles—your assignment for this week is to read the chapter and email us your answer to the following question: “How did Elizabeth display biblical womanhood as a single woman and how are you inspired to follow her example?