Six Weeks with Extending the Table: A Move in the Right Direction

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook from
Extending the Table Cookbook.

Change has always been a constant for the two of us during our time together. We moved to Chicago seven years ago and immediately immersed ourselves in my orchestra job, and Heather’s trip through law school. Heather was very involved in our church council after work, and I started a not-for-profit chamber orchestra group. Although we were “leaning in,” life, at its core, was not satisfying. There was always something else to stay up and accomplish, and we realized on our honeymoon that it was the first vacation we had ever taken with one another in the three years of our relationship.

This past week we moved from one side of Boston to the other. We lived for the past two years in the Allston neighborhood by Boston University. There is an unlimited amount of youthful energy in the neighborhood, and this would continue late into the night as we, and our young son, were trying to sleep.

Our new place in West Medford is quiet, spacious, and it feels like the first time we are living in an adult apartment. The nights are quiet and dark, and there is a minimal amount of noisy people. Fearing that we were losing part of the coveted energy of our 20’s, the two of us reflected a great deal on the past seven years of our relationship. There were many constant themes through our relationship, and one of them was that the two of us have had some of our best memories around food and meals with one another. So, we decided that we were going to use Extending the Table to help us recreate some of these memories.

For anyone that has spent more than an afternoon with Ben, you will know that good coffee is just an expected part of life. It’s not to the point of measuring the grind, water temperature, and using a pour over like you would see at a hipster coffee shop, but the beans do need to be good and freshly ground. Thankfully, the days of drinking two full pots in the morning are behind him, but the taste of a fresh cup of coffee still inspires many ideas and extended cello practice sessions.

178080216 The Cinnamon Coffee (p. 38) was Ben’s choice of drink for the first morning in the new apartment. Although boxes were sprawled as far as the eye could see, Ben had reserved a special spot for his bags of coffee. Next to the coffee box was the box labeled “spices,” and the cinnamon was easy to find. Sugar was conspicuous as well in the large tin container in which it is kept. We put the cinnamon stick and sugar in the pot before the coffee started brewing. As we sipped our coffee and bounced our baby boy, we both meditated on what this new phase of life means for both of us.

“Did we not have an entirely stocked fridge and pantry at our previous apartment?” This question has been asked many times over the past week as we have unpacked in our new place. The carefully planned meals have gone to the wayside while we figure out our new kitchen; as we try to cook our meals from Extending The Table, we look to the beautiful simplicity of the recipes in the cookbook for our inspiration.

The Creamy Carrot soup (p.79) was a favorite this past week. The carrots, butter, and curry powder (from the same box labeled “Spices” where we found the cinnamon) were items easily dug out of the pile of cardboard U Haul boxes. The soup, again, provided us with a quiet and contemplative meal.

A challenging part of our move, as it relates to cooking, was that between Heather’s extended work hours this week, and cooking for the steady stream of people that have come through our new apartment in the last several days, is that it is easy to default to ordering take out. Admittedly, we did order pizza for everyone at the end of eight hours of moving boxes and furniture. After eating the leftovers from take out, it left us with a slightly stuffed and unpleasant feeling. We craved nothing more than the fresh fruits and vegetables that cleanse your mind and body. To remedy this situation, we made the Tomato and Basil Salad (p. 110). We had been able to go to the local store and pick up fresh vegetables, and it felt wonderful to feast on tomatoes and basil. We began to feel our old selves return with the nourishing and healthy food.

Sept12_2013 006As most of you who have been reading our blog know, hosting friends is something that means a great deal to both of us. We are excited to have our friends and family over to our new apartment and treat them to meals from Extending The Table. More on our meals for friends next week in our blog!

To buy the new edition of Extending the Table with many recipes illustrated with color photos, click here

MennoByte_photoBen 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 a son born February 2014, 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 Wednesday thru June 11, under the special series category, Six Weeks with Extending the Table. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.

