Cooking from scratch

Last night I somewhat jokingly asked J. if he wanted donuts for his birthday breakfast this morning. He's not much of a sugary-sweets kind of guy, and I was pretty sure he didn't. He, also jokingly, replied that what he'd really like is Eggs Benedict. I knew he actually really does like Eggs Benedict, so this morning, I thought I'd see if I could figure out how to make it. "What are you doing?" J. asked.
"Looking up recipes to make Eggs Benedict. I thought I'd make it for you." I answered.
"I don't really want Eggs Benedict. It's too fiddly. Besides, we don't have bacon," he said.
"Really? I'm sure I could do it, though we don't have bacon," I said, "I could poach some eggs."
"I've never been able to poach an egg. It doesn't seem to work right," J. responded.
I'd remembered at that moment, that D., too, had complained that poaching eggs seemed needlessly tricky. This roused my hyper-competitiveness, so poached eggs on toast suddenly became part of the breakfast options for the morning.

Now we must all pause to hum Frances' song, "Poached eggs on toast, why do you quiver, with such a funny little shiver?" This is from Bread and Jam for Frances, one of my very favorite picture books, and if you haven't read it to your children, please to to the library right now and check it out.

All of this trying new things in the kitchen made me remember something I saw the other day. It was a list of foods that everyone should try to cook from scratch at least once. There were 30 items on the list, and I realized I had made each of these items at least once. I know you want to see the list, so here it is.

1. Pickles  2. Spaghetti sauce  3. Guacamole  4. Applesauce  5. Bread  6. Fudge  7. Cookies  8. Croutons  9. Trail mix  10. Hummus  11. Granola  12. Fried chicken  13. Macaroni and cheese  14. Butter  15. Mashed potatoes  16. Pasta noodles  17. Ice cream  18. Biscuits  19. Jam  20. Pancakes  21. Lemonade  22. BBQ sauce  23. Waffles  24. Frozen pops  25. Chicken stock  26. Salsa  27. Peanut butter  28. Salad dressing  29. Tortillas  30. Popcorn

I was kind of surprised by what wasn't on the list. What about cake, pie, donuts, ketchup or mayonnaise? I think those should also be made at least once by everyone. There are also some things I made that are kind of less vital. I've made my own ricotta cheese, French fries, chutney, English muffins, and I've corned my own beef. (That was really delicious and worth the effort.) There are also some things that many people make from scratch but I never have. Yogurt leaps to mind.

I shared this on my Facebook page, and one of my friends thanked me for reminding her of some sweet family memories. I thought about it for a moment, and had to agree. Many of the items on the list, we've done as a family. The pickles, jam, and apple sauce involve canning, and quickly become a family affair to get through the fruit I've brought home. Pancakes and waffles are a near weekly event, and most of my children can mix up a batch of pancakes on their own. And butter quickly reminds me of small children walking around at Thanksgiving shaking jars of cream to make butter for the dinner table.

There is another benefit to at least trying to make these things from scratch at least once. You get to control how something is made and what goes into it. You can leave the cilantro out of the guacamole and salsa, reduce the sugar and salt in most things, and use fresh ingredients. Or you can use up other kitchen items that you might normally throw out. Stale bread becomes croutons or bread crumbs, and older vegetables help season the chicken stock made from the chicken bones from last night's dinner.

Finally, it is good to show our children how food is made. It is healthy for children to know that things don't have to come from a package in a store. I also think it helps develop an appreciation for the effort cooking takes when it involves more than just opening a jar.

Sure, there are plenty of days when I do open a jar or package. I rarely make my own tortillas or pasta, simply because the premade versions are inexpensive and pretty darn decent. But I also like knowing that I could if I needed to. My self-sufficient inner-prepper who I usually keep pretty contained is content knowing that I can make most foods with just ingredients.

So tell me. How do you fare with this list? What do you make from scratch that you think should be on it? I find how people manage their kitchens and food preparation to be endlessly fascinating.


Gina B said…
My mother left when I was young so and almost everything we ate came from a package. It was not until I spent some time in Africa that I learned about cooking and how you can make anything from scratch because we had to. I have now made 21 out of the 30 :)
Also you asked for suggestions for blog posts.
1. You recently wrote a blog about fear and adoption and the what if's... How do you prepare for adopting a child (which we are doing now) and not go over all of the what if's since you should be as prepared as possible right?
2. You have adopted multiple times and you probably have written about this before but how did paying for the adoptions work for your family? How was your church through all of this? (No one has adopted from our church)
3. How do household responsibilities get split up in your home? Do your children have specific chores? Do you cook almost all of the meals in your home or do you split some of it up?
4. We are adopting a child who will most likely be with us for the rest of their lives, is this also something that you have prepared for going into adoption?
5. How do you keep records of your children's schooling? I believe we live in the same state and how does that work with children who have special needs? Do you ever do any testing for your kids?
Thank you for writing, you teach me alot!
Donna said…
Cooking from scratch.

hahahahaha...right? Well, living here has made that a little less laughable though I still haven't made most of the things on the list. Bread, cake, cookies. Mashed potatoes? Who doesn't make mashed potatoes from scratch? Popcorn, and no popcorn maker either.
When we were in the US I took photos in a high end grocery store of all the prepared meals. Not boxed, branded stuff, but fresh made in the store and packaged to take home for dinner. I thought I was in heaven. ;)

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