Sunday, January 17, 2010

More With Less: A World Community Cookbook

Growing up, my siblings and I frequently asked my mother where a certain recipe came from. More often than not, she would reply, "From More With Less." I knew it was a cookbook and the things she made were tasty, but it wasn't until she gave me a copy after college graduation that I really understood what this cookbook is all about.

It has no pictures. The first 50 pages are a dissertation on world hunger, American's habitual resource over-consumption, nutrition, and spirituality. Spirituality in a cookbook? Yeah, it was written by Mennonites. But if you've been around Mennonites, you know they are notoriously good cooks & bakers plus they make a serious connection between their eating habits, their worldview and their relationships with God. "We are connected to our food- cultivating it, preserving it, and preparing it. We are nurturers instead of consumers. This shift affects our relationship to the Giver of our daily bread. We become co-creators with God and stewards of God's garden," (pg. viii, props to you if you can read Roman numerals).

But the Mennonites were way ahead of the game in their approach to food. The cookbook was first published in 1976 following a challenge for Mennonite families to reduce both their food budgets and food consumption by 10%. What if a modern church did that today? Riots I tell you, riots! But back to the Mennonites. The goal of the cookbook is to provide recipes (and a crap-ton of recipes at that) for families that combine basic, un-processed ingredients into tasty, nutritious meals. It's not showy and it's really un-complicated!

There's even a heading in the dissertation called "Overcomplicating Our Lives" that addresses how we have turned eating into a superexperience, particularly when eating with other people. "Serving guests becomes an ego trip, rather than a relaxed meeting of friends around that most common everyday experience of sharing food. Gathering around the table in fellowship turns into entertaining. We eat out for something to do, not because we find ourselves on the road at mealtime," (pg. 20). I have nothing against eating out or fixing a better meal when guests are over, but so many times, those experiences become a distraction from the true purpose of sharing meals: getting to know people better and spending time with friends. Plus, eating out generally involves spending too much money for more food than you really physically needed. "Overeating wastes food," (pg. 15).

As for the recipes, it's amazing what basic, un-processed, un-complicated ingredients can combine to create! In addition to traditional recipes, it includes a wide variety of international recipes & vegetarian dishes. I've made many recipes in addition to the ones my mom has made and it's always great to know that you've made something not only tasty, but easy, nutritious & that supports simple lifestyle. Plus, the cookbook's format is basic, easy to read & on normal paper so I don't feel bad about writing in my own notes. Not sure if I'm ready to try the Formosan Fried Cabbage, but the Hearty Lentil-Sausage Soup is amazing!

1 comment:

  1. Late to the party, as I've just discovered your great blog. I've had a copy of this cookbook ever since I read about it in "Tightwad Gazette," and it's been my go-to cookbook ever since. Thanks for the rec, and I hope posting my comment will inspire others to discover this post and cookbook.