My grandmother once told me a lesson that pertained to both cooking and life:
“All you need is a little water, a little butter, and a little salt.”
That quote has become a family favorite for some time now, because it’s so simple and so true. The cooking application is easy—with those three ingredients you can enjoy most vegetables and many cuts of meat. The life part is a bit less obvious, but equally important.
A little water
Water is a powerful, life-altering phenomenon that affects so many different aspects of the world we live in; yet in its simplicity we find complexity. The same water that can nurse a small plant into health can cause devastation and destruction in the form of natural disasters. Too little, and things will wither away; too much and they will drown. There is an amazing equilibrium and tension even that comes into play with water. One of the few molecules that expands when it freezes, water is a truly exceptional thing.
A little water, to me, represents the right amount of water needed to sustain our lives. What is essential to our lives, I believe, is the water that comes in baptismal rebirth, the cleansing power of tears, the healing process of purifying past wounds, and learning from the unstoppable tide that rolls in and out—ebbing and flowing and teaching us about the seasons of life, love, and loss.
A little butter
Butter is produced out of a process of churning—a flavorful substance that comes out of much toil and work to better the taste of the current meal or saved with the foresight of meals to come; however, there is a shelf-life on butter. It’s a continual cycle of working, producing, enjoying, saving, using, and repeating. Out of an uncomfortable and undesirable process comes something worth savoring—there’s a life lesson in that.
A little butter means knowing the difference between a flavorful addition to a meal and fatal amounts of an otherwise good thing. It represents knowing the difference between work that produces something worth savoring and empty work.
We need a little butter in our lives. We need to recognize the long-term benefit of purpose-filled work that produces a seemingly small supplement to a seemingly bigger thing. We need to take pause—to stop long enough to enjoy the short-term rest and sabbath that can come in small packages. We need to appreciate the cyclical nature of sowing and reaping that may continue throughout life because it is good to work with perseverance and good to relish things with true value.
A little salt
Jesus says that “salt is good for seasoning” and we are the “salt of the earth” (Luke 14:34a; Matthew 5:13a). Salt is one of the oldest, most basic, and plentiful elements on the earth and is distinctive among other spices. Like water and butter, salt is essential for animal life in small quantities, but is harmful to life in excess. Salt helps in preserving things; it makes food last longer. Salting involves looking into the future and perhaps forfeiting the short-term for the long-term satisfaction.
To me, a little salt means making the most of some things now, remaining faithful and distinctive as a follower of Christ, and having the foresight to preserve or protect some things meant only for future enjoyment.
There is so much wisdom in my Grandmother’s simple little saying. I hope to internalize what she meant to impart to me and remember to add “a little water, a little butter, and a little salt” to all the areas of my life.