I’ll be the first to admit that there are some items that simply aren’t worth the level of effort required to make them from scratch. Those items are the ones that tend to take hours or days of work and yield a product that simply sits on the level with the store bought version. There’s a case for making them yourself anyway to avoid GMO’s, fillers, preservatives, etc. With that said, most of the time if the product is only mediocre anyway, I say focus on making something better to begin with.
Over the years, my love of cooking has changed. I used to base my recipes on the size of cans or the number of items in a package. When I became more concerned with what I was eating, I began using more fresh ingredients. When I gained a better understanding of the ingredients, I started getting more selective about what I was using. That isn’t to say I don’t still cut corners sometimes through buying canned tomatoes for chilli or using store bought noodles. On that last though, I defend my choice by the fact that semolina is not something you can readily process at home. Egg noodles on the other hand I can. As for the tomatoes, well that one is just a matter of not having the time to process them properly every single time.
I don’t really look down my nose at those who cook from containers or who do the semi-homemade foods. Cooking from scratch isn’t something I do out of elitism. I cook from scratch because I think many things taste better that way. Even those that are good, but not good beyond their store-bought counterparts often seem better simply because of the effort put in.
In a way, I feel closer to my food. In much the manner that an old farmer can feel more deeply about the ham on his table that came from a pig he raised himself, so do I feel when I work with the ingredients in their most natural forms. Even better is when I have the satisfaction of also having grown/raised them myself. If anything, I respect the finished product more and have a deeper sense of just what amazing times we live in.
I’ve posted precious few recipes here, but I am considering changing that. One of my personal projects has been to create a cookbook of all of the recipes my family has enjoyed most. Not for sale, but simply as something to pass down through the generations. Among the things I have gathered so far are recipes from both sides of the family along with a number of completely original recipes I have developed over the years that ended up being hits. At least one recipe was nearly lost to the family and another I have been working to recreate from a blend of the accounts of family members, research and my own faint memories of the dish. My great grandmother never taught anyone her recipe and took it with her to the grave.
There are many who feel they can’t ever cook unless it comes out of a box and has less than four ingredients. If you are one of them, I believe there is hope. Start simple and embrace your mistakes. As long as you are paying attention and willing to learn, you’ll overcome your inexperience. Find someone who is more familiar and who is patient and just learn one small thing at a time. Do a roux just to thicken a soup. Make an instant pancake mix and use it another day just like you would with the store bought. Get used to measuring and grow to have a feel for when you can fudge those measurements. Try. You’ll never be able as long as you shrink away. Fear tends to be a self fulfilling prophesy. Turn down the heat a bit and just go for it.