Forty Days of More-with-Less: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 40-day Lent journey to cook exclusively from More-with-Less Cookbook.

By Ben and Heather Kulp

Holy Week for Christians is here, and towards the end of any period of resolution it is a great to time to reflect on the experience. We kept true to our commitment to not go out to eat during the Lenten season.

It was a fulfilling experience to focus on inviting people in to our home to share hospitality and recipes from More with Less. We post this blog on our respective Facebook pages every week, and have been surprised by the responses sent to us from friends. Some of our friends are discovering More with Less for the first time, and one friend wrote to tell us that she was using the book to responsibly clean out her cupboard before moving to a new apartment. It has been heartwarming to receive e-mails and suggestions from people (strangers, even!) that read the blog. Grandpa Kulp, when visiting our little boy for the first time last week, brought his own copy of More with Less along for the trip.

african_groundnutAs we were planning our meals for this week, we flipped past an old favorite of ours, the West African Groundnut Stew (p. 172). We substituted tofu for the beef, and enjoyed the stew together as the weather (regretfully) turned cold and snowy again here in Boston. (Heather did not grow up hearing the term “wintry mix” on the weather forecast in Colorado, where “sleet” was the term used, but has now become familiar with the phrase after two New England winters under her belt). Ben has been eating the West African Groundnut stew since childhood, and Heather quickly welcomed the recipe in to our regular eating routine when we began dating. It’s a wonderful recipe to use to wait out the last few nights of chill and ice on the sidewalk, as well as a great way to focus on breathing and relaxation after putting an infant to bed after two hours of fussing.

pizzaLast week we wrote about the temptation of eating out in a neighborhood that hosts many ethnic restaurants and wonderful ways to grab a fast and temporarily gratifying meal. A restaurant that Ben passes at the end of his daily run is the Regina Pizzeria. It is in the last half mile of the running route, and always boasts a wonderful aroma of buttery crust and melted cheese as Ben runs by. This past week, the waft of baking pizza was more than could be handled at the end of a long run, so pizza appeared on the dinner table that evening. Ben used the dough recipe to make homemade pizza dough (p. 142). To help clean out the fridge of all of the little containers that we (regretfully) let go bad more often than not (though less so now that we’ve been thinking about the Fragments), Ben made the pizza toppings from what could be scavenged. The pizza for Heather was vegetarian and featured left over roasted sweet potato cubes, pieces of a seitan loaf, and herbed Vermont goat cheese to top it off. Ben’s pizza was a little more utilitarian, and featured ham and green peppers, a Kulp family staple of pizza topping combinations for as long as can be remembered. A simple kale salad topped with stray vegetables from the fridge was an excellent way to balance out the meal.

The best resolutions change us gradually, and subtly, over a period of time. As we are ending the blog postings about our More with Less, we have been talking and meditating on how to extend the lessons learned towards the future. We have no doubt that we will occasionally stumble and grab Thai take out on a busy day, or not take the time to share a meal with each other at the end of a day. However, there have been subtle positive changes as well. We have begun discussing what we should make for dinner as opposed to what we should do for dinner.

We are moving to a new apartment in a month, and are happy that the landlord has agreed to let us turn a patch of crabgrass on the side of the house in to a garden. We are already planning where the cucumbers should go, and if there is enough sun to grow tomatoes. The local listings for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares are spread throughout the house and organized by different pricing schemes, and pick up locations. With the announcement that there is a new edition of Extending The Table, as well as our annual tradition of using Simply In Season to appropriately use our summer vegetables,

Ben decided to go exploring in our current neighborhood. In addition to hosting many restaurants featuring food from all over the world, our neighborhood has a plethora of small grocery stores from different countries. One of the more prominent shops is the Hong Kong Supermarket, known to locals as “Super 88.” He wandered through Super 88 looking at the many different types of vegetables and tofu. He could only hazard a guess as to what most of the vegetables were, as they were described in a foreign language. He decided to pick up some bok choy on sale, as well as some tofu. That night, in celebration of our resolution coming to an end, Ben made Heather a new stir fry (“Asian style” stir fry being one of the staples in the Kulp household) using the bok choy, tofu, and purple sweet potatoes. The flavors were rounded out with walnuts, lemon juice, and cinnamon. The meal was inexpensive to make, and in conversation we realized we had borrowed the values from our More with Less resolution, and it had come through in the stir fry. (It’s also worth noting that Ben gleefully named the dish “Ben’s Bok Choy Surprise”). Instead of buying Thai or Chinese food on the way home, we went to a market a block away and made a much less expensive meal.

bok_choyHeather and Ben would both like to thank everyone who has read our blog series and Melodie Davis for posting it for us each week. Moving forward, we hope to keep the values we have learned and renewed through our process and to instill them on our little boy.

