Forty Days of More-with-Less

By Ben and Heather Kulp

You might say that we fell in love while Extending the Table*.

Ben grew up in a Mennonite family that made meals regularly from the World Community Cookbooks. Heather spent formative months of her college and immediate post-college years living in community, where food justice was a major part of daily life. She discovered, and purchased, the World Community Cookbooks while volunteering at a Ten Thousand Villages in her hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado.MennoByte_photo

Early in our friendship, Ben noticed Simply in Season on Heather’s bookshelf and commented that the author was a family friend.

sis_expanded_STAlready pleasantly surprised by this young man’s upbringing, Heather was even more impressed when Ben made her a batch of the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies from More-with-Less. During our courtship, we spent many hours together in the kitchen, cooking for friends and family from these three cookbooks.

Fast forward seven years. We are married and welcomed our first child, a son, in February. Through various life changes, our commitment to cooking seasonally, simply, and regularly for ourselves and for others has fluctuated. Too often, we fall into the trap of grabbing what we think is easy, good food—almost always from a restaurant or café. In doing so, we forgo the opportunity to consider what is already in our pantry or what could be made quickly at home with a few groceries. Even more, we put convenience before our health and the health of the world.

A few months before our son was born, a fellow member of the Mennonite Congregation of Boston shared with the congregation how his wife and he made conscientious lifestyle decisions during various life transition points: getting married, having children, moving across the country, and now having grandchildren. At each point, he said, they had an opportunity to choose how they wanted to live out their values. As Doris Longacre reminds in More-with-Less, “change is an act of faith.”

His example struck a chord with us. In welcoming our son, we also welcomed “stuff.” Lists of must-haves for a new baby and loads of gifts from generous friends and family both cheered and overwhelmed us. Doesn’t he just need to eat, sleep, and be loved? we thought. Yet, the stuff came in and we accepted it, nervous that we wouldn’t be able to care for him well if we didn’t have the perfect tool for every occasion. Now that our son is with us, we realize that we use only a fraction of what we have. Rather than more cute baby gear, we long for space and time together.

Our wiser, more experienced church friend’s message prompted us to consider how the life transition of parenthood could help us create that space and time by simplifying our lifestyle rather than expanding our footprint. We remembered our early (less well-off) days together, when we spent enjoyable hours cooking and feeding ourselves and our friends. And we remembered that the World Community Cookbooks helped us do just that.

So, we decided to take on a discipline for Lent that will help us choose a simpler lifestyle long after the season is over. The tradition of giving something up for Lent is about doing with less. But we like the idea that an absence of something actually creates space for something more to grow and flourish. For the next 40 days, we will be taking a Lenten journey through the pages of More-with-Less, cooking exclusively from the over 1,000 recipes Doris Longacre tested and published nearly 40 years ago. We will shop for local ingredients when we can. We will not eat out at restaurants. We will cook from More-with-Less for our friends and enjoy non-More-with-Less meals that others prepare in their homes—hospitality is one of the cornerstones of a more-with-less lifestyle, after all.

MWL_Cover_hard_2011.qxpEvery Thursday, we will share our journey with you, blogging about the meals we’re making and the lessons we’re learning. We invite you to share this journey with us, too, either as a reader and commenter or as a meal-maker yourself.


Ben Kulp is a cellist, Suzuki cello instructor, and entrepreneur. Heather Scheiwe Kulp is the Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Along with their newborn son, they live in Boston, Massachusetts, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Together, they enjoy hiking, listening to live music, and enjoying good food with friends.

Look for their posts each Thursday from now through Easter, under the new special series category, Forty Days of More-with-Less. Or sign up to receive all Mennobytes posts by subscription from the SUBSCRIBE button on the right side of the blog.


Are you a More-with-Less home? A World Community Cookbook family? Are you taking up food challenges for Lent? Let us know!

* Cover of the newly revised edition of Extending the Table, due for publication in May, 2014.Extending the Table More info here.