Ben and Heather Kulp’s 40-day Lent journey to cook exclusively from More-with-Less Cookbook.
By Ben and Heather Kulp
Reading the introduction to More-with-Less, we learned that Doris Longacre’s purpose in writing it was not just to provide Mennonites with a way to save money, but for each Mennonite household to “look at its lifestyle, particularly food habits … and eat and spend 10% less on food” as a response to “North American overconsumption and world need” (p. 4*). So, to begin our More-with-Less challenge, we evaluated what we had in our pantry and refrigerator. I found this tool—a free printable pantry and fridge inventory—to be helpful. It’s incredible to discover what abundance we’d been overlooking, so much so that we didn’t have to buy more than a few staples this week.
Dried out French bread from a spaghetti dinner and a handful of extra cheese from burritos turned into a hearty Old-Fashioned Bread Omelet (p. 150).
Leftover corn bread became a version of Corn Meal Mush (p. 94); a little milk and heated with maple syrup made it an excellent breakfast the next morning. And a handful of peanuts in the bottom of a jar went into Crunchy Granola (p. 92).
Our focus on using what we have spilled over (quite literally—I spilled the beet juice from the Quick Beet Borsch [p. 208] all over my tablecloth!) into our dinners with friends.
As we mentioned in the previous post, we love having people over for dinner. We aren’t fancy, but we do like to have an appetizer, main, and dessert for these special meals, since we don’t do so for meals with just the two of us. Even so, “[s]erving guests [can] become an ego trip, rather than a relaxed meeting of friends around that most common every day experience of sharing food,” Longacre says (p. 20). The More-with-Less difference with hosting this week was that we focused less on what kind of blue cheese to buy and focused more on our friends. Just as the purpose of More-with-Less is not to focus on the “less” but rather to be hospitable to our global neighbor by consuming fewer resources, the purpose of our dinners is not to try out a new cheese but rather to be hospitable to our friends.
So, instead of going out to purchase more crackers to accompany our last bits of Jasper Hill Farm Vermont Blue, I put out a plate of half crackers, half sliced apples. This was more nutritious and used up both our crackers and the last of a 3 lbs. bag of apples (maybe I’ll try the Wheat Crackers recipe [p. 309] next time). A cup of cooked rice from a stir fry served well as Creamy Rice Pudding (p. 268). I even followed Longacre’s suggestion to serve each person an orange for dessert (p. 261) instead of spending the money on ingredients for a cake. With a little drizzle of chocolate from the last of a bag of chocolate chips, the oranges were beautiful and gone within a few minutes. Our guests commented that it was the best dessert they’d had in months!
Beyond hosting our friends, we found ways to show hospitality to one another. Since we were no longer going to our favorite bakery on Saturday morning to buy coffee and scones for each another or planning a weekday dinner out after a long day of work, we found other ways to gift our meal times, and time generally, to each other. Heather made the Apple Oatmeal (p. 94) for breakfast in bed on a cold morning.
Ben made tea to enjoy together before bed. We went on a long walk to a new grocery store, mostly for the walk itself. That’s even healthier and more economical than eating from More-with-Less!
From this week, I understand that hospitality is less about impressing and more about expressing. Because we weren’t stressed about name-dropping the latest gourmet ingredient we found, picking the right napkin-and-placemat combo, or making sure they oohed and aahed over the food presentation, I could focus on listening to my guests talk about what’s important to them. We learned more about their families, jobs, and perspectives on current events. We laughed more, shared more, and stressed less. Well, except when I spilled the borsch.
Ben and Heather Kulp
How do you find home-grown ways to “treat” each other when cutting back on going out?
What have you learned about yourself and your guests as you focus more on hospitality than gourmet food?
*Page numbers for recipes and quotes might differ according to which edition of More-with-Less cookbook you use. If you don’t own one, you might find it handy to purchase one here.