Thank you for reading,

Ben and Heather Kulp

BenAndHeatherFavShopBen and Heather hope to celebrate the successful completion of their Forty Days of More-with-Less at one of their favorite restaurants, Sonoma Station. (Photo from a year ago at Sonoma Station.)

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Ben and Heather learned much through their 40 day experiment. What is the best or biggest thing you have learned, either through their blog posts, or on your own?

The Kulps mention Extending the Table, which is on pre-publication discount until April 30.

Extending the Table

Favorite Recipes from Simply in Season: We Want to Hear from You

Guest post by Avery Peters, project manager for revised Simply in Season.

It’s fitting that the cookbook Simply in Season starts with spring. It is the time of new beginnings, and the growing season starts afresh. It’s also the perfect time to reflect on your favorite recipes and anticipate another year of cooking with the seasons, and we want to hear all about it from you.

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We’re excited to announce that there will be a revised edition of Simply in Season coming out next spring (2015). This will be the second revised edition in the World Community Cookbook series; the new edition of Extending the Table will be out this spring (preorder until April 30 for the prepub discount of about $5 each). This entire cookbook series is published by Herald Press and commissioned by Mennonite Central Committee.

But we need your help to tell us about your favorite recipes; we’ll make sure that the most favorite are in the revised edition, along with new photographs throughout the cookbook. Fill out this survey to let us know your favorites (by May 1, please).

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These are two of my staple recipes from Simply in Season. The Apple Lentil Salad was one of the first recipes I made and brought to a church potluck. I took home an empty bowl.

Simply in Season was my first cookbook when I moved out for university, so I know it well. This cookbook has taught me so much. The guide to the vegetables and fruits and their handling and preparation has been invaluable to me as I have grown my cooking skills and my gardening knowledge. When something at the market inspires me, I know that I will be able to go home and find a simple, straightforward recipe that will showcase the uniqueness of each vegetable or fruit.

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I had to take a photo of this gnarly celeriac. I had no idea what to do with the root, but the guide from Simply in Season helped me out!

The recipes inspire me and keep me coming back to the same recipes over and over. It’s still the first cookbook that I turn to, even as my cookbook collection is growing. For many recipes I don’t even need to follow the ingredients or amounts anymore. Sometimes I just open it to the page for the familiarity of it, for the comfort of previous splatters or to add to them. I’ve grown more confident with the recipes, and many times I experiment or add new ingredients depending on what’s in my fridge.

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I mostly make the Chicken or Tofu Stirfry with tofu. It is another staple in my home that I change up depending on what I get from the farmers’ market.

But it’s more than the recipes that keep me coming back. It’s the philosophy and the care that the authors, Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, put into the shaping of the cookbook. It set the tone for my lifestyle and how I cook. It got me in touch with what is growing and when.

There is so much pleasure in waiting for a new season to begin and the fruits and vegetables that come with it. And there is just as much pleasure that comes from laboring to preserve it in delicious meals or for the winter.

I’m sure you have your favorite recipes that you go to again and again with excitement for each new season. I know I can’t wait to make my first or maybe my only batch of “Spring Celebration Soup” when the asparagus is out and the first bulbs of garlic arrive.

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One summer, I couldn’t resist the first strawberries, so I bought a whole flat and made Strawberry Bread and Chilled Strawberry Soup.

I’m eager to hear what you have to say so we can take your favorites and showcase them in the new edition of Simply in Season. There will be a whole new layout with helpful color photos and stories. It’s a celebration of our favorite splattered recipes and a cookbook that so many of us hold dear: a celebration of a cookbook that shapes more than what we eat and helps us live out our faith in our kitchens.

For all those who fill out the survey, you will receive a special 30 percent discount code on the revised edition that will be coming out in Spring 2015. Please fill out this survey out by MAY 1, 2014. You will also be entered into a drawing to win one of three gifts related to seasonal foods.

DSC_3575_0 Avery Peters is project manager for the revised edition of Simply in Season. She currently lives in Toronto and attends Toronto United Mennonite Church (fondly known as TUMC). She is sad to be leaving Toronto but looking forward to moving this summer to the town of Wolfville, in the heart of Nova Scotia’s agricultural region and along the Bay of Fundy. She is a freelance editor and writer specializing in cookbooks and nonfiction.  

