This year is a milestone year for me. On October 12 I hit the big 5-0. In accordance with such a momentous event, it is a national holiday in Canada (as it should be every year). 2015 marks a couple of other notable events in my life. It was 25 years ago that I spent a summer in Southern Ontario on a course sponsored by the now defunct Student Mission Advance. The course was called World Christian Leadership Development. 2015 also marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of the More With Less Cookbook, by Doris Janzen Longacrei
Yesterday Chris Smith of the excellent website Englewood Review of Books, and whose book Slow Church is one of my recent favourites, made mention that Rachel Marie Stone whose book Eat With Joy I previously reviewed, is planning on doing an updated edition. That was a long sentence. Anyway, it got me thinking about how the More With Less cookbook is connected to various important elements in my life.
More With Less and Me
Around this time 25 years ago, I had just been baptised and was suddenly presented with the opportunity to leave my job, and head off to Southern Ontario to spend four months immersed in an intense Christian Leadership learning experience. I wasn’t supposed to be going, but the person who had originally been selected had backed out, and there I was on the verge of a new and scary thing.
I heard some great speakers and attended one or two really good conferences. I learned a little about myself, but the biggest and lasting effect of the summer was to instill the love of cooking into me.
The summer was divided into two parts. For the first two months, all the participants, lived, ate, and learned together. For the second two months, we were divided up into smaller teams in the Metro Toronto area, and then those teams lived together and fended for themselves as far as cooking was considered.
My group was evenly divided between men and women. However, none of the women wanted to cook. So, I stepped up and offered to do it. It was a new experience for me. I had previously only ever cooked for myself. It was also a revelation for me. It turned out that people liked my cooking.
We were working on a limited budget, as all the costs for the summer were fundraised. Fortunately, we had the More With Less Cookbook, which allowed us to prepared good meals cheaply. Most of the dishes were quite enjoyable. The one exception was Kusherie a rice and lentil dish found on page 108 of More with Less. There was nothing particularly wrong with the dish. It’s just that the author claims it serves 6-8. What it should have said was 6-8 hungry offensive linemen. Who haven’t eaten for a month. It took us several meals and a potluck before we were able to finish it.
In some ways, I think that summer was the genesis of my love for food, and my feelings on the importance of eating together. While the fare was simple, the mealtimes were filled with great conversation and much laughter. That really is what lies at the heart of More With Less. It’s not so much about the food as who we share it with.
The other memory I connect with More With Less, is learning to make bread. When I came back to Winnipeg, and particularly in the years I had my own house, I liked to make bread, and it was the Ruggenbrot from More With Less (page 59) that was my favourite.
The last thing that More With Less did for me was that it brought me to an awareness of how much food I waste. Along with how much more we could be doing to help everyone feed themselves. This has been a long fermenting idea with me, but in some of its more recent outworkings has seen me get involved with groups such as Transition Winnipeg. The process is still ongoing, but the change will come.
Since More With Less is a cookbook, it seems only appropriate that I prepare one of the dishes in the book for tonight’s meeting. The dish is a Quick Fruit Cobbler (page 273), created by Jocele Meyer of Brooklyn, Ohio.
Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees
Combine in Bowl:
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Milk
1tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp Salt
Pour into 9X9 Greased baking pan
2 cups Fruit – fresh, frozen or canned (I used blueberries, raspberries, and nectarines)
Bake for 40 Minutes
As I approach 50, I hope that I will have the opportunity to spend increasing amounts of time with friends around laughter filled meals, no matter how simple. I intend to keep my copy of More With Less handy. It’s great for serving large groups, and it brings back memories of friends near and far, and sadly one who is absent in the body, who have enriched my life.