It’s the time of year that many of us turn our minds toward thanksgiving and counting our blessings. We also tend to think a lot about food! Curl up with a copy of Farmer Boy written by Laura Ingalls Wilder about the childhood of her future husband and it won’t take you long to discover one thing—this boy loved to eat! Among the first eighty-three pages, food or the subject of meals comes up on no fewer than thirty-one pages!1 Almanzo reminds me of another little boy I know, a boy named Caleb.
Caleb loves to eat! One of my favorite pictures of him is of a time when his mom was feeding him, not long after Caleb had graduated from milk to solid food. I’ve never seen a more eager face! He ate every bite he could, including every morsel of the foods he didn’t particularly like. He might scrunch his face in protest, but he still ate everything that came his way.
Almanzo enjoyed a large variety of foods as well, and I think their tastes and flavors stayed with him long after the table was cleared. Take a look at this list of a few of the foods mentioned in the first few chapters of Farmer Boy, and note the words used to describe many of them:
- Apple turnovers, “their plump crusts filled with melting slices of apple and spicy brown juice”
- Ham, “the salty brown smell of frying ham made Almanzo’s stomach gnaw inside him”
- Big, yellow cheeses
- Large, brown cakes of maple sugar
- Crusty loaves of fresh-baked bread
- Baked beans “with a crisp bit of fat pork in the crumbling brown crust”
- Sweet, mellow baked beans
- Mealy boiled potatoes with brown ham-gravy
- Velvety bread spread with sleek butter
- Pale mashed turnips
- Stewed yellow pumpkin
- Plum preserves
- Strawberry jam
- Spiced watermelon-rind pickles
- Pumpkin pie
- Golden buckwheat cakes2
And we mustn’t forget one of the foods Almanzo mentioned more than almost any other—doughnuts. He ate them for breakfast, and he munched on them as snacks. He watched his mother set them to sizzling on baking day and helped himself to a fresh crisp dessert right off of the pan.
Food is just one of God’s abundant blessings that highlights a portion of His boundless creativity. Who else could imagine placing the potential for delicious chocolate inside a cocoa bean or the delicate meat of the coconut inside a shell you need a mallet to break open?
Despite the fact that it may feel like you’re cooking the same thing again, have you ever really stopped to consider the variety God has placed before us on tables around the world? You can visit Chicago or Jakarta, Indonesia, and find a common thread—food is part of the heritage and legacy that families share and pass on to future generations.
From French crème brûlée, to Mexican tortillas, to Polish poppy seed cakes, cultures around the world preserve elements of culture, history, and family in the foods they prepare. Chicagoans claim the birthplace of the first deep dish pizza.3 In Ethiopia, you might eat roasted chickpeas for a snack.4 In parts of India, you can enjoy flat bread called chapattis.5 And if you ever find yourself in the jungles of Myanmar (Burma), you might borrow a tip from Karen soldiers and make sticky rice inside a piece of bamboo.6
Both the blessings of children and the blessings of food can teach us many things. I’ve learned a lot from watching Caleb. I’ve learned there is great joy in diving into a meal, even if you make a mess in the process. I’ve learned there can be great joy in experiencing every day as a new adventure. I’ve learned it’s okay to rest your head from time to time and enjoy a good nap. I’ve also learned that persistence pays off—when Caleb was trying so hard to learn to crawl, it’s likely he never imagined that in the blink of an eye he would be running laps around the apartment and wearing out more than one adult in the process!
As he grows, Caleb will make his own food-related memories, much as Almanzo did. He’ll remember his mom making his favorite dessert in the kitchen. He’ll remember the almost unending wait until it was finally time to eat dinner. He may even remember what it was like to dive into his birthday cupcake face-first to taste the icing!
Every day when we wake up, we find ourselves surrounded by God’s abundant blessings. Let’s dive in to the feast He surrounds us with, the blessings of faith, family, friends, and even fried doughnuts. You might want to use a little restraint with the doughnuts, though!
And if you want to have a fun food conversation with your kids or grandkids this year, see if they can do some digging and find out what countries you might eat the following foods in:
- dabo kolo
- pisang goreng (banana fritters)
- chicken satay
- Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A Harper Trophy Book, Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
- Bold Believers in Ethiopia: A Kids of Courage Activity Book. Kids of Courage and The Voice of the Martyrs, Inc., 2008.
- Bold Believers in India: A Kids of Courage Activity Book, Revised Edition. Kids of Courage and The Voice of the Martyrs, Inc., 2007.
- From Burma to Michigan: Karen Women’s Folk Food and Stories compiled by Leslie Askwith. Printed and distributed by Christian Freedom International, www.christianfreedom.org.