Once again, the Liturgical Year has turned and we are once again at the start of the season of Lent, at Ash Wednesday. It's a day of reflection. A day to prepare for the solemn days ahead.
Yearly, people use this as a time to purge an unhealthy habit. "What are you giving up for Lent?" and "I have that up for Lent." are comments you are sure to hear. In addition, there is the movement to "take something on". Instead of sacrificing your daily chocolate, you can instead sacrifice your time to daily spiritual pursuits.
Then, there's always a combined approach.
Lent for our kids is relatively simple. I don't make desserts so that is their biggest change from a food perspective. They are too young to fast so we don't even attempt that. Instead, over the years, we've prayed a modified rosary, adding to it each year as we move towards the day that we can say a full one.
Peter and I are a bit different in our approach to the season. Many years ago, when we were vegetarian, we made our Fridays vegan since simple "no meat" wasn't a big deal. As we have gotten older, we've tried to take each year and really give Lent meaning, personally.
This year, we are trying something that sounds a little radical but, I think, had the possibility to really expand our faith. We both love to eat and cooking - like, really cooking from scratch, start to finish - makes me happy. Many faiths use different liturgical times to move away from the staples and culinary delicacies of their relative area. For example, a part of fasting for Greeks includes giving up olive oil. It is easily accessible and a common part of Greek cooking. We wanted to embrace this type of fasting, but asked ourselves "what is an American staple food?"
It is so easy to get just about anything at the grocer or local farmer. Even trying to eat locally and seasonally, while making things difficult, is still relatively easy. So we came up with a new Lenten culinary sacrifice: eating the staples of the poor.
While we aren't millionaires, we are wealthy in so many ways. We are diverse eaters and, pretty much, if we want something for a meal, I get the materials and make it. For many people around the world, having clean water is a dream. For many, having their fill of a basic staple like rice at every meal would be a fantasy. For some in our community, just having three nutritious meals a day is a pipe dream. We want our Lenten journey to make a difference not just for us but in a greater way.
For the forty days of Lent, we will be following a vegan diet that consists of staple foods from around the world. Dinners like rice and beans (Latin America), polenta with cannelloni beans (Italy), rice and lentils (India), you get the idea... will be made with enough to have lunch the following day. Breakfasts will be fruit or toast. Drinks like black tea or coffee and water are okay. In addition to this, no eating out. No desserts. No snacking. We wont be hungry, which is more than many people have, but we won't be
On Sundays, which are quasi days off, we will pick something from our freezer. It may be vegetarian or not; it will depend on what I grab.
The money we save in groceries is being donated to the local food bank and Operation Rice Bowl.
People think we are nuts. Heck, we may be. But I feel like I'm struggling. I need something to reboot. We practice a strict fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, so I'm hoping fasting and praying will be a bit of a reset. Spending the season really focusing on others and all the things I have in my life.... I am hopeful Lent will be a wake up.
I need it to be. Desperately so.