Jobs, moving, sickness, four-month-old baby: STILL time to cook?

Extending Our Table to a New Apartment

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook from
Extending the Table Cookbook.

We have written a great deal about transitions going on in our lives over the past few months, and how they affect our eating habits.  As we look forward to this next week, Heather moves into a new position at her current job and we are also moving across town. Returning to a small one bedroom apartment in a younger neighborhood after giving birth to our son no longer seemed to fit our lifestyle. We are moving to a larger apartment in a quieter neighborhood just outside of Boston. While we are excited to start living at a new address, moving is never something to which to look forward. The idea of packing everything in to bags, boxes, and cramming it in to a U-Haul and friend’s cars is enough to make anyone lose their appetite.

As we found during our Lenten journey through More With Less, times of stress, busy schedules, and transitions do not always lend themselves to the best of eating habits.  Even with our resources focused on the cost of the move, it still seems easier to order Thai food and pizza for the next few nights until everything is settled in the new apartment. Due to our Lenten discovery with cooking, we now know that this is a time when we can actually make ourselves less stressed and more fulfilled if we take a few moments to cook at the end of each day.

It never ceases to amaze us what we can find, forgotten, at the back of the fridge. Spare parts of ginger, onion, cabbage, kale, and veggie sausage were among the many forgotten tidbits that we found while searching through the fridge during the initial clean out before packing to move. Good friends were visiting from Chicago and asked if we could go out for Korean food while they were here. Conscious of budget and time, we instead opted to make the Spicy Cabbage Salad/Kimchi (p. 108) from Korea instead.  We enjoyed a night of reminiscing about our younger, slightly more care free times in Chicago before getting married and having a son.  The conversation drifted into the night, and the Spicy Cabbage Salad was definitely the catalyst for the nostalgia for our Chicago days.

The morning after our extended dinner conversation with friends, the coffee was brewing and we were still joking about stories from the night before.  Looking around the kitchen, there was only a smattering of materials with which to make breakfast for our guests.  Heather and I have always loved breakfast in the vein of yogurt and granola, so we looked to the Muesli recipe for breakfast (p. 154 in the previous version of Simply in Season).  It was a fulfilling breakfast for all of us, and the time it took the recipe to settle was another excuse to gather over coffee and conversation.

granola4

Muesli or granola

We were both struck down (literally) with the flu last week, and the lingering effects of the sickness left us tired and not feeling highly motivated to cook.  As the night was foggy and cold in Boston, we both decided that a nice, warm stew was the answer to our question of dinner after our son had been put to bed.  We decided on the Groundnut Stew (p. 250), as it was a favorite of Ben’s when he was younger.  It’s a wonderful dish to add leftovers to, and we had many small bunches of spinach and kale that found their way in to the stew.  It was also rewarding to think that we were using the leftover food for cooking, as it would regrettably be thrown out during the move.  The warmth and time it took to cook the stew calmed both of us down after a long, harrowing day of childcare and work.GroundNutStew

Groundnut Stew

Over the next week we will be looking for more recipes to use as we move in to our new kitchen.  It will be great to use for our menu as we figure out why the yams were moved in a box with the towels, and where the closest grocery store is for our food needs.  Additionally, we will be able to grow a garden at our new apartment, so look for some fresh veggies to pop into our future recipes.

To buy the new edition of Extending the Table with many recipes illustrated with color photos, click here

MennoByte_photoBen 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 a son born February 2014, 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 Wednesday thru June 11, under the special series category, Six Weeks with Extending the Table. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.

Extending beyond our boundaries

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 6-week challenge to cook exclusively from Extending the Table Cookbook.

By Ben and Heather Kulp

We made a ceremony of it. The first night of our new challenge, to eat out of Extending the Table exclusively for six weeks, we put our little guy to bed, poured ourselves a glass of Menno Tea (it tastes just like Grandmother’s iced tea!), and cracked open the cookbook. As with our More with Less challenge, we wanted to start by getting a sense of how the cookbook was laid out, what was included along with the recipes, and what ingredients we may need to stock to maximize the number of recipes we can make.

