This is a topic that concerns everyone. We all eat. Sometimes I lament the fact that my children expect three meals every day along with numerous snacks. It’s a lot of work! But the truth is we all eat – every day.
Just because this is something we do every day, several times a day does not mean that it can’t have meaning and beauty. Of course, not every meal is going to be a work of art. Most morning I’m still trying to wake up so breakfast is something I can do almost in my sleep – oatmeal. But there are other morning when I have more time and/or energy and I make pancakes or a coffee cake with scrambled eggs on the side.
Mrs. Schaeffer points out how God provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. Surely this food was complete nutritionally, but after a while the people started to complain because they were hungry for other flavours. She also speaks about how this was wrong because God only meant it as a temporary solution until they reached the promised land which was full of all kinds of good things to eat. She says all of this to show us that God did create a variety of foods for us to enjoy.
Think about the differences in colour, texture, size, flavour, smell, etc. of our food. Even these varieties have varieties. The crispness of celery, lettuce or a pear is different.
There will be times when we set food aside for a particular reason. Perhaps a serious discussion is taking place that should not be interrupted and the flow of thoughts lost. Perhaps a Christian will decide to fast for a time so they can better communicate with God. For the most part though food is an important part of our lives and the hidden art in it needs to be developed.
One thing I have always remembered from this chapter is how Mrs. Schaeffer is adamant that no house or institution should be predictable when it comes to food. You should not be able to say, “Oh, it’s Wednesday so we’re having hamburgers tonight.” This is such an easy rut to fall into. I know because I have occasionally done this.
Even if we are having the same general food we don’t have to be predictable. A good example that she gives is bread. Every Sunday for their tea she would make a different kind of bread. Once you have a basic bread dough mastered this is easy to do. You just shape it differently and fill it with cheese or different dried fruits or nuts – whatever you have on hand at the moment. Bread can also be made into a wide variety of shapes. There are different shapes or rolls, braided breads or just miniature loaves.
She also gives examples of non-cook meals that can be made while vacationing and staying in a hotel or for taking on a picnic. Really the only limit is your imagination.
It is also important for children to have an opportunity to develop their ability in this art form. Children love to help in the kitchen. It can be hard, and when they’re little I really have to grit my teeth and just do it. But the payoffs are huge! These days my oldest daughter makes supper several nights a week. This has been such a blessing to me.
She ends the chapter by speaking about hospitality. Of course, we all know how to be hospitable to those we love or wish to impress, but what about strangers? Have you ever had opportunity to feed someone unknown to you? Do you do it with grace and care for the aesthetics and flavour of the meal as much as you would for a loved one?
Mrs. Schaeffer gives quite a lengthy description of the tramps she used to feed as a young wife and their family lived near a railway. She not only fed their bodies, but she also fed their souls with the care she put into the meals she made and the Gospel of John that she added to the meal tray was more accepted because she had shown that she really cared for this person. After months of doing this her husband told her that their house had a “tramp mark” on it to show other tramps that this was a house they would be welcome at.
The expression of ‘Hidden Art’ in the form of cooking and serving food, then, has a wide number of possibilities, and as everyone eats every day, it is no exaggeration to say that it affects every one of us. One could speculate as to what difference it would make if we all took this form of ‘Hidden Art’ seriously with at least some degree of sensitivity for producing and enjoying the beauty which will increase and enhance communication.
I have certainly been challenged again to put more thought into how I develop this art form in my home. What are ways that you add beauty to your home through the food that you prepare?