Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The season of simple meals begins

I don’t always cook simply. I like the challenge of a recipe that has a long list of ingredients and instructions that go on for more than a page. I enjoy trying new spices, learning cooking techniques and testing out pieces of equipment.

I’m thinking about all of that as I begin the season of Lent today. As a life-long Catholic, I’ve grown accustomed to the 40 days before Easter as a time for prayer, works of charity and fasting as I prepare myself for the death and resurrection of Christ. It’s a time when we follow the example of Jesus who went into the desert to pray and fast for 40 days. I find it to be a restorative time to rid myself of items and activities that have more of a tendency to squelch my soul rather than nourishing it.

It’s not uncommon for my non-Catholic friends to ask, “What are you giving up this year?” They’ve heard the stories of 40 days without chocolate, coffee, wine, whatever someone might choose.

One practice I like to implement during Lent involves less “giving up” and more preparing to be in communion with my brothers and sisters around the world. Each year, Catholic Relief Services publishes a few simple, meatless recipes from across the globe as part of their Operation Rice Bowl program. I’ve discovered some winning recipes in the past so I look forward to trying this year’s suggestions, which come from Madagascar, India, El Salvador, Zambia and Vietnam.

There’s no guarantee I won’t indulge in a divine chocolate dessert at some point, but my hope is that in preparing these dishes I will come to better appreciate the food that grows in the United States and how I can prepare it simply. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to sip coconut milk in West Africa, eat lunch prepared over an open fire in India, enjoy freshly made corn tortillas in Central America and taste the widely varying versions of pizza that are available around the world. Seeing the families I met put such diligent work into each simple meal reminds me of what luxuries I have to cook with. But during the next 40 days, I’ll be striving for simplicity.

Do you have a simple recipe to share? Feel free to post them as comments and watch the blog during the upcoming weeks for simple recipe ideas. In the meantime, may the blessings of this Lenten season be upon you.

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