Ben and Heather Kulp’s 40-day Lent journey to cook exclusively from More-with-Less Cookbook.
(*Don’t forget the fine print at the bottom for a Mennobyte discount that’s also available to anyone who just stumbles onto it.)
By Ben and Heather Kulp
There comes a moment in any type of resolution where the promises you made to yourself are tested or challenged. The initial rush of changing and forging a new way fades away and you are left with the feelings of how easy it would be to sink back in to the habit or habits that you were looking to change.
This was the thought process for both of us as we shifted in to the newest phase of having a little boy in our lives. Heather went back to work full time, and Ben adjusted to running his business from home, freelancing, and teaching cello while taking care of the new baby. The days were a lot longer for both of us, and when new stressors appear, it’s easy for old habits to emerge. We live in the Allston neighborhood in Boston, and within a two block radius of our house we can go and eat Afghani, Italian, Korean, Mexican, Japanese, and Thai, to name a few. Such were the temptations as we dealt with a screaming child in the back seat, and a clogged, rush hour public transit system. How nice and gratifying it would be to simply stop in and get (Ben’s favorite) Pad Thai, or (Heather’s favorite) Red Curry at the end of a long and busy day.
But, dear reader (Ben has always wanted to write “dear reader,” so thank you indulging him) we only sampled the smells of our favorite restaurants as we drove or walked by. Once back home we dutifully opened More With Less, and looked to the recipes.
After the stress of the day had been left outside on the sidewalk in the hustle and bustle of city life, we were able to focus more on the task of preparing dinner for one another. The first dish we made was the Soybean Curd Sauté (page 115). We also received an unexpected gift in the mail that day of a bottle of wine from friends in Budapest, and decided to open that with dinner. Ben lit the candles as Heather put our son to bed, and turned on Ben’s favorite John Coltrane album, Blue Train.
We discussed Heather’s first day back at work, and Ben juggling practicing, business phone calls, and giving the needed attention to our infant son. After the meal was finished, we continued talking and relaxing after our busy days. It struck us both that we were much more relaxed and fulfilled than if we had gone to a restaurant. Going out to eat can be a wonderful experience as someone will bring to your table exactly what you want. There is no cleaning of dishes or wiping away of crumbs. However, as we sat and decompressed from our days, it struck us both that we gained more by cooking for one another and intentionally spending the time at home together. The recipe Soybean Curd Sauté did not take any more effort than waiting in line to be seated at a restaurant, and after the meal was done, we were able to share a few moments together in the comfort of our apartment.
With this lesson in mind, we approached the rest of the week’s meals with the same intention. Breaking the habit of stopping in for lunch or dinner at a restaurant or café is one that continues to cross our minds as we trek across Boston for our jobs. The decompressing from our days was even more needed the second day that Heather was back at work, as the initial rush and newness began to wear off. Heather loved the mental stimulation of her job, and Ben appreciated so many private moments with an incredibly cute little baby boy.
However, as evening rolled around, all we wanted to do was take a break and have someone else prepare our food. New habits are built in very small increments, and we stepped up on to the small block of cooking homemade food from the evening before. This time Ben rocked the baby to sleep, and Heather made Yaksoba (page 139). We both love Asian cuisine, and instead of going to our favorite noodle shop in the neighborhood, we felt more wholesome at the end of the meal having made it at home and shared it with one another as we discussed the happenings of the day.
This past week was about renewal in our lives. Heather went back to work and renewed her focus on her professional life, and Ben renewed his commitment to his business and baby boy by earning how to balance both during the day. Neither of us was perfect at the new steps we took after Heather’s maternity leave. However, after having shared food and conversation around the recipes from More With Less during our evenings together, we were able to continue and renew our Lenten vow, and feel like we had a community –both together and through the recipes- that would help us move forward in to the next phase of our lives.
Ben Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with their newborn son, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.
Look for their posts each Thursday from now through Easter, under the special series category, Forty Days of More-with-Less. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.
*If you are like Ben and Heather and enjoy eating foods from all around the world, watch for the newly revised Extending the Table Cookbook coming in May, now with helpful color food photos, now on pre-publication discount.