Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Peasants at the Park

On Sunday, I was a peasant’s wife. It wasn’t exactly intentional.

About the time I sat down to make my weekly menu and grocery list, my husband announced his list for the Home Depot. The house needs attention. Houses are like that. As he walked out the door, I tossed my list in the garbage and took another look in my pantry.

Saying that there is no food in our house is similar to a suburban teenager complaining that she has nothing to wear.

Although I do buy some organic products for my family, I mostly just make meals as much from scratch as possible. I believe that it is healthier, and it gives me flexibility. Out of a bag of flour I make bread, pancakes, waffles, tortillas, pasta, corn cakes, roux, and, well, you get the idea.

I have been trying to reduce our pantry over the past few weeks, but could I still make dinner without having been to the store in a week? I took it as a challenge (everything is either a challenge or a compliment in my world – I’m a simple girl).

I started with vegetable stock. I had carrots, celery, a couple of half-onions (one was red, who cares), dried herbs, and a few other leftovers. When the stock was simmering, I found a very scrawny 4-lb chicken carcass in my freezer. I threw it in the pot anyway.

The leftover bowl of oatmeal on the top shelf of my refrigerator became oatmeal-molasses bread. I was short molasses, but threw in some brown sugar. Andrew made it while I cleaned the kitchen.

My kids like noodles. The laziest and most high-protein way to make noodles that I know is called spaetzle. Basically, three cups of flour, four eggs, milk, a little salt and pepper and you just boil them in little drops. We call them “crazy German noodles.” They gave substance to our soup. Dinner was on.

Just after I put the bread in the oven, my family decided we should go to the park. The weather Sunday was absolutely perfect – the first perfect day since sometime in 2008. The freshly laid fertilizer in the yard prevented my children from enjoying our rusty swing set. I looked at my husband.

“The bread will be done in 25 minutes. We can’t get there and come back. By the time we finish dinner, it will be too late.”

“That’s okay, Mom. Just bring the dinner to the park!” Andrew chimed in. They always have an idea. Eating outdoors is hardly foreign to our children.

“Okay. Go. I’ll be there in 30 minutes.” They were in the car before I finished my sentence.
I brought our soup and bread to the park. The bread was hastily wrapped, still warm, in a kitchen towel. I grabbed a tablecloth, some bowls, spoons, and sippy cups.

The children were thrilled. My husband relaxed. I sat down at the picnic table and enjoyed my full meal.

The chill settled in quicker than the sunset, and I admit I would not have lingered at the picnic table alone. But, with my warm soup and my hungry children, I did linger. I shoved my cold hands in my pockets and looked up at the broken clouds, knowing they floated over our roof every night, unnoticed.

I smiled at our ‘peasant’s’ meal, knowing too well we had truly eaten like kings. We live like kings. The soup warmed my core.

Their unfettered laughter warmed my soul.


Anonymous said...

Loved this one. Had no idea you could put leftover oatmeal in bread; will have to try it. Always wanted to make spaetzle but haven't yet.

Kids love eating outside. My girls still talk about when we had nectarine pie outside last summer.

Heather said...

You are such a loverly writer!

AreWeThereYet? said...

You never stop amazing me...

Anonymous said...

your mom must have been a way better cook than mine - I don't think I would even think of spaetzle let alone know how to make it. And oatmeal in bread? Didn't know that either. Now I need to try it.

MIT Mommy said...

Looks like I need to send out some recipes.

Anonymous said...

Inspirational and inventive - sounds like fun.

As an impoverished student I did some of my best cooking - its amazing what one can make with left-over rice, a couple of eggs plus odds and ends!

日月神教-向左使 said...