Extending the Table

Amid the many beautiful stories, photos, and instructions for when and how the recipes are often eaten, we noticed one thing: we wanted to eat it all!

Soon, though, we realized a limiting factor about Extending the Table that wasn’t present with the potatoes-and-milk recipes in More with Less; we had lots of experience eating food from other countries, but we have far less experience cooking global food. Though they sounded amazing, we had no idea how to measure our success with new (to us) recipes like Tuna Omelet or Beef Wat or Chin Chin.

So, we decided to start our challenge with the familiar.

This week, we cooked dishes from countries that either one or both of us had visited. Since we had tasted the local flavors of that particular country (or at least the region of that country we visited), we figured we would have a good sense about whether or not our end product was authentic.

Our first dish was Cuban-Style Black Beans (p. 165), actually designated as from Puerto Rico. A few years ago, we spent a wonderful week in Puerto Rico celebrating Ben’s mother’s birthday. The simple beans and rice took us back to the easy days of vacation in the El Yunque rainforest.

A quick dish for a busy evening was Tico Tortilla Skillet (p. 188 in the first edition). Ben put it together in 20 minutes so we could trade off eating and putting our son to bed.

The first hot day of the year prompted us to crave salad. Accompanying our simple spinach and almonds was the Greek Salad Dressing (p. 121), which reminded Heather of a mountain town she visited in Greece. Overlooking the ocean, the town enjoyed salty breezes and brined fish, often accompanied by a lemony dressing like the one in Extending the Table.

Heather had a few friends over on Saturday to participate in a clothing, accessories, and book swap. She made them Guacamole (p. 267), with fresh avocado and the first herbs of the season. It reminded her of the few weeks she spent in Mexico building houses. Every morning, noon, and evening, her group would receive handmade tortillas, rice, beans, and guacamole for a meal. And with the intensity of the daily work, it was a comfort to have the same meal three times a day.

After a few “safe” dishes, we decided to branch out. Heather picked a recipe that looked a little more complicated, used ingredients we rarely use (mung beans!), and involved a cooking process we use even less frequently (frying!). The Samosas’ (p. 282) aromatic spice blend—cardamom, curry, coriander, cumin—invigorated our Saturday night air.

p283Samosas

A photo of Samosas from the new edition of Extending the Table.

We were so pleased with the Kenyan pastries’ effect on our evening, until Heather began to cook them.

She must have worked the dough too long and filled the pastries too full, because beans and onions spilled out every which way, no matter how much she pinched the dough together. Moreover, she hadn’t paid attention to the instruction to cool the filling before putting it in the dough, so every time she dipped into the bean pot, she pulled her hand back with a start. Anyone ever touched a hot raisin?

Finally, Heather didn’t pay close enough attention to the measurements for the beans. The recipe calls for 1¼ cup cooked beans, but she assumed it was 1¼ cup uncooked beans. After she had fried all the dough, she still had 2+ cups of bean filling. Guess what Ben will have for lunch the next few days!

While the samosas were a mess, they were indeed tasty and they taught us a few things that we’ll take with us on the rest of our Extending journey. First, if there are directions, read them closely—and understand them before you attempt to deviate! Second, the familiar may be comfortable (and we certainly enjoyed some excellent Turkish, Puerto Rican, and Costa Rican comfort foods), but the unfamiliar forces us outside our boundaries. Just like our son, who learned to turn over this week and now wants to explore the entire length of our apartment, we need to stretch beyond our safety blankets if we want to experience the world. The “success” of recipes, just like the success of rolling over for the first time, is not about how fancy or how skillful you are. Success is about trying it out, enjoying the process, and appreciating the new perspective taking such a risk gives you.

Maybe next week, we’ll try the Wat.

Ben and Heather Kulp

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