Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sweet Potatoes, Apples, and Simplicity

We often get an idea of what simplicity should look like and then we proceed to push and shove until, bruised and battered, we "fit." But that is not the way simplicity comes. It slips in unawares. A new sense of wonder, concentration, even profundity steels into our personality. We change our lifestyle, even taking up the ministry of poverty when it is clearly right and good, out of inner promptings, knowing that when the call is made the power is given. The tailor-made fit is perfect. Simplicity is grace.
–excerpted from Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster

I suppose we've always identified most with the testimony of simplicity. For us, it also meant no tv (still don't have one), and no dishwasher, air conditioner, mixer, clothes dryer, microwave, etc. We did most everything by hand. Playing music, books, food, homeschooling, gardening, running, dance, arts & crafts . . . these identified who we were, not fancy houses or expensive cars. And we did things together, as a family.

Rick worked as a fine arts photographer when we first got married, then opened a photolab. After 21 years, he closed the store in January 2008, death by digital photography. We were/are also performing as a family band, The Homegrown String Band. We've been playing together as a family since 1997 (the girls grew up in front of an audience), and have played some pretty cool venues, like the Appalachian Fiddle & Bluegrass Association's bluegrass festival in Wind Gap PA, the National Theatre in Washington DC, and the Festival of American Music in Branson MO, to name only a few. Like everything else, though, the arts were hit hard these last few years, gas prices have made traveling difficult, and so this year we seem to be surviving on a limited amount of library shows. Which is okay because library audiences are fantastic—they come to listen and to learn, and really appreciate our music.

Deciding to close the photolab was a hard decision—to go from a set weekly income to being dependent on an iffy amount of shows for an even iffier amount of pay was incredibly scary. But also kind of liberating. When your income level meets poverty guidelines, though, it's tough to stand up and say, yup, this is where I want to be right now. Family and friends tend to look at you in pity, like you're crazy. Did we really want to get this simple, does it hold meaning for us, and is simplicity really grace? 

I read tons of books (well, it seemed like it) these past few years, trying to find . . . hmm, others to identify with, I guess. Books I really enjoyed, and read several times over, were Radical Homemaking, Deep Economy, Un-jobbing, Simplicity: the Art of Living, and Not Buying ItWe've also all learned new skills or expanded on others: Erica has become a published knitwear designer; Rick has learned to do kumihimo braiding, cast pewter buttons, make Navajo spindles, and is right now learning to weave on an inkle loom (along with much muttering); Annalee makes soap, has taken numerous herbal and wise woman courses, and started a blog; and I'm trying to learn to sew, I designed a cookbook for our Quaker meeting's 50th anniversary, and did go almost an entire year without buying anything except groceries (I gave in at Christmas and bought presents). Oh, I learned to woodburn, too, and decorate Rick's spindles. Erica, Annalee, and I were certified in Reiki level I. 

Each day is a wonderful blessing. Sure, the girls fight and argue and complain and whine, I get hot flashes and grouchy, and Rick gets moody at times. But it's all good. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining, and the solar oven was loaded with sweet potatoes & apples sprinkled with brown sugar. And, hey, we also got a practice session in.

Sweet Potatoes with Apples
(Sorry, I forgot to take photos)

• Peel two medium sized sweet potatoes and cut into rounds, about 1/4" thick
• Peel, core, and cut an apple (or two depending on size) into similar size slices as the sweet potato
• Toss with a few dabs of butter (about 2 tbl.) and brown sugar (about 1/4 cup)
Optional: Add a tablespoon or two (or three) of boiling water
when making in a solar oven, stir to mix, then continue on to next step.
(I've made this recipe without any liquid and wasn't as happy with the results,
so now I add a splash of water.)
• Drizzle the top with some maple syrup, and a dusting of cinnamon and another pinch of brown sugar
• Cover and put in the solar oven until the sweet potatoes and apples are soft
This should take 50–60 minutes at 350ยบ in a regular oven, so adjust time accordingly.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like something I make. Sweet potatoes cut into wedges coated with olive oil and sprinkled with cinnamon and baked until soft. While that's being prepared, take apple cider and reduce it down to a syrup. When the wedges are soft, pour the apple syrup over them and serve. Less sugar, better for a diabetic like myself, yet my sugar lovin'sons love it.