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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Laying Aside Weights – Simplify the Cooking

This is part of a series.

Ephesians 5:15-17  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

“Life is too short to stuff cherry tomatoes.”

Some years ago I ran across this quote and I really liked it.  In recent times it has come to mean even more to me and I’ve been trying to simplify my cooking even more.  I also would say that life is too short to make recipes with 20 ingredients or more.  I might make something sometime that has a lot of ingredients, but I’ve been noticing of late that the things with few ingredients sometimes taste just as good or even better than the long complicated ones.  So, why waste time and strength on complicated cooking projects when I could be doing something else of more lasting value?

Ok, I know some people actually enjoy making long, complicated recipes.  That’s OK if it’s your hobby.  But, most of the cooking that I do is not for pleasure in the sense of recreation.  It’s necessity and often even a chore, especially when it’s added work at the end of the day.  This is true of many of those I know who cook from scratch.

So, what I’ve been focusing on lately is the concept that less is more in cooking and meal preparation.  (This is especially worth noting during a Texas summer. :-) )  I’ve always made some pretty simple meals, but since I like variety and I’ve enjoyed inventing my own recipes at times, er….often, I have tended to go overboard with some things.  In earlier years I was also quite inclined to take on projects of various sorts that were actually beyond my skills – this included food preparation.  But, I am seeing more and more the benefits of sticking with the simpler things, not just for the sake of conserving strength when I’m feeling tired, but also for the simple reason that it’s less work – less time spent cooking, and cleaning up afterward.

Luke 10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving…

Now there is nothing wrong with making nice things once in awhile.  We know that feasts were described in scripture and even commanded in Old Testament times.  But, epicureanism and the “foodie” movement have spawned an obsession with unusual, expensive, extotic and even bizarre recipes that can become a distraction from things that really matter.  I don’t say that we should avoid such things altogether.  This would be legalistic and make it sound as if attention to niceties was a sin – an old and tired refrain from those who mistakenly think that self-deprivation equals godliness.  But, I do think we would do well to reconsider how much time we spend making complicated and time consuming dishes which too often require special purchases ($$) and even extra shopping trips just to make them.

An example: I have subscribed in the recent past to a magazine called “Country Woman”.  For a long time I enjoyed it, but there has been a slight change in it in recent years which has been a little disappointing.  The main complaint I would probably have is with some of the recipes.  Sometimes they don’t seem like “country” recipes to me any more.  There are still some useful ones, but there are also some that require expensive or unusual ingredients which I don’t associate with country cooking, frankly.  Macaroni and cheese with 5 kinds of cheese, three of which are specialty ($$) cheeses?  Really?  Decorating sugar cubes with tiny icing decorations for the holidays?  The only place I think I’ve actually seen sugar cubes in active use was at an elegant home in the suburbs of Boston.  Besides, who has time to pipe tiny images with frosting on sugar cubes?  Hello?  But, you get the idea.

When we make our cooking work less complicated and more streamlined, we will have more time to focus on the things that are more important in this life – spending time with our family, reading, studying, learning new skills, writing letters, communicating with friends/believers, etc.  Food is such a temporary thing, isn’t it?  Why do we feel compelled sometimes to spend such great amounts of time and money on something that will disappear in 5 minutes?  It just doesn’t make sense from a Christian viewpoint, and even some non-Christians will see this point.

As you may know, I don’t recommend relying on great quantities of processed foods.  That is not healthful, as recent studies show.  But, it is possible to make good food quickly and simply.  We may have to change our thinking, though, about what is “necessary”.  (This is partly the reason for my “Quick Meals” series that I started recently.)

I remember reading an item once from a man who was living in the Great Depression of 1929.  He talked about the fancy dishes they had been eating before The Crash.  He mentioned Oriental dishes in particular, which I didn’t know had been popular at that time.  He said that after the Depression hit they were content and even happy with much simpler food.  They even enjoyed “sow belly with the buttons still on” it.  Yes.  Sow bellies are very un-elegant food. :-)  I think it would be to the benefit of our quality of living, and in some ways to our budgets, if we would be more content with simpler, wholesome, uncomplicated foods.  Sometime it may prove to be a blessing.

I’m afraid that some of the obsession to make unusual and “amazing” dishes stems too much from the old “keeping up with the Joneses” thing. I feel it sometimes myself, to be honest. We are not in a competition, nor are we somehow better people if we can feed our families or friends on fancier, unusual or more complicated dishes.  Yes, unusual food can serve a useful purpose at times in teaching kids to like a variety of things, but we don’t need to eat a steady diet of it.  Besides, have you ever thought that some of our sisters in Christ might be feeling deficient when they see us strive to make such fantastic foods?  Not that we should avoid making nice things strictly on that account, but it might be good for us to stop and examine our motives sometimes.  I say that as a person who is sometimes moved with a pretty strong urge of competitiveness.

…whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) Philippians 3:19

The belly god is a demanding idol.  If you don’t believe that, all you need to do is drive through the business areas of a fair sized U.S. city and consider the proportion of restaurants to other businesses.  I’m sure this is true in other parts of the world as well.  We are inundated with dining choices!  Also check out the cold cereal and snack food aisles in many supermarkets.  It’s really quite amazing.

While eating is not a sin in and of itself and even enjoying eating does not have to be sin, it can quickly become sin and a substitute for things that matter more.  This is one reason there have been so many religious groups down through the centuries who have made their own (unbiblical) laws and rules regarding food and its consumption. 

One of the troubles about allowing ourselves to be governed by the belly god is that we also are inclined to mind earthly things.  After all, our appetite is a very earthly thing.  We need food to live, and yet it is not the earthly food that ultimately sustains the part of us that really matters.  It is the bread of life from above, which is Jesus Christ, that gives us that sustaining power and salvation that we so need.  John 6:49-51, 63  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…63  It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.  An emphasis on earthly food can result in a lack of focus on that spiritual food. 

If you feel that your attitude towards food is sinful, you need to confess that sin (1 John 1:9). I am primarily trying to point out the need to not overstress ourselves with food related demands that are unnecessary.  1 Corinthians 6:12-13  All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them…

After all, this life is so temporary.  It behooves us to live wisely in all areas, including how we cook and prepare food.  Meal preparation is a good and wholesome task, but it is not the chief end of man – or woman. :-)  I know, some people seem to at least imply, if not outright teach, that women were meant only for the drudgery and menial labor of housework and cooking and child rearing, and that when they find ways to reduce the amount of work that this entails they are “sinning” or will fall into sin.  There are Christian teachers and groups who are chastising women for desiring to spend less time on house care because the teachers and groups are reacting against feminism rather than examining the scripture to see if these things be so!  Ladies, this teaching is NOT of God.  Remember our Lord’s dealing with Martha and Mary.  If this ideology were true, He would surely have said so then, but He did not.  In fact, He made it clear that sitting at His feet was more important than much serving – than making a special meal for Him

Luke 10:38-42 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. [Emphasis added.]

It is more important to spend time with the Lord than trying out all those “great” recipes with which we are swamped these days.  It is more important than learning to use all the “unusual” ingredients that are available in the markets.  Tomorrow they may be unavailable, but Jesus will not.

We need to focus on the simplicity which is in Christ, 2 Cor. 11:3.  We need to acknowledge that the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Php. 3:14) is not preparing the most unusual and complicated dishes or titillating our taste buds.  It is loving the Lord with our heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27).  If we are spending excess time on food at the expense of that, then it is a weight we need to lay aside.  If we are spending excess time on food at the expense of other things of more lasting value, then it is a weight we need to lay aside.  I don’t mean that we need to deny ourselves in this to prove we are “spiritual”, but we need to deny ourselves in this if it is taking the place of the things that really matter.

Hebrews 12:1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus… 3 For consider him…


Well, I didn’t set out to write such a long post on this subject.  Somehow it just came.  Maybe someone especially needed this. :-)


  1. This is a very true article. My husband and I have found that simple eating is much better and easier on the digestive system. When we cook at home, we keep it down to the basics.

    We are noticing more and more that restaurants are placing preservatives and heavy spices in their food, on top of the hormones already in the meat. It's terrible to pay good money for a nice meal and come home sick.

    In addition, we have become very selective on what we purchase in the grocery store because many of the food companies care more for profit than healthy food. So, I say "Amen" to the simple approach to food!

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      I have an MSG intolerance and I can well relate being sick after eating restaurant food. My husband and I have to be very careful where and what we eat when we eat in restaurants also. It extends to groceries as well since MSG (monosodium glutimate) is in many, many foods in one form or another. I do a lot better with foods - both at home and out - that are made from real, simper ingredients. :-) We do eat some processed foods, but generally they are the higher quality ones with real ingredients.

  2. my computer has been on the blink, so I am just reading this post. I, too, was a subscriber to Country Woman and discontinued it not long ago for pretty much the same reason! (I saw those sugar cubes too LOL!) easy cooking is so much more enjoyable! For my birthday just recently I was presented with a "fancy" bakery cake, two kinds of icing, a fancy filling. While I appreciated the thought, it was too much and I am glad to be finished with it today! overly sweet, our family favorite is called a "snack" cake which I make that I just top with whipped cream! lighter and so much more delicious! love your blog, blessings, Anne

    1. Thanks for commenting.

      I know what you mean about the overly sweet issue with some foods. We still eat sweet things, but we've changed so much in that area that some things I would've enjoyed in the past are sickening to me now - even some homemade things, actually. :-)

      I'm still working on laying aside the more complicated ideas of cooking in some respects because, frankly, some recipes look or sound so yummy! But, others, I read or look at and basically think, as the saying goes, "That's not going to happen." I need to continue to think that way more. ;-)

  3. This is so true. Thank you. God really was speaking through you. ;-)

    1. I'm glad you stopped to read. I'm thankful you were blessed. :-)