Living More-with-Less

Cooking & Eating

Cooking group.

A group of folks from our congregation, Fairfield (Pa.) Mennonite Church, and community gather monthly to prepare locally produced, seasonal, whole, plant-based foods. We enjoy the process of cooking together for the evening, as well as talking about new ideas that specific ingredients or recipes may highlight—for example, the local economy, fair trade, ecological impact, or health. And of course we enjoy eating the good food together.

Audrey Hess, Gettysburg, Pa.

Simple hospitality.

Hospitality doesn’t require a feast. If we can be creative and simple, it takes the pressure off others to be so terribly perfect and over-the-top. A simple cup of tea with cheese and crackers is fine for a snack. A bag of animal crackers is great with a cup of coffee. Even buttered toast with cinnamon can be special. One of my friends from Japan says that she feels that no common meal needs more than three dishes. When one of those dishes is rice, you are one-third done already!

Dora Kawate, Dillsburg, Pa.

Goal: whole.

The last thing many people expect to see amid the various vegetables in a simmering pot of stew is chicken feet. Julianne and Hai En Stutzman Mai of Seattle, Wash., however, deliberately use the entire chicken, from head to foot, as well as every part of their vegetables to create nutritious and holistic dishes. Likewise, Stutzman says a priority is to “feel thankful for our food and for our blessings when we eat and take time to enjoy the food and the people we share it with.”

Submitted by Karina Kreider, Akron, Pa.

Drinks.

For as long as we can remember in our marriage, we have kept soft drinks off our grocery list (except for the occasional ginger ale to add to holiday punches). We once calculated that to keep our fridge stocked with pop would cost at least two or three hundred dollars a year. We also learned, and were appalled, at how much sugar the average can of pop has: eight teaspoons. (That’s not only a lot of calories, but also a lot of industrial processing and chemicals.)

Instead, for thirst-quenchers in summer, we drink sun tea (brewed in a glass jug in the back yard), mint-lemonade smoothies, and apple juice. We grow a variety of mints in our garden, and we keep a bottle of lemon concentrate in the fridge. On really hot days, we’ll throw a couple of handfuls of mint leaves into the blender, along with ice cubes, sugar, and lemon concentrate, and make the best mint smoothies you’ll ever taste.

We also go through a lot of apple juice. We have relatives near the city who have three crabapple trees and are happy for us to take as many as we can use. We inherited a juicer, which makes it easy to process the apples, not only for juice but also syrups.

Byron and Melita Rempel-Burkholder, Winnipeg, Man.

Mini-fruit salads.

My mother enjoys celebrating the fresh fruit of the Niagara Region of Ontario and freezes much of it for 100-percent local fruit salads year-round. When the kids grew up and left home, she realized that her fruit salads were too large when she took a bag of each fruit at a time to combine it for a fruit salad. So she started making mini-fruit salad baggies of the mixed berries, so that come winter all she needs to do is take out one small bag.

Here’s what she does (and I do too): in each fruit’s season, add ¼ cup each: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, etc. to twenty different baggies. At the end of summer, you should have the makings for twenty separate fruit salads. Just add home-canned peaches and pears and—voilà!

Charleen Jongejan Harder, London, Ont.

Can local food save the world?

I mull over this question as I track down more and more sources for local foods for my family. My simple answer is: Yes. Local food saves me from being paralyzed by guilt and doom at what is happening on our planet. Local food saves me from paralysis by infusing my days with joy as I delight in each new season: cherries, broccoli, blueberries, green beans! Local food saves me by connecting me with the farmers, millers, bakers, and cheesemakers. I know their names and their stories.

It’s hard to be paralyzed when the first watermelons are ready, and I bought too many, so who are we going to invite over? When I feel that nothing I do matters, we are all doomed, I remember that I’m at least supporting local farmers and feeding my children healthy food. Relocalizing the food system also means that if our systems of convenience collapse, we’ll be able to feed ourselves. Filling my freezer and pantry with local foods, I feel a sense of abundance that somehow helps me live in love rather than fear or numbness. When each of us finds what saves us from paralysis, then we really are saving the world.

Nina Bailey-Dick, Waterloo, Ont.

No meat because many have no choice.

I have been a vegetarian—technically, a lacto-ovo vegetarian, because I still eat eggs and cheese and drink milk—since 1997. In 1992 I cut out beef and pork from my diet. Five years later I cut out chicken and seafood (the motto I use is “I eat nothing with a face”).

In the five years between 1992–1997, as I was looking for recipes for my new semi-meatless diet, I began to read about the environmental and social costs of eating meat. So what started out as health reasons for not eating meat turned into ethical reasons. I was particularly struck by how my food choices in comfortable North America affected the lives of people all over the world. Many, many people in the world have no choice about whether or not to have meat in their diets.

As one person, my choosing vegetarianism does not make much of a difference—but by not eating meat, I can stand in solidarity with the many people in the world who have no choice.

Susan Bergey, St. Agatha, Ont.

Better bread.

