Friday, 27 April 2012

Frugal Friday (27th April)

Now, this week's Frugal Friday is not at all what I had intended, this morning! But we had a surprise for tea today, so instead of what I had planned to write about, I am going to share this "fishy tale" with you instead - as it has a message about the virtue of frugality too!

On the menu for our evening meal today was fish and chips. Papa Bear was going to collect them on his way home from work from the fish and chip shop near our home for us to all enjoy around our kitchen table with lots of conversation and laughter. This is a big treat for us, as eating out (or in this case, having a takeaway) is a great indulgence, because it is expensive, and therefore we don't often eat food that hasn't been prepared at home (by me!). Often my family will tell me that they prefer my home-cooked food to any restaurant or takeaway meal, which is so lovely to know! But we do also enjoy the great treat of a bought meal too. So we were very surprised when Papa Bear arrived home this evening, not with a big bag of warm, delicously scented packages from fish and chip shop as we had expected, but with instead, a cold, slippery, plastic wrapped package - which turned out to be ... a freshly caught rainbow trout! No, he had not caught it himself - he does catch such fish, often, when he goes fishing, but he does not keep them. He and Cubby both throw their catch back into the water again, still alive, rather than taking it home with them for us to eat. They could do so if they wished to, but they prefer to leave the fish for the sake of the environment and other wildlife. Too many people fishing our waters will leave them dangerously depleted and this can cause an imbalance of food sources for other animals, and have potentially devastating effects on the environment. That being said, this fish was a "farmed" fish, so although it had been caught on a line (by one of his workmates who drove by with a bucketful of them this morning), it had not been living in the wild, but in a stretch of river where the trout and other fish species have been encouaged to breed specifically to be caught by anglers. Papa Bear's workmate did not want any money for his fish, although Papa Bear did offer - which meant we had a free meal for our tea this evening!

Well, I was minded of the miracles of Jesus feeding the multitudes of followers that are described in the Gospels, when I saw that fish. How on earth was one fish going to provide us with a whole meal for 4 grown people, two of whom have big appetites? I had planned on Papa Bear bringing chips and mushy peas, the traditional accompaniments to fried fish, for us to eat, and so apart from drinks, I had not anticipated preparing any other food for this evening's meal!

I sprang to action and went to look in the fridge, where I saw that we had just enough potatoes for me to make a generous helping of spicy potatoes. I have shared the recipe on this blog before, but they are very simple to make. You don't even need to peel or parboil them. Simply cut into chunks about 1 1/2 inches square, place in a large, oiled roasting tin and toss in a mixture of oil, seasoning mix, chilli flakes, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic salt, and regular salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice to coat. This happened to be just the right amount of time for the fish to cook. I put it in a large tin (as pictured above) and seasoned it with lemons, butter, salt, pepper and dried herbs (parsley, thyme and chive) and then wrapped it loosely in tin foil. It was done perfectly after 45 minutes at 200 degrees in our fan oven. Together with the potatoes, we had a salad made of all the left-over bits and pieces of fresh veggies that were in the fridge waiting to be used up, and Cubby made our usual salad dressing, as described in last week's Frugal Friday post, and I also warmed some rolls we had left over, in the oven. And do you know what? Our unexpected, cheap-and-cheerful tea was ...


Of course, it helped that the fish was beautifully fresh - caught this morning (that is the time to catch trout, when they come to the surface of the water to feed). It shone like a jewel as it sat in the tin before I seasoned it, and looked so pretty, that I had to take a photograph of it! Papa Bear gutted it for me, as that is quite hard work if your hands are not strong, but we left the outside of the fish intact as it looked so beautiful (you don't need to descale a fish like this as the skin is very thin and delicate). When it was cooked, the flesh became the most gorgeous soft, pastel pink, and the flavour was very pleasant, almost sweet, with a lovely moist texture like salmon. It was really wonderful, and we were all so grateful to Papa Bear's generous workmate for sharing his bounty with us. Of course, this isn't a miracle in the way that Jesus's feeding of the multitudes was, but nevertheless, this act of kindness, which provided us with an unexpected and delicious free meal, was for us another sign of God's goodness and of His work in our lives. It also minded us of something else that is important.

The act of sharing our bounty with others is one which is commanded by God - Jesus taught that it was "more blessed to give than to recieve" (Acts 20, 35), but also, as regards all our possessions - not just our food and other necessities, but all our belongings, everything that we have - we would do well to remember that, as Jesus demonstrated, if we place all our trust in God, He will supply all that we need - whether it be food, shelter or comfort -

"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee". (Hebrews 13, 5)

Our efforts to pursue fulfillment of our desires beyond what we actually need to live will lead to misery and sinfulness, as we feed our flesh, rather than our spirits, and as Jesus tells us, speaking in Matthew 6 -

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these".
(Matthew 6, 19 - 29).

We did not eat fish and chips for tea today - but we did have a wonderful meal - and we shared soul food as we ate too, which was by far the sweetest part of that meal. We have each other, we have our lovely home. We have plenty to eat, clothes to wear, and more - lovely things to look at and to entertain us, a car to get us where we need to go, and all our physical blessings too - our good health, our hearing, our eyesight. And so much more. Why waste our days pursuing a life of hollow acquisition, when we already have so much more than we need? Our real treasure awaits us in Heaven. For now, we shall be content with what we already have.

"Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
." (Matthew 6, 30 - 34).