Thoughts on Food

Boulanger

DSC_0014

I quietly escape into our bathroom for a spontaneous Sunday morning bath.  There are few moments to be alone, without a sweet babe wrapped fiercely around my leg.  There are few moments to read, let alone in peace.  Seizing an opportunity, or maybe creating one, I sneak away while a little lady and her daddy occupy themselves with giggles and books and before either one notice I am gone.  I acknowledge the gift of water, and time (alone.)  Before motherhood I was unaware that together the two become a luxury.  I open my book and with each page emotions stir, adrenaline grows, and purpose fills my bones, like water fills the tub.  I only read a book of bread but the art, history, and worldview of a Boulanger, (French word for bread maker, which I cannot stop repeating under my breath), keeps me engaged like a good dance class or a book of Chinese medicine.  Like cupping and acupuncture, improvisation and poetry, I am fully engaged, inspired and alive.  “Boulanger,” I periodically set my book aside, to say it again and again.  With each repetition the name begins to suit me.  With humble confidence and amateur ambition, I investigate from my boots to my brains, forgetting not one single cell in between.  I marvel at the mystery of transformation, remembering that just years ago my hands had not touched ground grains made new into dough.  My heart was not patient, and my mind not big enough to fit my wanderlust inside, what seemed to be, nothing more than a confining domestic vocation.

DSC_0015

I relax deeper into the water and give myself permission to reflect some more.  It seems the domestic, mundane, everyday happenings have filled me with more meaning than my monumental story of a 34-hour train ride from Oslo to Budapest.  A domestic life filled with flour and time has produced as much pleasure as authentic Italian Cuisine and late night Vespa rides in Naples.  With pruned toes I sigh at my sweet memories, remembering that I once thrived off of an evanescent life, seeking adventure, with eyes gazed far and wide.  But today I crave a simple, local life with roots running deep and family drawing near.  I become more aware that both adventure, and a strong sense of place are not mutually exclusive, and although may seem worlds apart, are in fact one in the same.

DSC_0022

I rest easy in the water because this monumental book and bath have given me permission to courageously claim a new name. I sigh softly and methodically because I understand what I have become.  What was once a name attributed to being the creator of warm goodness straight out of the oven has surprisingly proven to be a way of life.  A baker is not a baker simply because of what they bake.  A baker is a baker because the meditative, life giving act not only transforms once useless ingredients into a sustaining life force, but because they themselves are transformed in this process.  While I measure and weigh, following recipe instructions with care, it ultimately comes back to a feeling, and at my core, I am a feeler.

DSC_0032

Days later I attempt my first Sourdough Rye with traditional natural yeast boasting one hundred and thirty years of life.  I am baking with a starter that has enough history to taste its stories, and enough life to sustain generations.  Flour, salt, water and yeast; individually they may be insignificant, but together they are wholesome and worthy.  With little space and adequate time these ingredients age and evolve, getting better with time.  I hope the same could be said of me one day.

On a Sunday in May, I declare myself a bread baker.  On the Tuesday following I still dwell in my recent discovery.  I daydream of the possibilities that find a home in such a name, and then I bask in its novelty.  It is my visceral pursuit, my domestic adventure.  I bake because I must. I am a baker.

DSC_0095

What I Do All Day…

DSC_0013DSC_0050DSC_0037

I did not grow up in a culture where food was celebrated.  Food was something I did or did not eat and was the reason for me feeling frustrated while standing in front of a mirror in pink tights and a leotard.  Most teenagers ate chips and lounged in sweats after their nightly sport or activity.  My reality was much different and it felt like food had the ability to get in the way of my biggest dreams.  There was a huge disconnect because I had never watched food grow.  I had never seen food transformed. I had never handled a root from the ground and made it into something new with my very own hands, or even watched my family do this.  Food was far from me, even when I was in the process of eating.  In fact I hardly even ate dinner around a table, slowly and with the people I loved.  Don’t worry, I had a great childhood.  I was just always at the dance studio, eating my meals in the car or the studio lobby.  I wanted this lifestyle and I had parents who supported it.  I would not have wanted them to do anything different, because I would have been devastated reducing my five nights a week of dance to two or three.  However, in the last few years I have felt the need to re prioritize my life, with the most basic things, like food, being held to a higher standard even when our culture does not embrace or encourage this.  It is nothing new to say our culture thrives off of quick fixes and short cuts, quantity over quality and getting the biggest bang for our buck.  We spend more money and time on dressing and fussing over the outside before nourishing the inside.  In a world that just gets faster every day, I deeply crave to slow down and take the long route.  My experiences in Italy greatly influenced this area of my life, making it the center, the foundation and teaching me that it is not too bold to schedule your life around food rather than fitting food into your life.  I have been convicted and encouraged, realizing that God gave me this body to take care of and how I treat it is a symbol for how I feel about the One who created it.

Being a Mama and having my own family, I have the chance to create a new rhythm and a culture where food is celebrated. This has been one of the greatest desires for my family.  Although Octave is only 13 months old, she is already learning about our family rhythms, especially when it comes to food.  My hope is that she see’s me celebrate and enjoy food.  If she see’s me prioritize my time by preparing food for our bodies over the internet, tv and running busy errands, she will understand the importance without me ever saying a word.  I hope it is something that will not  have to be taught because it will be second nature.

