Domestic Endeavors

Domestic Endeavors November 30, 2011

Sometimes we call it serendipity. Sometimes fate. Sometimes coincidence.

But the irony of my reading Rebecca Cusey’s post on hipster homemakers while the UPS man was at the door delivering my latest Amazon splurge–Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day—was hard to miss.

Of course, this bread-making idea came from a certain level of competiveness. A mom at school had strolled into the recent teacher appreciation lunch with piping hot rye bread straight from her oven.

“Oh, this?” she said, as we oohed and ahhed. “It’s nothing. I’ve been making artisan bread in five minutes a day for years.”

Really? Nothing? Naturally, I thought I should give it a try.

My favorites--fresh peaches!

Understand that this follows my recent summer endeavors of freezing small batch ice cream and making jelly. On one particular Saturday, the morning’s work produced several loaves of peach bread, a peach and almond tart, and one batch of peach ginger jelly—all made from my “buy-in-bulk” bushel of organic peaches. Despite the work, the majority of the peaches remained happily in their box.

I guess it’s hard sometimes not to embrace the zeitgeist.

While I could easily spend the day preserving organic peaches and then, exhausted, run the kids through the McDonald’s drive-thru and laugh at the paradox, I have become more conscious of my family’s food in the recent months. I buy fresh vegetables from local famers and find myself buying more and more organic foods. The fresh fruit and vegetables, quite simply, taste a whole lot better than those on the regular grocery store aisle. And as for buying other organic products, it simply makes common sense that if the ingredient list includes chemicals and additives I can’t pronounce maybe I should make another choice. Besides, my kids have realized that pure maple syrup really is better! Who knew?

But Rebecca Cusey is right when she says that worrying about additives is a “First World problem.” Some foods are clearly not good for us, but we are not falling over like flies. And the reality is that if we mandated organic food for all, we would be in short supply, and what food was available, most people could not afford.

Which leaves me to wonder, what drives the new domesticity movement? Why do I know so many people who eat only organic, grow their own garden, raise chickens for meat and eggs, store fresh frozen foods in their freezers, quilt, knit, and even make their own cleaning products? But this movement is not just about having world enough and time.

We crave continuity and connection. Technology bypasses us regularly; and while we marvel at the latest and the greatest, change can be disarming. Pulling out a flip phone today gives your veritable grandma status, and even Siri will see dated next year. Not to mention emails and uploads and Facebook and twitter—giving us the ability to traverse the globe in mere seconds! What will our children’s worlds look like?

We yearn for the rituals of the year, for tying our food to the season that produces it, for creating a home that is steeped in purpose and meaning. We knead dough and know that countless women through the ages have stood where we stand, hands sticky and floured, feeding the ones they love. We trust that one day a daughter will pull a loaf of piping hot bread out of the oven, smell the aroma, and say, “This is just the way my mother made it.” Our domesticity becomes a form of prayer.

The danger, of course, is that it also becomes our idol and our protection. We begin to believe that our family’s happiness and even safety depend on our ability to create a perfect home. “Buy organic! You want your children to be healthy, don’t you?” our inner voice says. We live in fear of the “wrong” foods, the cleaning products in the closet, and the neighbor’s exterminator. We run ourselves ragged trying to live simply.

Some of my friends would no more let their children eat a regular grocery store apple than they would let them run in traffic. But truth to tell, we live in a fallen world, and while it’s important to pursue good things, no amount of organic vegetables will alter our inevitable end. So we work hard; we buy and bake and can and knit and wipe noses and dry tears and look for monsters in closets (ours and our children’s), but ultimately we must rest in this fallen world’s Redeemer. He made our children’s precious bodies that we so fiercely protect and He will, I trust, ultimately bring them home to Him, new and perfect and complete. And I even venture to think that one day we will eat piping hot bread at the Table of the Lamb.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, and if you’ll excuse me, I think I smell something burning in the oven.

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