“I making food, Mommy.”
“What are you making?”
“Soup,” Little Jo says thoughtfully, arranging the tiny tea set. “And cook-ees, and noodews, and pancakes and bwooberries!”
“Oh my. Soup and noodles and pancakes and blueberries? That sounds–”
“And cookies, right. That sounds like quite a feast!”
She’s bustling about so intently that I don’t have to try to hide my grin. The little hostess in her has bloomed out fully this week, and I’ve drunk so many imaginary cups of tea that even the good people at Twinings and Taylors of Harrogate would urge moderation.
When Lucy was this age, I kept a log of her invisible culinary concoctions:
Baby fish and cantaloupe.
Strawberry-flavored blueberry cake.
Fried onions with carrot sauce.
Cinnamon salt pasta.
I wasn’t nearly as adventurous in the kitchen when Y and I were newlyweds. I’d known how to cook simple things before, like spaghetti and pancakes and birthday cakes from boxed mix, but during our first year, I leafed through my slim stack of cookbooks with new interest. From them I learned how to keep knives sharp, how long to bake a potato, and how to chiffonade basil. Practicing the elemental skills helped me understand how to prepare and savor good recipes.
Provencal Vegetable Gratin from How to Boil Water was a favorite; we brought it to so many potlucks that the binding broke open to that page. In the evenings, we always seemed to have a guest or three at the table, and it was a treat to surprise hardworking students and friends with Seared Tuna with Mojo, or Lemon Parmesan Chicken, or tiny Roasted Cornish Hens with stuffed tomatoes.
These days, with two small faces coloring at the table and piecing puzzles together beneath it, I try to keep my active dinner preparation brief. Some of our favorite meals now are very basic, like these Garlic Chicken Drumsticks, or Bean and Chicken Sausage Stew.
But perhaps because Y and I have had our seasons of elaborate fare, these humbler dishes taste all the more filling and delectable to us now, and it’s a pleasure to introduce the magic of simple flavors to our daughters.
In this, our souls are strikingly similar to our bodies:
Our faith, like food, is richer and more full-bodied for every return that we make to the basics.
Y and I have come to know more about the Bible and our need for God in the combined 45 years that we’ve been Christians. We’ve rejoiced in the freedom He’s given us and experienced many overtures of His grace, but the core of it all is always the reality of love shown through Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection. Any ministry or lifeline or teaching series without this core makes as much sense as a baby fish and cantaloupe pie topped with cinnamon salt pasta.
There is no end of things to talk of regarding faith and Christianity, and necessarily so, but it is good, in the best and most refreshing way, to become simple again. To recall that the linchpin of our love and our daring is, and always will be, the Savior on the cross, and the empty-tombed site of our rescue.
I think of this in our ordinary rhythm these days, as we gather up plates after breakfast and lunch and take our Bibles from the sideboard. Little Jo looks for Adam and Eve while Lucy and I each read a passage or two, and then we end with two stories from the Toddler’s Bible that are so very brief, I think I could read them without firing a single thought in my mind.
But I watch Little Jo’s eyes widen as she hears of Nehemiah and Esther for the first time. Sometimes I pause to answer the wondering in her face with further detail or explanation.
Afterward, we sing “our hymn of grateful praise” for the food that’s traveled miles to our table, for the true stories that fill us in ways that no meat and milk can — and for a different kind of daily bread, which seems especially provided for me:
this ongoing invitation to receive the bare, basic fact of His love through the eyes of a child.