“There was pleasure in eating strawberries before they became quite common, in the first dish of peas while they were yet dear.” British essayist, Charles Lamb, wrote of the pleasures to be gained from foods not easily come by. Lamb had grown up in a household of limited means knew the joys of tasting foods which were not always readily available. He also understood that too much accessibility made these same foods (or anything) lose their sparkle.
I am learning something similar this Lent. I have given up sweets and desserts, a discipline which has been much harder than it sounds. In renouncing sweets, however, I have learned to appreciate sweetness where I can find it, most often in its natural setting. I find myself surprised by raisins in oatmeal, bananas on cereal, strawberries or sweet potatoes. They are so much more delectable than they seemed before that it catches me off guard. I have to remind myself that they are actually allowed! that I am not breaking my fast to enjoy them.
It wasn’t all that long ago that fresh fruit was not as commonplace as it is now, certainly not in every season. Fruit was the rare treat and therefore enjoyed far more than today. Europeans went wild over oranges when they were first introduced. Affluent households sometimes built special glass houses in which to grow these delicacies. Named orangeries, these structures were the forebears of the modern greenhouse.
Today, we parents work hard to make sure our children have enough fruits and vegetables. Fruit is nothing like the exotic rarity that it once was. Candy bars and doughnuts, with their more direct and intense sweetness, have far outshined their more natural competitors. By comparison, a meager orange seems hardly worth notice.
But this is the purpose of a Lenten fast: to give up one thing so that we might learn to value something better. During these weeks, we are called to realign our tastes and our habits so that we can better appreciate what is good; what is delivered to us from the hand of God.
In this Lenten season, may you discern and grow to love the best that God has for you.
I got the inspiration for this improvised dish - below - at a dinner at Cedar Hill Enrichment Center. (I’ll be blogging about them soon). Since it does involve some sugar, I made it on Sunday. It was our breakfast even though it was originally a dessert. Raspberries were initially used on top, but I had strawberries when I made it, so I used them. Either way, it is eye-rolling good.
Sweet Potato Crumble
2-3 sweet potatoes ½ - 1 stick of butter
½ c. flour ¼ c. brown sugar
chopped nuts strawberries or raspberries
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1 or 2 inch cubes. Place in a baking dish. Place slices of butter on the sweet potatoes and bake at about 350o for about an hour or so. While it is cooking mix flour, brown sugar and nuts in a bowl. When the sweet potatoes are soft, remove them from the oven. Mash them up. Top with the flour mixture. Drizzle melted butter over the top if you feel like it. Cook for another 20-ish minutes. Remove from oven. Cool. Top with berries and enjoy.