Farm Fresh

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We used to raise sheep for meat. We also ate our chickens eggs and then, when they were done laying, we ate the chicken as well. We raised goats for milk and often sold the kids for meat, I wasn’t as excited about eating a baby goat as they were always a lot smarter than any of the other animals and it was easy to get friendly with them.

When I tell people that I raised animals for meat they often respond with compassion, as if this must have been an especially hard thing to go through as a kid. The truth of the matter is that I felt pretty lucky to be raised on fresh and delicious meat. Many friends of mine don’t appreciate the taste of lamb as they have only ever had tougher cuts or poorly raised animals. Farm fresh eggs and meat make for a much better experience-taste wise. Animals that have been treated well, raised on acreage where they can move and eat at their leisure, and have actually been paid attention to taste like actual animals.

The western worlds food ideas is changing and more local, fresh, well raised food is being encouraged and the trend is encouraging. It is interesting that even among many who want grass fed, cage free, organic meat- there is still a large amount of people who don’t want to remember or realize that they are eating a cow or a chicken or a turkey- that beef comes from an actual animal with a face and that boneless, skinless breasts were once part of a whole animal.

I don’t want to become a vegetarian because I enjoy meat too much, I appreciate the flavors, the texture, the fat, and protein too much. But being raised the way I was and being educated about farms and farmers, animals and their beginnings- has given me a unique way of seeing what I eat. I don’t want to eat mistreated animals because I know they won’t taste as delicious as the carefully treated ones. I also know some of the hoops farmers have to jump through for certain certifications and don’t want them to go out of business because a changing population wants to see the encouraging stamp on their package than have to think about the industry behind it.
Being a demanding consumer means more about knowing your farmer, knowing your source, than it does about the labels and the marketing they are able to do.

Not everyone can know their farmer, but a visit to a farmers market can go a long way, ask questions- they know their stuff. Teach your children about chickens, not just as a main dish but as an animal that is butchered by trained professionals to get to your supermarket wrapped in cellophane.

Opposites attract

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I know a few couples who seem perfectly matched, who seem to agree on everything and not to be constantly battling each other on one thing or another. I don’t happen to be among those couples and most of the people I like the best aren’t among those couples either.
I’m not against them, they seem to have a good thing going ( at least on the surface ), but I enjoy spending time with people I can relate to. Some of my closest friends are exact opposites of their spouses, they duel it out and kiss and make up, and they have to keep doing that over and over.
I’m a stubborn, sometimes labelled head strong, person and I’m in a relationship with a head strong, stubborn man. I’m more introverted and he’s more extroverted, he’s more redneck and i like to think I’m more classy, I’m all about intimate dinner parties and he likes parties he can light off fireworks at.
We are making it work and, given our history, that is a surprise unto itself. But it does make for interesting discussions come planning time. His priorities and focus will always be different than mine- he’s more concerned with his light display for our Christmas party and I’m more concerned with our activities.
Thankfully one thing we agree on is feeding people.
We decided on the meal before we decided who was invited. ( And that’s saying something as we think of food quite differently. )
Hopefully between the two of us we can even each other out some and throw some bomb parties. So far the party throwing is in the infant stages- we’ll get back to you on our progress.
In the meantime, our differences have led me to think about others differences, what about your roommate or significant other makes you crazy? How do you differ when it comes to entertaining and hosting?

A French Thanksgiving

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I was only seventeen when my two sisters and I took off for a three month tour of Europe. I had a letter in my money belt from my father signing away my care to my twenty one year old sister so she could make emergency decisions for me if the situation arose (thankfully it did not, I don’t know if that would really have been enough to suffice), we all had a single bag that we had expertly packed with the bare minimum of necessities.

There are many food experiences from that trip that I look back on fondly, new dishes, flavors and delights we were able to sample as well as many a day longing for a taco. There were also a lot of cheap picnics we repeated over and over to keep within our budget.

We were in France touring ever colder castles and chateaus as fall turned into winter and deciding we could definitely make the transition to living in a foreign country if it was as beautiful and architecturally rich as France. Thanksgiving approached and as a person who held strongly to tradition I began to sink into a bit of a depression realizing we wouldn’t have turkey, dressing, potatoes and the lot for a holiday meal I adored.
Thankfully my sisters are much more calm and reasonable when it comes to tradition and were able to make the sacrifice without the drama I brought to the situation. We had found a crepe restaurant with some of the most delicious concoctions we had tried yet- whole wheat crepes with potatoes, bacon and runny fried eggs! (And the sauces! I adore France for their use of sauces!)

It was hardly a traditional American Thanksgiving meal but with the help of loving and kind sisters, a warm, dark, and cozy restaurant, and food that filled and delighted us we were able to have a day of thanksgiving even though we were five thousand miles from the rest of our family and the traditions we were used to.

The next day we went out to explore another village and another castle, the holiday a moment in time within a trip full of incredible moments that make for long lasting memories.

I’m a stickler for tradition and yet some of my favorite memories are from the distinctly different holidays we’ve enjoyed together, I can vividly remember that meal even though it’s eleven years later.

Now states separate all of us and we aren’t able to be together for every holiday, traditions change with time and situations but thankfully memories remain.

One pot bike

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My sister, Erika, and I started our time in New Zealand on bikes.
She pulled a small trailer that held our back packs, named Thing 1 and Thing 2, and I had our tent and sleeping bags on the back rack as well as our groceries and kitchen equipment in panniers. We had to play with the system a little to find the right set up but it was pretty ingenious.

