SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge–Day Four

By Sharron R. Blezard, June 4, 2010

Food and Family Reunion Edition

It is day four of the SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge, and I’m in Kentucky for my mother’s family reunion. This is an annual event that gathers family members from all across the nation for an evening of sharing followed tomorrow by a picnic at one of the local parks. Since I’m gathered with extended family, I’ve been thinking about the role of food and hospitality. In the conference room where we met tonight various family members had laid out quite a spread of cookies, cake, fruit, snack mix, chips, and drinks. When people get together it’s often around food—a meal, snacks, something. Whenever I visited shut-ins as a pastor, a plate of treats along with coffee were always laid out on the table. It’s a wonder I don’t weigh 200 pounds or more, because it was considered poor taste not to sample at least two or three goodies. No matter how meager the social security income of the shut-in, I was always offered something to eat and drink. One thing I noticed about people who grew up during the Great Depression is not their miserliness but rather their generosity and hospitality.

One of the strongest memories I have of my maternal grandparents is that there was always an extra place at the table for anyone who stopped by to visit. My grandparents lived on a farm in the foothills of eastern Kentucky. They didn’t have very much in the way of possessions; in fact they never did have indoor plumbing, but they always had food, and my grandmother knew how to stretch a meal. They had a large garden, slaughtered a hog each year, had a couple of cows, a flock of chickens, and a root cellar filled with canned goods. Food was equated with caring and love. The only processed food that I can ever remember seeing in my grandmother’s kitchen was her box of Special K cereal. Everything else was made from scratch. She even canned her own sausage and had a hand-cranked churn that the grandchildren loved to use to make butter. A meal at my grandmother’s table was a feast of freshly prepared, fresh from the garden or preserved food, served with love.

Now that the slow food movement is gaining steam in the United States, we have the opportunity to return to this kind of approach to preparing food and sharing meals. Food can again be a gathering point for family and friends. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef or spend a lot of money to enjoy a good meal. If it’s rice and beans, then let them be savored. If it’s pot roast with mashed potatoes, then give thanks for your abundance. If you live close to a farmers market, stop in and buy some fresh produce. Get to know the people who grow your food. Be sure to thank them for the work they do. Ask how to prepare new vegetables that look interesting to you. If you work all day, try to get hold of a crock pot. With not much effort you can prepare amazing meals with simple ingredients and have a great smelling house to walk into at the end of the day. Taking time to sit at the table with good food and lively conversation is not a thing of the past. Turn off the television. No matter how simple the fare, set the table like it matters, sit down together, and enjoy your food.

What role does food play in your family? Do you have memories of great aunts being insulted if you didn’t eat at least two helpings of every dish? Are there certain holiday foods that are a hallmark of your gatherings? What memories of food and friends or family stand out in your mind?

State of the Pantry

Since my mother is graciously hosting me for the family reunion, my expenses are minimal. I finished off the rest of the beans and rice for lunch, and I had a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on whole wheat bread for breakfast to make use of the leftover bacon and a tomato that needed to be used. Tonight one of my cousins took us to supper at Panera Bread (thank you, Cheryl), and the motel provides breakfast. The family caters a picnic at noon, so the only meal I’ll be looking at is supper on the road. I may be so full from the picnic that I won’t want to eat and simply have a snack when I get home. My youngest daughter is staying with one of her friend’s family, so I don’t have her expenses to take into consideration. Therefore, of my remaining weekly balance I may not spend anything.

Website of the Day

Today’s website is Slow Food USA. Here you’ll find information about the slow foods movement and the vision they have for a better way of eating: “Food is a common language and a universal right. Slow Food USA envisions a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people that grow it and good for the planet.” Click here to slow down and enjoy your food–no matter what your budget.

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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