I also want Octave to have memories of a fragrant kitchen.  For her to remember her childhood in scents, tastes and textures. I want her expectations to be high, and for her to crave real, whole, nutritious food.  I want her to remember her childhood when she is in the kitchen, sustaining and giving life to her own family, if she desires to have one.  It doesn’t matter whether she loves to eat or cook as much as I do, that is not the goal.  I just want her to understand how foundational food is.  For her to not stress over what goes in her body because she knows the food she eats is healing and lovely and too much fun to worry over.  It took me too many years to not worry over food. To not make lists of what I should and should not eat.  To not calorie count and feel guilty about things I ate that didn’t fit into my silly numbers.  In my early twenties I learned that numbers are nothing, but ingredients are everything.  That was just the beginning.

All of these words were inspired by the question I often get asked.  What do I do all day?  It doesn’t offend me one bit because I am curious what other people do all day too.  It’s a good question.  It just seems like being a stay at home mom is kind of counter cultural these days.  It’s almost as if society is waiting for you to get a real job.  Staying at home with Octave is a blessing.  It is my joy and my life, not a job.  In between playing with her, reading the same book five times over and jumping on our bed, (yes we do that!), I am in the kitchen.  Just this week I realized that what I do all day can be put into a sentence.  What I do all day is love on my babe and create a home where food is celebrated.  I probably won’t say that when people ask, that just sounds kind of strange and pompous without the back story.  But, it is true.  That is what I do all day, and I am beyond grateful for the ability to be able to do so.

Seeing The Everyday

steamI wake early, if only to stand before my kitchen window, with my coffee in hand and witness the waking of the sun.  It is as if its future rests on my acknowledgment and childish delight.  As if the day won’t unfold as it should, until I say good morning to my sweet simple life with the upmost gratitude. I need that quiet morning time to give thanks and to receive blessing.  I need to free myself of expectation at the start of each day so I can butter my toast and take a hot shower without assumption or entitlement.  Even the most basic necessities are blessings.  Time being another, and I am blessed with lots of it.  This commitment to seeing joy in the mundane and blessing in the most obvious, has quickly become infectious, addictive, and my new rhythm.  My cup is full and I want it to overflow to others.  I want it to overflow onto their plates as we gather around our table.  I want them to taste beauty and crave more of it, so they too will want to harvest the goodness.  I want them to eat and be intoxicated with this enthusiasm for the mundane, the gratitude for the everyday.

I believe food can help cultivate this joy and gratitude.  To meditate on tasting, chewing, swallowing, digesting is to invite it in.  Nourishing our bodies is so basic that I can’t help but see how our relationship with food connects to the rest of life.  The way I prepare meals says something about what I value.  How, what, where I eat and even the way I wash dishes says something too.  It might sound silly or forced to put so much meaning behind something so basic.  I just can’t help but draw the connection in my own life.  I see how slowing down, because of both choice and circumstance, has completely transformed me.  When I use my hands to create something that sustains my family and friends, there is deep purpose and life makes sense.  When I am removed from this process I look around and see a chaotic and complicated world, with little understanding of where I fit.  Cooking and all that surrounds it has become my catalyst for processing life, the way dance has always been.  I will always be a mover and I will also need to process in that way, but as a wife and mama, cooking is my constant, my everyday means to find joy.  Even more, it is my everyday opportunity to bless and be blessed.

For the Love of Baguette

DSC_0024Bread gets a really bad wrap these days. I get it; I used to be on that bandwagon too.  Carbs bad. Especially white carbs.  Especially white bread.  However, I have relaxed a bit and I hope/think for the better.  Sure, white flour might not be full of nutrition but I noticed when I started baking my own bread and eating it too, my body finally found a balance that I had always tried so hard to achieve.  There could have been other factors helping my body find balance. I didn’t just eat bread. I started making almost every single thing from scratch and ate lots and lots of vegetables.  I also rode my bike and walked almost every day for a year, while we lived in Denver.  I also could have just been at an age where my body just figured things out.   It was probably a bit of all of those things. I am not trying to say that bread is good for you, because it’s not, really. I just don’t think I have given enough credit to the love and joy that comes from baking and eating, even white flour.  I truly believe that the joy that comes from kneading, shaping, watching, slicing and then eating my own bread, is in fact the nutrition.  The endorphins my body releases when I experience this patient process is not to be disregarded. Obviously, eating junk all day and claiming it brings pleasure is not where I am going either.  There is a balance to find everywhere, in everything.  My thoughts are just to simply enjoy the entire process from table setting, prep, cooking, eating and clean up.  To make everything with my own two hands so I know what goes in it.  To eat loads of vegetables, drink fresh pressed juice and to never EVER suppress a chocolate craving.  Just as long as it is dark, organic, fair -trade and wrapped in pretty paper!  Here is too white flour. Because it makes gorgeous baguette that makes me feel European, and that is a good enough reason in itself:)