Let Them Eat Bread And Cheese

As a gardener, I’m proud of my role as a provider of nourishment to plants and people alike. In both cases, I know the nutrients I provide help them thrive.

I feed my plants a well-balanced diet, including such elements as peat moss, bone meal, manure, compost, and fertilizer. More often than not, I’m rewarded with a thick patch of healthy, thriving plants, and the pleasure this brings me is immense.

It’s even more fulfilling to provide for the people in my life. Of course, the diet’s a bit different! I keep a bowl of fresh fruit in the middle of my kitchen table and include plenty of vegetables with our meals. And when all else fails, I make sure to maintain a steady supply of bread and cheese.

One blistering August day, Ted and I emerged from the fields sweaty, grimy, and exhausted. We dragged ourselves into the house and flopped onto the living-room sofa. After a little rest, we cleaned ourselves up and prepared for a quiet, relaxing evening together.

Just as we were settling down with a couple of good books and some pleasant music on the radio, there was a knock on the door. Ted and I looked at each other wide-eyed, both instantly remembering that we’d invited some friends over for dinner. We’d completely forgotten!

“Stall them!” I whispered to Ted, rushing into the kitchen.

While Ted greeted our friends at the door and held them off with small talk, I frantically rummaged through the cupboards for food. We had several bottles of wine—housewarming gifts that we’d been stockpiling—but our larder was practically empty. But as always, there was a good supply of bread and cheese. I set it on the table with a hastily tossed salad, and opened some wine.

I went out onto the porch to invite our guests inside. We served the meal as if it was what we’d planned, and they were perfectly happy with that. Eventually, Ted and I admitted we’d forgotten all about our dinner plans, and everyone had a good laugh.

Over the years, bread and cheese has become something of a personal trademark. If the kids were late going to school in the morning, I’d give them bread and cheese to eat on the way. If we had unexpected visitors, I never hesitated to invite them to stay for lunch; even if there weren’t enough potatoes in the pot, I knew they could always eat bread and cheese.

I can be an absolute tyrant about eating properly. Years ago, our niece Donna came to stay with us. Like most teenagers, she liked sleeping in and would often try to dash out the door without slowing down for breakfast. I never let her get away with it. If she was going to live in our house, she was darn well going to eat three square meals a day. There was lots of grumbling, a little resistance, but once she began eating regular, healthy meals, Donna could tell the difference. She felt more alert and had more energy throughout the day.

Many of our staff members at the greenhouse come to work without a good breakfast. There’s nothing I can do about that, but I can help them catch up a little later in the day.

We’ve always tried to keep the lunchroom filled with snacks—bagels and cream cheese, or toast and jam. My Auntie Anne often came to the farm loaded down with fresh baking for the staff. After a couple hours on the job, especially doing physical labour, a body get desperate for some fuel, and people know they can always grab a little something on their breaks. When they get back to work, they’re happier, more energetic, and having more fun.

Sometimes I wish we lived in a less hectic world, where everyone could find time to enjoy a simple breakfast. I hate to see people going hungry. It hurts, especially when there’s no need for it. We are rich enough to feed everyone, and yet, somehow, we’re not quite smart enough or fair enough to do it.

When Bill and Jim were young, they had a classmate who would ask, very timidly, for their leftovers. When I discovered that this was going on, my heart just broke. I started packing the boys’ lunches with extra food, more than they could possibly eat. When this boy approached them, Bill and Jim always had an extra sandwich and an apple they could give him.

I still wonder about that boy. I hope that his family’s circumstances improved, that he’s leading a full life today. I hope…but I’m not convinced. Sometimes, the little we do just isn’t enough.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. During our market garden years, we made large donations of vegetables to the Salvation Army and other charitable groups. And we weren’t the only ones. I remember that each year, one outstanding citizen would send us a cheque for $1,000 to buy vegetables for the poor. He never let us use his name—“just make sure that the people who need it get this food,” he said.

If you are able to afford to eat well, for goodness’ sake take advantage of it. Here, in the midst of plenty, too many folks choose to eat junk—if they eat at all! A good healthy, meal doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. If you feed your body well, it will reward you.
It’s one way we can make the world a happier, healthier, more productive place. If you have food to spare, set some aside for your fellow humans. And no matter how busy life gets, slow down once in a while for a proper meal.

Even if it’s just bread and cheese.

-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer