August 17, 2005
When Dan and I first got married (over 25 years ago), I was given a cookbook called More With Less. It was a collection of recipes gathered from Mennonite kitchens all over the world. It became my favorite cookbook very quickly, because Dan was in seminary and I had a low paying radio job, and the recipes were very inexpensive to prepare. They focused on using less meat, sugar and fat and more whole grains and vegetables. My mother sent me an anniversary copy while we were in Malawi, and again it became my favorite cookbook. The recipes had ingredients which I could easily get and were healthy and delicious. I brought the book home with me, and will continue to use it. I think the Mennonites are on to something.
Actually, they are not the only ones who are trying to simplify things. My sister-in-law gave me a subscription to a slick magazine called “Real Simple” which I understand is very popular now. It talks about things like, “New Uses for Old Things,” and “Cooking with Peanut Butter.”
When I was brave enough to turn on a morning news/talk show yesterday I saw they were doing a feature on ways to simplify and save money. The guest doing the report pulled out a rack of blue jeans. She said, “most Americans have 11 pairs of blue jeans, but you only need one!” She also suggested that families eat at home together rather than go out to dinner and consume overly-generous, fat laden meals at restaurants.
When I compare my home here in Pennsylvania to my home in Malawi, I am amazed at how many “things” I have here, that I got along without in Africa. Now, I am not saying that I am going to give up my dishwasher, washing machine, microwave or ice tea maker, but my closet could certainly use some deep cleaning. My husband will tell you that I have a tendency to collect and hold onto things that I don’t use very often. I am really struggling to get rid of many of these items and streamline our home a bit. It has been easy for him, but very difficult for me. However, living in Africa for a year certainly has helped change my perspective on just how many dishes I need on hand to feed 15 people, or how many towels I should have in my linen closet. I am not going to tell you that this is easy for me, although the girls and Dan have totally emptied their closets of unwanted garments and outgrown games and toys. But I am really trying to be a much more responsible user of resources. I can no longer justify all the “kutundu” (Chichewa word for “stuff”) that clutters my life.