936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
I just devoured one of the greatest meals I have ever had set before me. Truly I would dare to rate this plate of food in the top five dishes I have ever eaten. Unfortunately, I failed to take a photograph of this delectable concoction before I tore it to pieces and thoroughly finished off the entire massive plate– and so I will do my best to illustrate with this 5-minute sketch:
Okay…so maybe that illustration took me closer to 10 minutes to create, and it may not bid due justice to the brilliance of my brunch, but maybe I can fill the void with a written description. First, begin with a buckwheat crepe of massive proportion. Fill the crepe to overflowing with a great array of fresh, roasted vegetables, including orange cherry tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, and yellow squash. Pour over your crepe a well-executed homemade hollandaise sauce. Top your masterpiece with a farm-fresh egg cooked over medium (so that the brilliant, creamy, yellow goodness will pour over your creation when prodded with fork). Crown with two additional spears of asparagus. Serve alongside a fresh salad of spring greens and arugula, garnished with a creamy ricotta dressing. Brunch is served! I discovered this take on Eggs Benedict Crepe-style at a nifty little coffee shop in a college town while Grayson and I had a most-appreciated no-baby date-day. My mom and dad are watching Zeke for us as we explore, sip coffee, process life, and eat delicious food together.
My parents recently moved to the Ozark mountains to pursue their dream of, well, living in the mountains and enjoying life together! This is Gray and my first time down to visit (first of many, I’m sure!), and we are thoroughly enjoying our time in the Ozarks. Fortunately, my parents also enjoy a plate of good food, and we’ve been eating plenty of it while here! We’re approaching week three of our month-long-stay, and here are just some of the delicious foods we’ve tried: Real southern BBQ, southern chicken, some of the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever tasted (Zeke was a huge fan!), fried okra, real small-town breakfast including biscuits and gravy from scratch, very authentic Mexican cooking, local elk, wild razorback hog, and plenty of scrumptious peach and blackberry cobbler!
Now, let me add my disclaimer here: I claim my blog to be one focused around real, wholesome cooking and eating–that which benefits our bodies and health. So what place does biscuits, gravy, and cobbler have here in my real-food blog? Well, as explained in one of my “First-Trimester Hiatus” blog posts, there is a “time for everything”! This month while we visit my parents, we are, to a degree, simply resolving ourselves to enjoy good food and pursuing the experience of food in another culture! (Although I am currently planning our “detox” diet for when we return home) You see, Grayson and I are very intrigued by the culture of food. Let me explain by taking you to a small little “dive” buried deep in a valley in a tiny little town nestled in the mountains.
Mom and Dad had heard great reviews of this small-town cafe, and so we set off on an all-morning adventure to drive a couple of hours and explore this notorious joint.
Now, when we pulled up into the almost-packed parking lot, and set sight on this trailer-like restaurant, I stepped out of the truck with slight skepticism. Grayson always says that a packed parking lot is a sure sign of a great restaurant. However, even the lack of empty parking spaces did little to ease my apprehension. When we stepped inside, I quickly took inventory and began my cross-examination of the place. I know I should learn by now to hold judgement until I can judge by way of taste, but still I couldn’t help but notice the small room to the right with two household freezers, the sketchy buffet table boasting a small bowl of iceberg lettuce, a well-picked-over tray of olives and who knows what else was on it, a banana pudding and a plate of oreo-like pie.
We found our seats at a table situated between another table of older woman sipping coffee on one side of us, and on the other a space heater plugged into a wall adorned with sports paraphernalia and mismatched antique photographs–and dust. A kind, plump waitress, who we would soon discover to be the owner, approached our table and asked us in a southern accent if we’d like to order something off the menu, or try the buffet. “Fried chicken on the buffet today!” she exclaimed, pride lacing her drawn-out accent. Although I’m no fan of fried chicken, I opted for the buffet for ease of decision. I grabbed a plate off a pile of mismatched ceramic and plastic dishware and embarked upon the lunch buffet line. Corn, baked beans, fried chicken, some sort of substance–gravy, perhaps? And about 4 empty containers hinting at some fried side dish and mashed potatoes. It seemed to be a “first come first serve” sort of buffet, and we had not been first. The owner had kindly explained that the buffet included “…anything you can find lying around! Just don’t wander too far back, or we’ll have you washing dishes!” And so I began my search for additional goods to fill my plate. To the left was a side table with a pan of dinner rolls, and flat corn bread pancake sort-of-things, and a couple more picked-over desserts. I took a roll.
Now, my husband has taught me well, and I should have known better than to allow such pessimism to creep in before I set bite into the food because, let me tell you, it was good! It just goes to show that good food is found in unlikely dives. With each bite I began to realize the authenticity of this small little place. The women next to us sipping their coffee had now pulled out a game of sequence, surely this was how they spent their mornings. The owner’s family had arrived and she had sat down to catch up with them. She had earlier explained to us that she, her aunt, and her mother ran the place and did all of the cooking. I’d guess this place to be the sort of restaurant where a woman simply found her house full of friends drawn to her great southern cooking, and decided to make a living out of it by slapping a “cafe” sign out front and setting up a few extra tables inside.
Let this cafe be a reminder to me to be more optimistic and embracing of culture in my food endeavors. For little did it matter that the womens room was located through another door outside, and was adorned with fake flowers in a plastic basket resting in a urinal, or that a posse of cats outside the kitchen door were feasting on leftover chicken bones. This place had character! And character is a necessary ingredient for good food.
We also got to experience the Ozark’s offering of local food culture at a winters farmers market. Although small, I was quite impressed by the vendors offering local pork, lamb, chicken, beef and sausages, along with fresh chicken and duck eggs, winter produce, bakery and crafts. Ezekiel ran from vendor to vendor, and settled down with dad in front of a woman who spent her days carving wooden spoons. Although not my idea of retirement, she was quite interesting and her spoons– a work of art. We left with a basket of fresh apples, along with some strudel, a pecan pie, and amazing ginger cookies. Farmers markets being right up my alley, I really enjoyed strolling through the small tent and taking in the offering of local culture and handiwork.
Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut of returning always to what we know. Out of ignorance, or simple hunger, we resort back to what we know is familiar. This morning as I stood in line at the little crepe coffee shop waiting for a refill on my (delicious) sport tea, I overheard a young boy of about 13 complaining to his mom as he looked over the drink menu that they did not have a “Frappuccino”. He lamented to his mom that, “They have to have a Starbucks around here…” They set down the menu and walked out. He sought a label–the “Frappuccino” he knew–and that blinded him to trying something new. I ached a little for them, knowing they were missing out on a great taste of local coffee and culture.
I would feel comfortable claiming that food is 50% taste and 50% culture, and that if we never step outside of what we know, we will only enjoy a mere 50%, at most, of what food has to offer. This would be why Grayson and I rarely find ourselves inside of a chain or franchise restaurant. We enjoy far too much the adventure and discovery of food prepared with thought towards ingredients, composure, and the resulting flavor. For a young family on a tight budget, when we go out to eat we want it to count. We seek not only a full belly, but memories to coincide with where and what we ordered. I would scarcely remember a dish served to me at a mediocre chain restaurant. However, the inspiring plate of food I was served this morning while sitting with my husband in a small coffee shop– that plate I will remember, equating it with creativity and deliciousness, and pairing it alongside a memory of fond time spent with my hubby. Food is not solely substance, not solely flavor, but culture, inspiration, and memories.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!