Summary: The bread God provides for us can’t be acquired at a drive-up window, or purchased in bulk from Costco to stockpile in your freezer. In fact, it isn’t only food: it’s all of our needs, and we need to look to him daily to provide.
How many of you have ever used those Pillsbury refrigerated dough products? Dinner rolls or biscuits or croissants? The ones where you peel off the paper and then rap the cylinder smartly on the corner of the counter and it bursts open? They’re really popular because you can make so many things with them. The ones I liked best were the croissants, you know, the little triangles of dough that you can roll up in a crescent shape to actually make croissants, or you can make turnovers by piling some kind of filling on top of one flat triangle and then topping it with another and sealing the edges with a fork, or you can press out a whole crust for making something else. It’s really cool, especially if you’re in a hurry but
want something that looks as if you spent some time on it.
But you know, they never caught on in France. As a matter of fact, none of Pillsbury’s frozen or refrigerated or even many of the packaged foods ever caught on in France, at least up until 1990 when I left the company. You know why that is? Well, first of all, I think that just the thought of a croissant that wasn’t baked right then and there was close to blasphemy. But what researchers found out was that freezers in French refrigerators were only big enough to hold a tray of ice and if you were really lucky a pint of ice cream. The French don’t use frozen foods. In fact, if I recall correctly, the British are the only Europeans who use frozen or even refrigerated foods to any significant extent at all.
They French go shopping every day. They buy their bread from the patisserie and their meat from the charcuterie and their vegetables - well, you get the idea.
Americans, by and large, don’t do that. We buy in bulk and freeze ahead to save time and get better prices. We make double recipes and save half to save time. We buy frozen dinners and refrigerated dough so that we can throw together a meal without working at it.
Tell me, what’s more important than food? What’s more important than taking time to prepare a good meal from good food and sit down at the table with your family?
Now I know we have some awesome cooks here, and many of you do put serious effort into feeding your families wholesome and nourishing meals and furthermore really relish the dinner time as family time together. But it’s getting less and less common. We’re so busy that saving time is more important than cutting preservatives and other artificial additives out of our diet, more important than making sure we get the freshest possible vegetables - although here in south Jersey we are lucky enough to have places like Puglia’s and other farm markets for our tomatoes and corn and peaches.
I think part of the problem is that it’s gotten too easy for us. We take it for granted that we can have food at our fingertips at any time, day or night, and just having the store open 24 hours a day isn’t enough. The store is too far. It’s got to be right there, in the house. To save time.
Another part of the problem is that we’re always in a hurry. Books like The One-Minute Manager spawned dozens of imitations - from the One-Minute Millionaire to the One-Minute Mother to - believe it or not - the One-Minute Bible.
But an even bigger problem is that few of us know how to wait. We haven’t learned to slow down and let things unfold at their own time, to appreciate or even delight in the preparation, the anticipation. And we don’t know what to do when we have extra time on our hands.
You know, I think that part of the political problem with the Iraq war is that people expect things to be solved in an hour (with time out for commercials) and think something has gone wrong with the world if all the loose ends aren’t neatly tied up when the credits roll.
We want instant everything. Instant wealth, instant obedience in our children, instant solutions to our problems. Cable on demand... How many of you have that? Fortunately I’ve resisted the temptation so far. But I, too, want what I want when I want it. When I was little I wanted to be able to play the piano like my mother without spending the hours every day at the scales and exercises she had mastered... and I got good grades too easily to learn how to work really hard for a goal until much later in my life. And for years I had trouble with credit, because I couldn’t wait to save for the things I wanted.