by Theresa Wilson
As a professional chef turned stay-at-home mom of two amazing and inquisitive kids, I often find myself in the kitchen with them. For us, cooking is an opportunity to create something together, learn new skills, and a time for some fun and interesting conversations (3 year olds have a lot on their minds, as it turns out).
This Lent, I am planning on using our time at the cutting board to introduce some basics about the season. The first will be about abstaining from meat. A favorite phrase of my daughter’s starts with, “Can I have …?” My 1 year old points and repeats,“ Please? Please? Please?” until I can decipher what it is he wants.
When the answer is “no,” my daughter in particular tries to negotiate. “Well then can I have (insert equally cool or better than thing here) instead?” I want to show them, by example and in terms they can begin to understand, what abstinence means: to refrain from something. For Catholics, Lent is a time to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and during Fridays. Catholics abstain from meat and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
However meatless Fridays do not necessarily mean that we should indulge in a lobster dinner, and it also doesn’t mean we have to pull fish sticks from the freezer. This year, I’m preparing simple, humble yet nourishing vegetarian meals for my family.
The first meal we’ll put together is vegetarian lentil soup. This is an original rustic recipe that can be altered easily to fit your taste preference. Enjoy more yams? Not a fan of cumin? Like a bit more kick? Add or omit as you prefer.
The quantities of the vegetables and spices don’t have to be exact, so it’s easy to have my daughter participate by measuring the ingredients without truly altering the final outcome. Making this with her also allows me the chance to discuss not having something even though we’d really like to and also not to sulk about it. We also can talk about how many do not have as much as we have, including full plates and full stomaches after meals. And as this lesson may be lost on the 1 year old, I’m just happy he knows the word “please!”
For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear;
For friends in a world where many walk alone;
We give you thanks, O Lord.
— “For Food, Faith, and Friends” from The Catholic Family Book of Prayers
Theresa Wilson is an alumnus of Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. After pursuing her passion for all things food, she quickly rose the ranks in fine dining cuisine as a professional chef, and as a chef instructor and assistant director at a culinary institute. She is now a busy stay-at-home mom and short order cook to her amazing, energetic young daughter and son.