Tag Archives: Emily Stimpson Chapman

Surviving season of mayhem through simplicity

In cooking, as in life, there’s a season for everything. There’s a season for crafting fine cuisine, with ingredients sourced from the local farmer’s market. And there’s a season for microwaving frozen dinners from Trader Joe’s. There’s a season for feeding crowds. And there’s a season for parties of one. There’s a season for spending hours in the kitchen. And there’s a season for spending 15 minutes readying a simple meal.

Right now, even 15 minutes feels generous to me.

Over the last 18 months, I’ve taken on more than any sane person should, attempting to write multiple books, restore a three-story, 128-year-old house, and start a family with my husband. With the latter hope still eluding us, we’ve moved on to adoption, with all the madness that entails, from running the gauntlet of a home study to solving the housing problems of birth parents living 3,000 miles away.

In the midst of all the “crazy,” cooking fancy food and hosting impressive dinner parties has fallen by the wayside. These days, if you come to my house for dinner, prepare yourself for pizza night.

But that’s okay. That’s how life goes. There’s great joy in cooking and baking and serving the people we love. But, there’s also great joy in not having nervous breakdowns. If simplifying things in the kitchen can add to our sanity, it’s okay to lean into that, knowing that someday, this season, too, shall pass.

Over the last year, I’ve made my peace with this. I still try to keep our diet healthy; nourishment remains the basic goal. I also still try to have friends and family around our dinner table… although I have no shame in serving pizza…or skipping the meal altogether and just serving wine and cheese. But beyond that, I’m surviving through simplicity.

In practice, this means that on some weeknights, we take advantage of delivered meal kits. For our family of two, services like Blue Apron enable us to have delicious dinners, without the stress of meal-planning, shopping, and hours in the kitchen. On other nights, we hit “start” on the rice cooker, roast some veggies with garlic, oil, and salt, and pretend we’re vegan. Just as often, I dip into my arsenal of simple recipes (like the Bacon & Egg Salad featured here) that make me feel like I’m spending more time in the kitchen than I am.

All those tricks help. So too does knowing that someday, this season of crazy will end, and the days of risotto and fine wine will return. That might take a while—especially if God answers those prayers for a baby. But, that will be yet another season, and like all of them—each in their own way—a blessed one.

EMILY STIMPSON CHAPMAN is the author of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet. She blogs at TheCatholicTable.com.

 

Bacon & Egg Salad
Serves 2
Prep time: zero minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

4 strips thick-sliced bacon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
4 large handfuls of greens (spinach, kale, or arugula)
Olive oil
Kosher salt

Instructions: In a large frying pan, cook bacon until desired level of crispness; drain on paper towels. Once it’s cool to the touch, roughly chop.

While the bacon cools, heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan; when it’s hot enough to make water sizzle, crack two eggs into the pan. Fry until the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny. While the eggs cook, divide the greens, walnuts, and goat cheese between two plates. Add chopped bacon. When the egg is just done, flip it onto the greens, so that the yolk runs on the lettuce. Drizzle olive oil onto the salad and add just a pinch of salt. Serve warm.

Harvesting virtue with season’s bounty

Food is an occasion for vice. Most of us know that, having succumbed to the temptation of an extra piece of cheesecake now and again.

Emily Stimpson Chapman

Food, however, is also an occasion for virtue. It’s an occasion for temperance—for mustering the gumption to say “no” to that extra piece of cake. It’s also an occasion for prudence— for recognizing our need to eat Brussels sprouts more than cupcakes. It’s an occasion for justice—for providing our body everything it needs to sustain health. And it’s an occasion for fortitude—for adhering to wise choices over time about what we eat daily… not just for 28 or 30 days of goal-driven dieting.

Those virtues—temperance, prudence, justice and fortitude—are what the Church calls the cardinal virtues.

They’re good habits which lay the foundation for all the other virtues and help us live richer, fuller, more deeply human lives. The more we cultivate these virtues, the stronger those virtues grow within us, and the more we mature into the men and women God intends. Food, however, isn’t just an occasion for honing the cardinal virtues. It also allows us to exercise the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity.

Unlike the cardinal virtues, which we develop through practice, the theological virtues are gifts of grace. God freely gives them to us and helps them to grow strong within us. Likewise, while the cardinal virtues help us to live a more human life, the theological virtues help us to live a more divine life; they prepare our souls for the life God made us to live, in eternity, with Him.

While we can’t grow in the theological virtues through eating, like we can with the cardinal virtues, what we can do is allow the gifts of faith, hope, and charity to shape how we approach food.

Faith, for example, can help us see food as a gift from God and a sign of His love. It reminds us to give thanks for what’s before us and not take even one bite of a delicious donut for granted.

