“Hey! This is our first kitchen renovation,” I exclaimed to my husband of 37 years, with whom I’ve shared nine homes.
“It was never on my ‘bucket list’,” he glumly replied.
This conversation snippet aptly represents the roles we took in our recently completed renovation. I took the part of cheerleader, enthusiast and self-designated project manager, while my husband was a reluctant partner. He was also a skilled and dedicated labourer, I’m grateful to add. With our efforts and that of paid tradesmen, we joined the ranks of successful kitchen renovators, or that’s how it seems to me. I am delighted with how our project turned out, with its warm oak cupboards, improved traffic flow and expanded counters.
Along the way, we made many decisions regarding design and details. (The cupboards alone consumed far more hours than I imagined would be possible.) Those decisions rubbed up against our Christian ethics of simplicity and frugality. We established a few working principles: avoiding debt and unnecessary expense; modest, balanced with the rest of the house and the neighborhood; well-constructed and attractive. For the most part, we held to those goals.
Still, it’s a luxury to be able to equip one’s home with such beauty and richness. (There are now three timers in my little kitchen!) Anyone who is doing a kitchen renovation, however simple and basic it may be, is relatively wealthy when compared to cooks around the world. I want to be mindful of women who bend over smoky fires to make pita, grind corn for tortillas or carry water over long distances, as I savor my food preparation space. (For anyone similarly inclined, there are ways to stay mindful of such people. In addition to the church agencies we typically support, check out Hungry Planet: what the world eats, by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, with its photos of 30 families from 24 countries, and the food they consume in a week. Or The Hunger Project at www.thp.org with its vision to end world hunger.)
My corner in the world is as a middle-class North American who spends a lot of time in the kitchen. Preparing, serving and enjoying food is a spiritual practice. I meet the God of abundance in my kitchen. I remember how Jesus shared bread and wine with his friends, and how we re-enact that meal at communion. I joyfully accept the spirit’s invitation to practice hospitality. As I chop onions, knead dough and stir soups, the Trinity soothes, settles and grounds me.
It’s no surprise that the Bible contains so many stories of divine encounters related to food. Our daily bread is the stuff that nourishes us. We receive food from God’s bountiful hand, and we are called to pass on that bounty to others. And we feed on God’s grace, that which we find in scripture and that which we find in Jesus.
There’s a particular scripture that speaks to me, as a woman, as a provider of food. Luke 8 opens with a note about Jesus and his disciples going through cities and villages, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Luke adds that some women were among the disciples, names three of those women and notes, “[They] provided for them out of their resources.” (verse 3) Someone was feeding Jesus! Making sure he had the resources he needed to do his good work. We who labour to prepare and share food are disciples in the tradition of Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna.
Melissa Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Winnipeg. She is wrapped in the family ties of daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend and pastor.