‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple: Forty Days of More-with-Less

Ben and Heather Kulp’s 40-day Lent journey to cook exclusively from More-with-Less Cookbook.

By Ben and Heather Kulp

The nature of what a true gift is or should be is something that has been discussed much in the Scheiwe-Kulp household this week. We are both, by nature, giving people. With the birthday of a soon-to-be-in-law coming up on April 1st, there was much discussion as to what to get this person. What is too much? What is too little? What would be best for this person? The discussion has been ongoing over the past month.

As has happened the past few weeks, the discussion around the dinner table turned towards what we were going to write about for this week’s blog posting. It took us only a few moments to put our conversation about gifts to good work with the More with Less mentality.

The image of Ben’s mother’s stained copy of More-with-Less cookbook seen in the blog post from last week was the starting point to resolving our question about gift giving. When the questions of the birthday gift again arose this past week, Ben, without hesitation, exclaimed, “Page 287!” To answer Heather’s perplexed look, Ben went on to describe that one of his favorite recipes (of “ALL TIME,” according to Ben) is the Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies on p. 287.  This cookie recipe has been used by Ben’s family for as long as he can remember.

cookiesChocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

What better birthday gift to give to someone who will soon be marrying in to the Kulp family than a treasured recipe? (It also helps, by the way, that the intended recipient of this gift loves cookies). All of the ingredients for the cookies were already located in our pantry, and Ben had fun making them late at night this week in between baby feedings. Further discussion about the birthday gift, after mailing the cookies earlier this week, made us realize that we were giving our gift to someone who himself is a very giving person. Our future in-law created the Parkinson’s Comfort Project, a not-for-profit dedicated to assisting people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers in hard-to-reach rural areas of Vermont and New Hampshire. What better birthday gift to share with someone who himself has given to his local community?

It is an easy rhetorical step to talk of gifts at this time in our lives, especially as we both continue to fall more in love with our newborn son. However, the entrance of our baby boy in to our lives in early February has led to a plethora of changes – both expected and unexpected. After the dust settled from the first month, we took stock of what was in fridge and freezer. The abundance of edible gifts from friends, family, and church congregation is humbling. We enjoyed a meal last night with members of the Mennonite Congregation of Boston. Knowing of our goal of cooking only from More-with-Less for the Lenten season, they brought over the Garden Vegetable Curry (p. 134), and added chickpeas to the recipe.

chickpea veggie curryGarden Vegetable Curry

What was intended to be a shorter dinner hour while Heather and Ben took turns rocking the baby to sleep turned in to a long conversation until 10 pm (a late night for parents of a newborn). The gift of food and intentional preparation for friends naturally extended our time together much later than any of us would have planned for a week night.

The weekends are a time of flux in the Scheiwe-Kulp household as Ben’s job as a freelance musician takes him to venues all over New England.  Fitting in time to be together on Saturdays and Sundays as a family has always been a challenge on what is considered to be the traditional time off from work. This past weekend, as the “gigging season” is not quite yet in full swing, we found some free time on our hands. A friend stopped by with a quiche for brunch, and while Heather, baby, and our friend talked in the living room, Ben put together the Cinnamon Topped Oatmeal Muffins (p. 71), and added strawberries that needed to be used.

muffin2Cinnamon Topped Oatmeal Muffins

The three (adults) sipped coffee and ate fresh muffins before digging in to the quiche our friend had cooked. There are few things more relaxing in life than enjoying the sunshine on a weekend with a steaming cup of coffee.

muffinThis week we learned to expand, and re-examine our notion of gifts to other people as well as recognizing the gifts we received from our community. A pantry full of food from well-wishers after our baby was born is the gift of not only resources, but of the time and care put in to making the dishes. It’s a wonderful meditation as we share our prepared meals as a family. Additionally, the time and care we put in to the present we made is as important as the gift itself, and was a reminder for both of us as to what is truly worth giving to others in our community.

The winner of the More-with-Less cookbook “comment” drawing from last week is Nancy! Thanks to everyone who contributed favorite tips, recipes and comments.

All recipes come from More-with-Less cookbook, available here.

MWL_Cover_hard_2011.qxpDo you have a favorite recipe or food to give as a gift?

How have you come up with a creative gift idea without making a trip to a store?

MennoByte_photo–Ben and Heather Kulp