Herald Press: Just Keepin’ It Real

The first time I read the phrase “just keepin’ it real” on a friend’s blog a few years ago, I didn’t know what it meant. I honestly had to use context clues. So no, I’m no maven of pop-culture phraseology. But I eventually figured out that my friend was telling her readers that she was committed to honesty and authenticity rather than presenting herself as fake-y happy or as if she and her household, about whom she was writing, have it all together.

While I haven’t managed to work “keepin’ it real” into any actual conversation—I’m a little old to do so without, well, seeming fake—I’m taken with the idea behind it. So much of contemporary culture feels affected or even artificial—from our sweeteners to our built environments to our breathless Facebook status updates. So much feels fake, in fact, that reality and authenticity and honesty are exceptions to the rule. And sometimes you just need to name the exceptions.

A few recent events here at work have convinced me that, even if we’re not hip enough to say it, Herald Press, MennoMedia’s trade books division, is—let me see if I can pull it off—keepin’ it real. Here are some stories.

1. We are courting a young author, who writes a very successful blog with thousands of hits a day. We’ve been in conversations with her about writing a book for us, and she is also being contacted by other publishers. We’re not surprised that other publishers are interested in her work, because it’s so well-written and because she has developed such a large platform already. What struck me, however, was what she said about why she is interested in Herald Press more than some of the other publishers trying to woo her. “[I] am still very interested in Herald Press,” this author wrote to me the other day. “The honesty and integrity appeals to me. I appreciate that.”

I don’t know exactly why our honesty and integrity stands out to this young blogger, and I don’t know what she’ll ultimately decide. But in an era in which the large Christian publishers are owned by multinational media conglomerates, I do know that Herald Press stands out. Our publishing program holds appeal to both writers and readers because of the attention we give to our authors in terms of helping them craft their narratives and build their platform.

2. Another story comes from our marketing and sales director, Ben Penner. Ben was recently meeting with a book buyer for a chain of Christian bookstores. As he began introducing our books to this buyer, the buyer responded enthusiastically, “Oh, I know all about Herald Press. I really like your books, and I know that I can trust your authors.”

I’m not sure which authors the book buyer distrusts, but it is true that authors don’t always come out with clean hands. Beyond the fairly predictable cycle of some famous writer being nabbed for plagiarism—what could be more of an antonym of “keepin’ it real” than plagiarism?—come occasional other cases of author misbehavior. A Seattle pastor apologized not long ago that the aggressive marketing campaign for his recent book manipulated sales data and inflated sales enough to launch the book, however briefly, onto the New York Times bestseller list. Many people perceive this type of marketing campaign to be unethical, and the pastor has pledged not to work with such a firm again and has committed himself to moving out of the limelight as much as possible. Still, the damage had been done.

3. The last story comes from a conversation I had with my pastor about one of our authors, Rachel S. Gerber. Rachel grew up in the congregation that I now attend, and she spoke to a crowded room of women at a spring women’s event this week. Last week I was making copies in our church office and talking to my pastor about Rachel’s upcoming event at our church. “Rachel is a great communicator,” I said.

“Yes, and she’s real too,” my pastor interjected. He paused. “I mean, some folks may be great communicators, but they’re fake. Rachel is a great communicator—but she’s real, too.”

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Rachel S. Gerber signs copies of her book, Ordinary Miracles, after an April 8 spring women’s event at Slate Hill Mennonite Church, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

Honesty, integrity, trust, real: these are weighty words, and ones we’re proud to have associated with our publishing program. In an airbrushed era of falsified marketing strategies, “reality” TV, and social media half-truths, I’m happy to work for an organization that values the real, the authentic, and the true. It’s in keeping with our attempt to follow Christ in all the ways that he modeled real human life: by being less concerned about first impressions than about lasting relationships. It’s in keeping with our identity as children of God, who have nothing to prove, and heirs of Anabaptist faith, which emphasizes real practices of discipleship, community, and nonresistance.

So keep your eyes open during the next few months for more ways that Herald Press is continuing to value what is real, From real recipes found in real kitchens around the world, to real stories of reconciliation, to real stories of the daily life and faith of Amish and Mennonite writers, we at Herald Press are committed, in word and deed, to—all together now—“keepin’ it real.”

Maybe someday we’ll even be able to lose the quotation marks.

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Valerie Weaver-Zercher is managing editor of Herald Press trade books.