Hope helps us to keep our eyes on the prize— heaven—and not make gods of our appetites. It also strengthens and consoles us when we fail to exercise prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice at the dinner table, reminding us that each day, God gives us the grace to begin again.

And charity? Charity reminds us to think of others before ourselves. It helps us to cook with generosity—liberally loving others with the gift of food—and to give with generosity—sacrificing something we want so that others might have the food that they need. It also helps us to eschew pickiness at the table and receive what others cook for us with gratitude.

Seeing every meal through the lens of the virtues isn’t trendy. You won’t find challenge groups for it on Facebook. But it comes with its rewards, helping us to make appropriate choices every day, maintain proper perspective on food, and grow in virtue as we eat. Most importantly, using our virtues when we eat frees us — to eat, to cook, and to enjoy every single bite of that one piece of cheesecake.

EMILY STIMPSON CHAPMAN is the author of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet. She blogs at TheCatholicTable.com.

 

Pumpkin Tortellini Soup

2 Tbsp. butter
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
29 ounces chicken broth
1-15 ounce can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 bag tortellini

Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add onions, cooking until tender. Add half the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Transfer the broth mixture to a blender; blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the pan, adding the remaining broth,
pumpkin, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and
simmer, covered, for at least 10 minutes.

While the soup cooks, cook the tortellini according to package
instructions. To the soup, add the whipping cream.

Just before serving, add tortellini. (Serves 6-8)

Table lessons … with bacon

Our God is a God of love. The proof is in the pudding. Literally. It’s in chocolate pudding, banana pudding and caramel bread pudding with whiskey sauce. It’s also in coffee, wine, creamy sage risotto and bacon… especially in bacon.

stimpson

Emily Stimpson Chapman

In every sweet, salty, peppery, savory morsel we put into our mouths, God’s love is manifest. Food is a testimony to his desire to nourish us, nurture us, comfort us, teach us, delight us and live in relationship with us. Saint Paul tells us so: God “gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your heart with food and gladness (Acts 14:16-17). 

The bread we eat — smothered in butter, dipped in oil, toasted and topped with a good goat cheese — was, from the beginning, meant to bear witness to God. Food does this first on the natural level. Chicken soup nurtures us back to health when we’re sick. Cookies cheer us when we’re down. A fine meal of salmon and roasted potatoes, cooked for us by our sweetheart, tells us we’re loved.

Food also does this on the supernatural level. In the Mass, Jesus gives himself to us as food: bread and wine become his Body and Blood, and that Body and Blood accomplish on a supernatural level everything that ordinary food accomplishes on a natural level. When we eat the Bread of Angels, we can be healed, comforted, nurtured and nourished with the very life of God. This is all by design. From the beginning, he poured out his love for us in food — manna — knowing all the while that one day he would nourish us with Heavenly Bread.

food-stimpsonFood’s job is to give us a foretaste of the Supper of the Lamb. Our job is to let food do its job: to let it draw us together in friendship, delighting, comforting, pleasing, and nourishing us, never abusing the gift by intemperate or fastidious eating, and sitting down to every meal with a spirit of gratitude.

In a fallen world, that is sometimes difficult. But grace flows both ways. Just as our daily bread can teach us truths about our Heavenly Bread, our Heavenly Bread can give us the grace to appreciate our daily bread. The Eucharist can help us eat everything eucharistically — with thanksgiving, joy and love. And whenever possible, with bacon.

EMILY STIMPSON CHAPMAN is the author of The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet. She blogs at TheCatholicTable.com.

 

Bacon and Sage Risotto

8 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp bacon grease, reserved
3 tbsp butter
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
6-8 cups chicken broth
1 small bunch of sage, roughly chopped
2/3 cup parmesan, shredded

Chop onion, mince garlic, shred cheese, roughly chop sage, then set them aside. In a medium stock pot, bring broth to a simmer. Chop bacon into 1-2 inch pieces. Fry in large pot until it’s done to your liking. Drain bacon on a paper towel. Pour oƒ grease, reserving 2 tbsp.

Heat reserved bacon grease plus 1 tbsp butter in same large pot over medium heat. When butter is melted, add onions. Cook until translucent (3-5 min.), add garlic and cook 30-60 seconds more. Add rice, mix in with onions and garlic. Allow rice to toast for 1-2 min., stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high. Add wine, stir until absorbed.

Add broth slowly, one ladle at a time. After first ladle of broth, stir rice until liquid is absorbed (about 1 min.), then add next ladleful. Repeat until rice is creamy and soft, but firm to the bite, stirring almost continuously. Remove from heat, add remaining 2 tbsp butter and parmesan. Stir vigorously until combined. Add sage and bacon, stir, salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves: 6-8.