The problem with simplifying your house and life to such an extent that you only have three forks and two pans (https://masterbard.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/simple-times-three/) becomes radically apparent when you try to cook a traditional Western Christmas feast in South Korea, using a kitchen equipped with two small burners, a toaster oven, and a microwave.
I know, this is still very much a ‘first-world problem’ here. I don’t have to feed my child plantain stew over a fire made from goat dung, or even just try to create an edible faux burger from lentils and mustard seed. And in fact, one of the reasons I so dramatically cut down my possessions, at least in the kitchen to this point, was to try to honour a new life-policy that involves less consumption – both in the metaphorical sense and the literal. But yes, I’m also wanting to balance that with moving away from a scarcity mentality to one of abundance…a shift that has to happen in the head and heart, a shift that involves gratitude for the things already so blessed with. So… bearing in mind that this is the kind of feast that happens only seasonally for us, and that we are celebrating the return of the sonshine, let me tell you how – and why – our Christmas dinner turned out.
There were only the three of us as family around the table. We had a *ham* as the centrepiece of the meal, which doesn’t sound all that special until you understand that my ten-year-old daughter, taking her first bite of it, chewed meditatively and then informed us that it was ‘interesting…sort of a cross between samgyopsal and Spam…’ Yes, dear reader, our household, having lived in Korea for more than half our married lives, is more familiar with Korean belly-bacon and processed pork product than it is with the taste and texture of genuine ham. It was a treat as rare as lobster or lamb or caviar might be for you, and savoured with bliss.
I did it up with a classic brown-sugar-dry-mustard glaze, tweaked with pineapple juice, fresh mandarin juice, herb salt, and plumped raisins, then garnished with mini pineapple rings and mandarin segments. Complex and intense sweet flavour on the outside, succulent savory inside. Ahhhh.
Homemade sage-and-onion stuffing, from my thirty-five-year-old recipe…crusty on top, soft and fluffy beneath, with grated apple, onion, more raisins, and four kinds of bread. Steamed broccoli tossed with garlic-and-herb-and-cream-cheese. Dried cranberry-in-bokbunja/mandarin sauce (bokbunja is a Korean black raspberry cordial that resembles cherry brandy). Stewed apples, by husband’s special request, with cinnamon and just a dash of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Golden squash slices, glazed and shriveled into sweet single morsels. A baked potato (just for me), flaky and steaming, filled with homemade yoghurt-spinach dip.
The pineapple was the only thing out of a can in that meal, and the colours and flavours were a pleasure to eye and mouth. A child’s prayer began it and sighs of satisfaction ended it. Abundance. Left-overs. Pleasure. Christmas breaking of bread together. Smiles. Gratitude. Ham.
May your Christmas dinner, your solstice meal, your Kwanzaa celebration, or your Feast of Lights, no matter what you have to eat for it, be as nourishing to body and soul. May it be with the people you care about. May there be light and love around the table.
(and, as my daughter added in her prayer, ‘thank you for cats.’)
So, I did something drastic the other day. I now own exactly three forks, and no more; one for each person in this household.
I have been decluttering and cleaning, giving away and packing up to sell, nearly half of my worldly goods. Funny, that; I seem to have spent the years up to forty in accumulating stuff desperately, and now I can’t wait to simplify my life. Anyhow, I was heartily sick – have been for a while – of the mess in my kitchen…mostly dirty dishes always filling up the sink. Without incriminating anyone, I’ll just say that I’ve tried a number of different strategies to avoid the pile-up, but somehow it’s always just not getting done.
Why don’t I just wash them, you say? Well, for one, I can’t do it any more. My hands won’t take the stress of scrubbing and rotating and gripping the brush (fibro and rheumatoid pain) for more than a few plates at a time. And what with the shopping and the putting away and the cooking of the food, at the end of the day…it’s just easier to grab a fresh plate from the cupboard. And – guilty secret – for a while there we were going through an awful lot of paper plates, too. Just. Too. Tired.
I got fed up. Once every dish in the house was clean, I went through and chose out three dinner plates, three lunch plates, three bowls, three forks, three knives, three teaspoons, and three tablespoons. Our plates were mostly brown melamine, very durable, but I also keep a number of microwave-safe ceramics – those got pared down to three matching plates and bowls as well. I cheated a bit on the coffee spoons (which are patina’ed wood, and which my daughter and I love to eat with because the mouth-feel is so much nicer than metal); I kept one mugful of them. No serving spoons, salad servers, serving dishes – ok, one large melamine platter – decorative plates, salvers, teacups, etcetera… all in the ‘to sell/to give’ pile. I kept my knife rack, with the cleaver, parer, bread knife, and assorted chopping knives, but took my pots and pans down to one of each. One large saucepan, one small. Ditto with the frying pans. One big bowl for making bread and sauces and the like, one small for mixing or serving.
You use a plate, you wash a plate – the new dictum was declared, and my husband and daughter ready to cooperate.
So far it’s been a blissful couple of weeks and a clean sink. And a really peaceful feeling of freedom.
What do you think? Could you live with one plate per person, or are there other ways you could simplify and ‘clean up’ your life?