Weekend Eating Reading: The More-with-Less Cookbook

Oh, the More-with-Less Cookbook! How I love this book! “Green” and globally aware before it was trendy, really simple way before Real Simple; a Christian response to global hunger that involved so much more than writing a check to a relief organization.

Commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee in 1976 “in response to world food needs,” this cookbook was ahead of its time in its awareness of how personal food consumption is connected deeply to poverty and want in other places:

“we are looking for ways to live more simply and joyfully, ways that grow out of our tradition but take their shape from living faith and the demands of our hungry world. There is not just one way to respond, nor is there a single answer to the world’s food problem. It may not be within our capacity to effect an answer. But it is within our capacity to search for a faithful response.”

(from the preface by the author, Doris Janzen Longacre)

Even as a really young girl, I enjoyed reading the More-with-Less cookbook. It’s full of wisdom and suggestions for connecting your family’s eating to broader ethical and spiritual concerns, and in a lot of ways it anticipates the “food movement” that seems so contemporary. It advocates “lawn gardening” (less mow–more hoe), and recognizes that things like home food preservation can provide “meaningful opportunities for family members to work together.”

Much like Diet for a Small Planet, the More-with-Less Cookbook advocates for a whole-grain, plant centered diet. But it doesn’t advocate for complete vegetarianism. Instead, it suggests a “wise” and “sparing” use of meat; recipes that serve 6 or more never call for more than 1 lb. of meat: a style of cooking that uses meat as a flavoring more than a center-of-the-plate item. (Which is, of course, an anticipation of Michael Pollan’s “eat food. not too much. mostly plants.)

The More-with-Less Cookbook has its faults; it’s clearly within a “frugality-first” mindset, now looks dated when it calls for margarine instead of butter, and has some vintage-style weird casseroles (eg. Spinach Loaf.) But many of the recipes hold up just fine over time (and/or are good for building off of or revising). The Middle Eastern Lentil Soup recipe, for example, is still just about the simplest, tastiest lentil soup I’ve ever had; I make it regularly and it’s a favorite even with my pickier child.

Because I grew up on the recipes from More-with-Less, that food is comforting to me, and that cookbook will always be special to me for first awakening in me the idea that my choices might actually matter to more than just me. They might make a difference in the lives of others.They might matter to God.

The More-with-Less cookbook! Check it out. It’s full of gems like these:

“don’t begin gardening and preserving only out of duty to your budget and the world’s hungry, although it helps. Begin it for joy, for healing. Begin it to receive the gift God gave when He placed us in a garden and said, “Behold, I have given you every plant  yielding seed…”

Oh, yes. It’s all about eating with joy.

Peace, friends! Enjoy the weekend!


Weekend Eating Reading & Giveaway–Year of Plenty

It’s my first blog giveaway!

For this weekend’s ‘eating reading,’ I’d like to direct you over to the Fall 2011 issue of Flourish magazine, where you’ll find my review of Craig Goodwin’s Year of Plenty.

And after you’ve read that, c’mon back here and comment on this post to win your own free copy of the book!

(Comments will close at 9 am, EST, on Wednesday the 7th, after which I’ll select one lucky winner at random.)

What I Want vs. What I HAVE

One of the things I love about gardening (and eating in season) is that it shifts your focus from what you WANT to what you HAVE.

potatoes, purple and yellow, dug just before dinner

Instead of saying, “Hmn, what do I feel like eating?”, you say, “What do we have? What’s ripe and ready?” and you build your meal around that. And that–as Barbara Kingsolver suggested in this interview–turns everyday eating into a practice of gratitude.

Rather than starting with what I want, I start with what’s actually here.

beautiful heirloom tomatoes: Riesentraubes, Gold Medals, and Amish Pastes

And that’s a pretty beautiful place to be.

(Though I’m sorta getting tired of fresh tomatoes. Which is fine, because they make good tomato sauce.)

After the Storm

Can’t tell you how glad I am that the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene in our little corner of NY has been, for the most part, minimal! While I wasn’t particularly worried about the house (which has been standing here since before Ma & Pa Ingalls got married…figure that out), I was worried about an old maple tree in our yard that has certainly seen better days, and, of course, about the fruit trees we planted only last year, as well as the rest of our garden.

The green bean/cucumber arbor went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

And we had a number of windfalls, and one snapped eggplant bush, but most of it was salvageable:

On the whole? Everything weathered the storm pretty well! In fact, those little trees displayed an impressive combination of tenacity and flexibility, excellent qualities in trees as well as people:

The Riesentraube tomato plants, which I grew from seed, have grown so big and dense that, secured with twine, they formed a tomato-fortress and weren’t harmed at all!

Some of the others didn’t fare quite so well, but we’ll be able to prop them up again.

Inside, the storm mostly over, we enjoyed a celebratory meal of Chinese take-out (a twice-monthly ritual around here), once again proving that no matter WHAT is taking place in NY, you can always count on the Chinese take-out place to be open and cooking as briskly and efficiently as ever.

And at the end of the day?


Hoping you weathered your weekend OK too, folks!

My thoughts, prayers, and good wishes are with folks like my colleague Amy Julia Becker who had much more to contend with as a result of Irene. Peace and blessings to you.

Sunday Recipe: “Secret” Chocolate Cake

(Chocolate Beet Cake, which sounds awful but TASTES delicious; see here. Don’t tell anyone what’s in it until they’ve tasted it. Oh, also, beets are ridiculously easy to grow. So grow some!)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Generously butter a 9″x12″ baking dish.

Then, puree in food processor until very smooth:

2 cups cooked, peeled beets*

1/2 cup applesauce

In a large bowl, beat for 2 minutes with electric mixer (or a wooden spoon and lots o’ elbow grease):

1 and 1/4 c. sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup sour cream

3 eggs

pour in beet-apple mixture along with:

1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa

1 TB pure vanilla extract

In another bowl, sift together:

2 and 1/2 cups flour

1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

Stir dry ingredients into wet, stir ONLY until blended (the more you stir a non-yeasted batter, the tougher the resulting cake/muffin/whatever will be.) Pour immediately into prepared dish and bake about 50 minutes, or until top springs back and a knife inserted in the center comes clean.

Serve in bowls with freshly whipped, lightly sweetened cream laced with just a bit of vanilla.