Why I Cook From Scratch: A Manifesto for 'Homemade' Cooking
"Would you like a homemade waffle? " This is what I was asked every other morning at the Inn where I spent the last week of my vacation. Hmmm, homemade? Well, within seconds—and I mean seconds—a steaming, perfect waffle would appear! Maybe they meant "freshly made"? It turned out that they were making them to order from a commercial mix. They were cakey and dense, though the spread offered wasn't butter and the syrup was the usual thick corn syrup. I had one with jam, but after that passed on the "homemade" waffles.
Image: Courtesy of Nancy Lowell
What does homemade even mean anymore? So much of what we see advertised, or called out by local places are phrases like "baked on premises" and "baked daily." Even places that sell artisan bread often bring it in parbaked, then finish it off in the store. Shows like Sandra Lee's "Almost Homemade" annoy me! How hard is it to cook your own chicken for pete's sake? I guess if you heated it up on your premises, it's homemade.
For the past few generations cooking and food have gotten complicated and please excuse me for using this word—fancy. People think they need to be turning out restaurant-quality food from their kitchens, after a long day of work, and if faced with the choice of that daunting task, or frozen tortellini with jarred sauce, most would go for the tortellini! But it's all a lie! You don't need to create a masterpiece of culinary extravaganza to do some fine home cooking!
If you want real homemade food though, you're probably going to have to make it yourself! Steer clear of any box or jar that claims it tastes homemade, because it's a big fat lie! I bet you've forgotten what homemade sauce tastes like, or how much better your own roasted chicken tastes than that oversalted, overcooked rotisserie chicken from your local supermarket. This isn't about fat and calories, it's about real food, made in your house with the ingredients you added, not the flavor enhancers, and texturizers added by some food factory cranking out tons of food a day.
Did you see your mom (or dad) cook? If you watched them cook you learned how to do things in the kitchen. Your children may not know to ask, but you owe it to them to be able to watch you cook. They need to see you make simple easy stuff that your family can eat. They need to see what homemade looks like. Knowing how to make a meal for yourself and your friends and family is an important life skill, and unlike the dying art of cursive handwriting, eating real food made by real hands in a real kitchen is important. Knowing how to do that is important.
Commercial food producers, and chain restaurants have made a mockery of the word homemade, and it's time to take it back! Progresso used to have an ad that proclaimed "Make it Progresso, or make it yourself!" I say we take them up on that! Bring back the true meaning of homemade!