Thursday, July 13, 2006

Loaves, Fishes and New Pants

It is a fact. Life is not predictable.  The weather doesn't always do what I would like, nor does the IRS. Diapers flood on the way out the door, and children don't always grow at the rate I expect. Growth spurts happen typically when I least expect them. The first evidence of their arrival is an increase (sometimes exponential) of a child's appetite. 

Likewise folks sometimes come over without warning. And they are usually hungry. In the South, where I have been raised, it is downright rude not to feed folks when they show up. It matters not that they have been discourteous in arriving hungry without an invitation. A good Southern woman feeds everyone in her path.

Adding these factors into the equation, it becomes necessary for a homemaker to have a backup plan. I can get over the house not being "just so" after a few minutes of visiting, but I can't make food appear out of thin air. Those times when there isn't enough prepared food to meet the apparent need,  creativity is earnestly needed. In our home this creativity is actually a learned skill. We call it Loaves And Fishes-making the available food feed the present mouths (or appetites). 

While understanding the difference between mincing and dicing, frying and sauteing, boiling and braising are all important, they are skills not used nearly as often as Loaves And Fishes. In our home, Loaves And Fishes is viewed as the single most important kitchen skill to learn before leaving home.

We know not what a day may bring. Where we will live, what types of food may be available, and our budget are all variables that we cannot presume. But an understanding of how to make food stretch can always be useful.

There have been times when I have dumped the contents of a casserole back into a bowl and added more vegetables and sauce. Still not enough casserole? Serve it over rice. For a pasta meal, more pasta can be quickly prepared. Bread is a great filler of bellies-especially homemade. More lettuce can be tossed in to a salad, along with other miscellaneous refrigerator items. A few lonely boiled eggs? Throw them in. Stale bread? Make croutons and throw them in.  Everyone knows that soup is great for using up small bits of leftovers, but what about quiche? Quiche is a great user-of-leftovers. We toss in bits of meat, small amounts of vegetables, some cheese, and pour on top a mixture of one egg for every quarter cup of milk. It doesn't even need crust-just throw it in the oven and bake at 375' until set in the middle.

Truly, the method is not as important as the mindset. Feeding hungry folks is very rewarding. Just remember that good company makes the food taste great. So, the next time you have an unexpected blessing of company, think Loaves And Fishes.

The next time your twelve servings don't make it past your eight year-old son, think Loaves And Fishes...

...and be ready to buy him some new pants.

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