Bread and Cheese

My grandmother’s tray and a reminder of God’s daily blessings.

A couple weeks ago, a story on a national news morning show caught my attention. It featured a high school student who had reached the limit of debt on his/her lunch account and instead of the usual school lunch, received a “sandwich of shame”. It was bread and cheese. Other students and parents, as well as many, many people across the United States, were outraged, using words like “mortifying” and “embarrassing” and “offensive” to describe the “humiliation” of such a thing.

I guess I was raised differently. When I was in elementary and middle school, I attended what we called “Thursday Night School” (a weekly class for Christian education) at our church which followed our normal day of public education. Our church was out in the country and the school bus would stop at the church to drop off those of us attending. We would usually arrive about 30 minutes before our classes started.  Luckily, my grandmother lived across the road (word to the wise: never mess with a grandmother who lives across the road from your church!).  So, every Thursday at 4:00, I would get off the bus and go to Grandma’s.  She also insisted that anyone else who was waiting for class should come over too.

And she fed us.

Did she put out a feast? No. Did she set the table? No. Was she there personally? Not always. What was there?

Bread and Cheese.

And maybe some cookies.

If she wasn’t there, there was always a note.  Kindness and love … pure and simple.

I guess I look at a cheese sandwich and I don’t see a “sandwich of shame” but one of generosity.  Thinking back now, I sure hope I thanked her often enough. Just in case, I will say it now:

Thank you, Grandma, for your hospitality, generosity, faithfulness and love.  I miss you.  ‘Til we meet again.


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Snow and Spaghetti

It is one of those near perfect winter days in Iowa … cold but not windy, bright even though it’s not sunny, enough snow on the ground to sparkle and make everything clean. These are the days that make me think back on my fondest sledding memories.

We didn’t have snowsuits or temperature rated snow boots.  We had layers upon layers of whatever we could find.  Talk about a work-out!  We trudged up and down hills, crunching through the crusty top layer of snow, down through the depth of whatever was in the way of us getting back to the starting point.  Our sleds were a colorful plastic sheet that rolled up on us as soon as we fell off or wiped out.

What does this have to do with spaghetti?  What is, for most families, a dinner staple, was a bit of a mystery to me.  We had two kinds of pasta in our cupboard … rotini and elbow … used for salads and casseroles. We ate very well in our home (as I will share in the days and weeks to come). This was just not something we made.

Until that one winter night each year when we’d go down the road to my Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Arlin’s home for sledding and spaghetti.  Arlin would take an open tractor (that means no enclosed cab for the driver), connect several sleds and various other things that served as sleds in a line behind the tractor, and pull us through the empty, but rough, field.  Whenever he wanted he would turn the tractor in a different direction, which was fun for those on the first couple “sleds” but those on the very last “sled” were sent flying! Needless to say, my mom and dad and Marilyn were on the first “sleds”. My cousin and great partner-in-crime, Julie, her older sister, Kath, and I took turns on the more risky ones.

After a couple of hours in the cold, we would go into their house and have this wonderful thing called spaghetti.  No fancy sauces … just a basic meat sauce. Warm bread with real butter (this was a dairy farm after all). And the ideal post-sledding beverage … hot chocolate. A perfect way to spend an evening. Norman Rockwell should have painted it.

Of course, the details of this story are subject to childhood memory.  But that’s the greatest part … I’ve forgotten the bruises and cold and kept the laughter, family-time and full tummies!  Thanks Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Arlin!


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Welcome!

A good picnic requires only a healthy appreciation for good food and good company. It is simple and relaxing. Who you share it with may be a crowd of people, your intimate family, one special someone or even the person you know best…yourself. The purpose of this blog is to share simple ideas and recipes that will encourage you to find the benefits of sharing food and time with those around you in a casual but meaningful way. Life can be a picnic… Enjoy it!