We had one burner and one pot and the only setting we could get the burner to work at was basically full steam. We learned pretty quickly to create one pot meals, things that could boil and cook quickly at approximately the same time. It wasn’t what I would call a great system, but it kept us fed and mostly entertained (though cleaning the char off the bottom of the pot on a regular basis wasn’t our favorite!). Porridge became a morning ritual, rice worked well, stews worked out sometimes, and occasionally we had something completely in edible that had burned or used all the bits left in our panniers.

I’ve never been a big exerciser and finding different snacks and meals that kept you going on long bike rides was a new experience. We learned to appreciate the incredible, edible egg and it’s hard boiled state. A self contained snack that could be cooked in a single pot at a boil, needed little adornment, could fuel you between meals, and needed no refrigeration after being boiled. I’ve eaten hard boiled eggs on the side of the road in some very interesting settings and each one has some pretty good memories attached to it.

One of our first day, stopping to rest every fifteen minutes (I was sure I wasn’t going to make it and we needed to sell our bikes and get out while we still could move), we stopped on a grassy bank with cows behind us and the sun shining and Erika was so excited and delighted- bless her- and we ate eggs and English muffins. Or when we were coming down the pass that had nearly done me in as we peddled in the rain, but it was the next day and we were going down hill and the rain had passed and I loved life a lot more than I had the day before- we ended up meeting one of our favorite families and having one of our favorite adventures of the trip- sheering sheep after our snack of eggs and chips.

The trip continued, we were joined by a cousin and moved on from our bikes to a car and from New Zealand to Australia, the single pot continued on with us making for many more boiled concoctions and the hard boiled eggs continued as our easiest and cheapest form of snack and sustenance.

I fought Erika every step of the way where those bikes were concerned yet it’s my favorite part of our trip when I think back on it. My sister and I pushing ourselves to new limits and seeing back corners and small roads of one of the most beautiful and incredibly friendly countries I have ever been to.

Parental guidance

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I don’t know if it was an official position at the church, or if my parents were just called on often as the church knew they enjoyed it, but my family seemed to host every visiting missionary or speaker that came to our church.
This made for quite interesting conversation and chances to learn about all sorts of areas and cultures of the world as well as endless opportunities to play host to friends, families, and strangers.
I learnt to juggle from one couple, I played with kids from all sorts of families, we hosted dinners for them to meet people in the congregation and talk to elders, and we treated them to pot roasts and tacos after church.
I don’t remember all the families, but the idea of that hospitality has stuck with me. The idea of giving up a bedroom for strangers and putting extra chairs at the table for friends, putting in the table leaves and making extra mashed potatoes is something I learned from my parents and I appreciate to this day.
My parents were great hosts cause they were great at not making a fuss. We could clean the house, but mom was ok if that meant making a stack of papers in the office or her bedroom floor to make the house appear clean. We would feed them all, but nothing too fussy or fancy, just extra of whatever we were having or something that could cook in the crock pot while we were at church.
It went wrong sometimes. There were burnt smells that took over the house and beans you couldn’t eat, we went out some days instead cause cooking was too much of a bother.
The lasting impression though is one of a house full of hospitality. I hope that one day my friends say that about me, that I am remembered for those same things.

Ideals

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I’m sure we all have ideals when it comes to hospitality. I know I can’t be the only one who imagines her house decorated like something out of Southern Living. With the table laid with matching dishes when guest arrive and the appetizers coming out of the oven at the exact right time while we have easy conversation and pour beautifully mixed drinks from the etsy-esque side bar. Then the buzzer goes off and everything is done at the same time and we all retire to the dining room together and I bring in the food and remove my adorable, spotless, apron to applause cause the meal is so beautiful and we all sit down to talk about our perfect lives.

Right?! Am I the only one?!

Cause instead my house is currently devoid of furniture and makes me not want to have people over, my oven isn’t working cause it’s stuck in clean mode. I read recipes and get a big head thinking I can do three new ones at a time when really I should do one and just serve it with a pre mixed salad and see how it turns out, especially as I can’t afford all the ingredients for three fancy recipes for one dinner party. I over plan for food and people turn up late cause they have jobs and there is traffic and we don’t all look like we walked off the set of a movie- heaven forbid. And instead of seamless conversation sometimes it’s stilted or disjointed cause we aren’t working off of a script and you have to cover sad topics like broken families and disappointments cause real life sucks sometimes and that is why you have friends. And then one food item is done while the other is still somewhat raw and the salad never showed up cause the friend who was going to bring it got sick and couldn’t make it. When you finally do call everyone to the table half of them are missing when you make the big food reveal as they are washing their hands or had to take a call and you take off your dirty sweater cause you forgot an apron and got food all over yourself and only then do you remember that you forgot a bra and that you had appetizers in the fridge.

Expectations for perfection can ruin all sorts of good times.

Marriage won’t be perfect but I hear it has it’s bonuses. Friendship can be messy but it makes life a lot easier when you have people you can count on. Churches and the people who make them up can be disappointing but they are also a place where occasionally you meet Jesus in each other. Hostessing, I am learning, is not so much about getting it just right and more about continuing to try.

I have found people are much less worried about matching dishes and everything being on time than I am. I have found that friends are very patient when it comes to you feeding them. And I have found that if I just let the little things go and focus on bringing people together I will have a much better time myself.

I have not perfected this. I struggle a lot with real life not matching up with my picture perfect ideal. I’m working on it though and continue to try.