I’ve never watched a full episode of “Fixer-Upper,” but I do know the program is the product of husband and wife team, Chip and Joanna Gaines.
The Gaines’ recently ended their popular show, partially due to desires to focus more on their family, partially because they wanted to focus on other business ventures. One of these ventures is a cookbook created from Gaines family recipes.
According to Publishers Weekly, the cookbook, Magnolia Table, quickly raced to the top of the bestseller list. Some of this is likely due to Joanna Gaines’ celebrity status. But after looking through her cookbook, I can’t help but wonder if there’s something more than popularity generating the chart-topping sales.
In the introduction to her cookbook, Gaines shares how she and her husband started their married life. They renovated a house. They renovated a new shop. And they slowly got used to each other.
As Joanna Gaines explains, part of getting used to one another involved learning to cook and share familiar meals from each of their families. And although she started out as an amateur cook, Gaines soon grew comfortable in the kitchen:
“There are two things I remember distinctly about those early days in our marriage. One, I really loved the act of putting on an apron. I think it was because it felt nostalgic and also because it reminded me of my grandmother. And, two, I had a domed glass cake stand on our counter that I never liked to see empty. There was something about having it filled up that made the kitchen feel right to me.”
As the years passed and her family grew, Joanna Gaines also grew in her love of cooking. This love, it appears, stemmed from the satisfaction and rest that such an activity brought to her soul:
“I stick my hand in a bowl of flour to begin to make a pie crust, or peel some potatoes, and all of a sudden my thoughts slow down. I begin to unwind. I turn on my favorite music, open the kitchen window, and let the background noise of the kids playing with Chip set my mind at ease. These are the sounds that signal to my heart and my mind that I am home.”
Pondering why such a simple thing as cooking can bring life satisfaction, Gaines explains:
“The kitchen actually reminds me a lot of the garden. You put your hands to work and tend to it, and when the harvest comes, it gives back to you a hundredfold. There is a reward that comes from working with your hands, whether it’s in your home, garden, or kitchen.”
Rod Dreher, author of another bestselling book, would agree. In The Benedict Option, Dreher suggests that our convenience-oriented lives have caused us to lose touch with reality, a thing we desperately need to regain if we want to live a fulfilling life:
“Getting our hands dirty, so to speak, with gardening, cooking, sewing, exercise, and the like, is a crucial way of restoring our sense of connection with the real world. So is doing things face to face with other people.
We have to work hard to fight back against the technology that makes our everyday lives so easy, so that we can be human beings who live in reality.”
Chip and Joanna Gaines are known and loved for their humorous and miraculous transformations of old houses. But is their success partially due to their commitment to the old-time work ethic, which although hard, also offers the peaceful rest and reward so many of us crave?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.