Any one who uses the term ‘menial’ is touched with intellectualism. There are no menial tasks.
“God will not look you over for Medals, Degrees or Diplomas, but for Scars!” -Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book of Elbert Hubbard
I’ve learned that time does NOT heal all wounds but God loves them and us! There can be beauty in a graceful brokenness when we use God as a crutch. But wait, isn’t needing a “crutch” a sign of weakness?! YES! Aren’t we weak when we’re left to only our own devices? I choose spiritual prowess over destructive earthly vices I’ve given up. I no longer feel ashamed about my scars, a shame which fueled a lot of my destructive crutches (smoking, drinking, overeating). I’m not ashamed to say I’m in recovery, my last drink being almost twenty-five years ago. I’m cool with not being cool. My deepest scars are invisible, although I do have, shall I say, an “oven kiss” on my hand I acquired while removing a lasagna from the oven last fall.
When I first started “eating retro” and lost weight over ten years ago I was leaving behind the tyranny of an insatiable appetite which seemingly stemmed from two issues: my relationship to food and eating junk. Underlying the usual analysis of overeating and weight loss was that I was feeling sorry for myself. Why? Because I couldn’t eat as much as I wanted when I wanted without consequences. I was also attached to the illusion that a lifestyle of eating too much, especially sugar and refined carbs was somehow good for my soul. I mistook edible artifice for nourishment. I was always “hungry” but was feeding the wrong appetite. I was focused on eating all the things instead of seeing all the gifts from a healthy relationship to and with food. Why would I, right? Shouldn’t I be entitled to unlimited access to what was mine? Did God put food on my table? No! I worked hard to put that food on the table, and why even talk about God when all I wanted was an Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen.
Thanks to the Maine Rebekahs, whom I consider to be some of the greatest New England home cooks who have also provided almost 100 years of recipes, you can make a winning, traditional New England fish chowder. I’ve adapted this simple, frugal 1920s recipe to make it meat-free since New England fish chowders almost always contain pork in addition to seafood. Wayne said that he wouldn’t have noticed its absence based upon how flavorful this is. Truly it’s so easy to make yet it will produce a chowder that will make you feel like a seasoned New England cook.
“A fear of disagreeable facts, and conscious shrinking from clearness of light, which keep us from examining ourselves, increases gradually into a species of instinctive terror at all truth, and love of glosses, veils and decorative lies of every sort.”
John Ruskin, 1887
“What other men have thought is valuable, but its chief value is, not to save us from the labor of thinking, but to enable us to think the better for ourselves.”
From “The Golden Way to the Highest Attainments” by Rev J.H Potts D.D, 1889
Some Mainers (aka “snowbirds”) go to Florida to escape February (and the couple of months prior and after) during their down time. I keep it local and go to the couch! February is a time when I do more reading. The cozy simplicity of snuggling under a wool throw with a cup of tea and good book takes the edge off of one of my least favorite months. I’m actually starting to grow fond of this time of year. The more I accept February as it is instead of feeling righteous indignation in response to things like the short daylight, icy public walkways, the lonely glossy white landscape outside my window that’s devoid of friendly furry or feathered visitors, the more agreeable it is/I am! In fact I often think a good test of true inner joy is not needing summery days to have a sunny disposition.
Snooty ghosts hovered around old houses along the winding road to the Inn that brought passers by to inviting nooks and crannies. Inside the lobby of the Inn, starched people laughed and sipped cold beverages. Outside, a veranda displayed a view of the water with a faraway mountain watermark in the hazy pale sky. The dim library housed well-aged books, and as I entered the room the wood floor creaked like an ornery granny reprimanding me for not being more ladylike in my footsteps. The shelves were filled with titles from a time that only those beyond had experienced. Alone in the room with just the hundreds of us, I felt that I was about to be entrusted with their secrets. I ran my finger along their spines and stopped at the title, Now Or Never, or, The Adventures of Bobby Bright by Oliver Optic*.
Here’s a simple evening exercise to help you gently step away from overly complicated living. One of the greatest conveniences of brief mental time travel (or going off the cultural grid) is that it doesn’t cost anything. No fancy machinery, expensive tickets, long lines, or invasive security searches need be involved. In fact it’s the opposite!
If you’re not from Maine, you might think the above photo is of a homemade Mounds candy bar. You’re close! But you’d probably be shocked to learn that they contain mashed potatoes in the coconut centers! They are a delicious traditional Maine candy called “Needhams” which have also historically been called “potato candy” or “potato fudge”. However, if you are from Maine and familiar with Needhams you may be surprised to discover that the modern version has gone far astray from yesterday’s healthier and more wholesome homemade versions dating as far back as 1924.
Within my collection of vintage Maine and New England community cook books dating back to the early 1900s are dozens and dozens of recipes for “Indian Pudding.” It’s a humble, mildly sweet and spicy baked cornmeal dessert served warm and paired with whipped or iced cream. Each recipe is as unique as the contributor. Even within one cook book there are sometimes multiple variations offered: Lottie adds tapioca, no eggs while Cora uses eggs and no tapioca. Mary bakes hers in a “slow oven” (lower temp) for four hours while Alice only bakes her for 1 1/2. After carefully reviewing my vintage sources I am offering you my own kitchen and taste tested (plus Wayne approved!) adaptation that’s made in a cast iron dutch oven. (This is an updated recipe from last year with new photos taken this morning!)