Behind the “the more you put in, the more you get back” cliché, Hilary Sauder of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, found a revolutionary approach to making bread: grinding her own wheat. Sauder tried the homemade bread of a person who ground their own wheat, and she was amazed at how much better it tasted and at how much more nutrition it has. Since then she has purchased an electric grinder. “I believe in the power of food in nourishment and healing and believe this is diminished when things are processed,” says Hilary, who makes as much as she can from scratch.

Submitted by Karina Kreider, Akron, Pa.

Cereals.

We calculated how much it would cost if we were to eat boxed cereals every day. The difference between this and other options seemed surprisingly wide, even if we were to use only generic corn flakes for comparison. More than the cost, however, it was the packaging, the chemicals, and the sugar that drove us away from boxed cereals, as well as the attraction of what turned out to be much more satisfying options.

We alternate among cooked cereals, homemade granola, “continental” breakfasts (bread or muffins), and, once a week or so, baked oatmeal. Oatmeal and cream of wheat cereals do not take much time to cook, it’s easy to do while you make coffee or get dressed, and they’re wholesome. Oats are especially easy and versatile. We buy fifty-pound bags of locally produced rolled oats and dip into it for our oatmeal, granola, crisps, bread, and muffins. It takes about ten minutes to fill up our roaster with oatmeal and other ingredients: seeds, oil or butter, and honey (all local), and nuts and grated coconut (not local).

Byron and Melita Rempel-Burkholder, Winnipeg, Man.

Using grains.

Grains are extremely difficult to digest and can cause numerous health issues if not properly prepared. Our ancestors knew this and therefore ate their grains freshly ground and fermented in sourdough breads and porridges. Not much beats the taste of bread and pastries made from freshly ground flour! Use hard winter wheat berries for yeasted breads, as they contain more gluten than the soft wheat berries, which are better for non-yeast baked goods.

Tandi Simwale, Etters, Pa.

Fermentation elation.

As fresh produce season rolls around every year, many people will spend hours in front of the stove, cooped inside their kitchens, canning fruits and vegetables. Darren and Espri Bender-Beauregard of Paoli, Ind., however, will not be among these dedicated disciples. Instead, they have found an easier, quicker, and more nutritious alternative: lacto-fermentation.

“A lot of people are daunted by the idea of eating like we eat,” but by simply shredding/chopping vegetables, adding salt and whey, and letting the vegetables sit for five or six days, “[we] are really simplifying our way of cooking,” says Darren.

Additionally, he says, “all the bubbling, fermenting activity always reminds me of God’s Spirit working in the world and bringing the good things out in people and, like the vegetables, keeping us healthy.”

Submitted by Karina Kreider, Akron, Pa.

Leftover makeover.

What do parfaits, veggie crepes, and bread have in common? According to Sarah Myers of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, all three are excellent ways to use up leftovers. The key is knowing how to be creative, which eliminates all waste. Such a sustainable (and often simple) mentality was modeled to Myers by her parents and grandparents, who taught her how to make new creations from old food to avoid eating the same dish time and time again. “There aren’t leftovers in this house,” says Sarah; “there are makeovers.”

Submitted by Karina Kreider, Akron, Pa.

Storing leftovers.

We keep an erasable marker on top of the refrigerator so we can write down the contents and dates of leftovers. Instead of transferring food from serving bowls to plastic storage containers or covering things with plastic wrap, we slip on a plastic shower cap, which can be washed and reused. Putting a plate on top of a serving bowl also works for storage.

Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi, Salatiga, Central Java, Indonesia

Suet.

Make your own suet by saving drained grease and mixing with bird seed. I drain the grease in a nonrecyclable container, such as a frozen juice container. I’ve found I often get some meat “juice” in addition to the grease, and I include that too. Mix the grease with about twice as much bird seed by putting bird seed in a plastic bag and pouring the grease over it. Knead the bag with your hands to mix, adjusting proportions as needed. Place in bird feeder or any flat surface birds can reach. I start putting it outside when I put the regular bird seed out (when it’s cold or snowy enough that the birds need another food source). I save the grease in the freezer during the spring through the summer to use in the winter.

Lorene Byler Miller, Goshen, Ind.

For more information

Just Eating: Practicing Our Faith at the Table: Jennifer Halteman Schrock wrote this seven-session curriculum for congregations about how eating connects to our faith. Version available for middle schoolers as well.

More-with-Less Cookbook: A World Community Cookbook: The 25th-anniversary edition of Doris Janzen Longacre’s classic cookbook.

Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook: Following in the tradition of the More-with-Less Cookbook, Extending the Table features recipes from around the world. Written by Joetta Handrich Schlabach.

Simply in Season: A World Community Cookbook: A cookbook for seasonal eating by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Published by Herald Press. New, expanded edition available.

Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook: This colorful cookbook for kids helps them make connections between what they eat, where it comes from, and what is in season.

Saving the Seasons: How to Can, Freeze, or Dry Almost Anything: A new book about preserving seasonal foods. Edited by Mary Clemens Meyer and Susanna Meyer and published by Herald Press.

Nourishing Traditions: A cookbook on the use of whole, natural foods by Sally Fallon.

Food Routes: A U.S. nonprofit that works to educate people about their food—where it comes from, who produces it, and how far it travels to their plates.

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