catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 17 :: 2013.09.20 — 2013.10.03


Time is on my side

I’ve had a lot of homemade food that’s crap.  Church potlucks can be egregious offenders, with concoctions of Cool Whip and Oreos, heavy on sugar and low on taste.  You know what I mean: those desserts that taste “amazing” when you take the first bite and very quickly become cloying and a waste of calories.  No matter how traditional or beloved, a casserole of canned soup and crispy onion straws isn’t the kind of homemade I’m after.

But I’m not a purist.  For something to count as homemade, it doesn’t have to involve harvesting raw ingredients myself.  My current favorite hummus recipe is a five-minute wonder using canned beans, canned artichoke hearts, lemon juice and grated cheese.  Then there are weeks when we buy hummus and it’s not much of a sacrifice to do so.  I don’t think homemade is always better, and neither do I think our lives are too busy to make anything from scratch ever again.  I do think we lose something when all our food comes processed and packaged and we use our kitchens as elaborate storage areas.

Homemade food is valuable the way prayer is valuable: it connects us more deeply to our surroundings.  If we know all about prayer and can recite prayers and talk about what prayer does and how God encourages it but we never sit ourselves down (or get ourselves up) to pray, we are only floating around in the suburbs of it, pointing to it without actually engaging with God.  Likewise, when our days consist of refueling stops rather than meals and we don’t know or care how the food got to the plate or if it’s even technically food, we are divorced from one of our most basic needs and deepest joys. 

It’s about texture.  I want the kind of life akin to lumpy mashed potatoes, rather than the whipped smooth variety.  I want to notice these were once whole potatoes and feel the occasional pocket of extra butter and granule of salt not-quite-dissolved until it hits my tongue.  I don’t want a smooth and uniform purée, tasting potato-like but with no evidence of the real food combined to make what I’m eating.  I want my days marked by meals we made together and the joy of creating the space to sit together and eat, texture that puts life in high relief.

The main ingredient in homemade fare is time: the ability and space and desire to prioritize this meal or dish over everything else that could be happening right now.  And something else could always be happening right now. 

It’s easier and more time efficient to pick up a birthday cake at the store, especially when a house full of kids are coming over in two hours and they will never know the difference between the cake from the store and the homemade one I didn’t make.  It’s easier to throw it in the microwave the minute I walk in the door and let it nuke while I change clothes and pour wine and prepare to plop myself on the couch.  Some days those may be the best choices available.  But over time, all the little choices add up and become the texture of our lives.  I don’t want a miserly, there’s-no-time textured life.  

I spent a long May morning making a Black Forest Cake for my husband’s birthday this year.  I’d never had one before and had to buy a lot of ingredients we didn’t have on hand, but he told me it was his favorite cake.  All I needed was time.  

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