From Scratch

A commitment to cooking from scratch is more than just controlling the quality of your food. It’s also about making it harder to eat.

Historically, it has often been hard for people to get enough to eat. Thankfully that is no longer the case for most of us, but it also means that we can eat ourselves into various diseases of dietary excess.

But cooking from scratch not only helps you weed out the chemicals, it also helps weed out the junk food, even if just because much of our favorite unhealthy things are a huge BOTHER.

Think about it: If you had to peel, cut up, soak, parboil, dry, and fry your own french fries, how often would you make french fries? If you had to slice and fry your own potatoes, how often would you have chips? And if you had to visit the chemist for that orange powder they put on Doritos, do you think you would actually eat the nasty stuff?

In Michael Pollan’s new book Cooked, he has a great quote from a guy that does food related surveys (to sell to food processors). Pollan asks him how people can get out of this food related mess we are in. He says (not believing that people will actually do this)…

“You want to make people eat less? Easy. Cook it yourself. Eat anything you want, just cook it yourself.”

I would quibble slightly. I think we still need to be careful of the copious amounts of super cheap refined sugar, flour, and fats that we have available. So maybe not eating anything that you didn’t refine yourself might be another rule of thumb. And after all, most of us don’t put in the physical labor to grow the foods that we eat either, so you need to keep that in mind.

But over all, that would be a good place to start when you want to improve your diet. Frankly the reason a smoothie is my go-to breakfast is because it’s so easy (plus it doesn’t sit around in my stomach all morning weighing me down).

If you make a pact with yourself that you won’t eat anything that you haven’t cooked or prepared yourself, it refines your diet without really even giving anything up.

I decided, when I bought my hand crank ice cream machine, that I wouldn’t eat ice cream at home unless I made it myself. And the work and the expense of buying the high quality ingredients (milk and cream from grass-fed local cows, maple syrup for sweetening) provide enough deterrent to eating ice cream that we only make (and subsequently only eat) ice cream for special occasions, mostly when we have house guests.

Keep special occasion foods for special occasions when you have the time to prepare them yourself. And time to appreciate them fully.

Local Food Month

My local food month was a smashing success. I mean, it was August, how could it not be?? There was a little hitch in the raw milk department–the farm was getting hassled by the Food Police, but all in all it went better than I had hoped. Of course, it was August. 

Our local markets are definitely light on the greens. Once I found kale and once or twice I got lettuce, but it wasn’t enough for my appetite for greens. My own kale has been a reluctant grower, and halfway through the month the groundhog mowed down my collards. &^%*^! So I had swiss chard, but that was it.

Aside from greens and milk, between our town’s market and the next town over’s market, I was well supplied with a variety of fruits and vegetables. I ate peaches til they were coming out of my ears, and stocked up the freezer as much as I could afford to. 

The downside of trying to eat local food all year is putting the bulk of your food money down in the summer, which is a slow time for toy sales. Some weeks I come to the market with $20 and do the best I can, which is usually enough for the week. But when I have some extra dough, I like to buy as much as I can afford to. 

I made tomato sauce twice, and I’ve made applesauce several times already. I’ve frozen lots of fruit for smoothies and green beans for stir fries and soups. The nice thing about frequenting the farmer’s markets as a real customer (and not as Joel Salatin says in his book This Ain’t Normal as a customer that only buys what can fit into the hand not holding Fifi leash in it as most people do) is that the farmers know you.

When you buy out a farmer’s strawberries every time they bring them to market, they know who you are. They give you discounts. They give you discards. They tell you how this crop or that is doing. You may not know each other’s first names, but you have a relationship. You aren’t picking through their boxes of berries demanding every one be flawless. You aren’t looking over everything carefully and buying one large perfect red tomato. 

I would love to get to the point financially that I can plop down X amount of dollars and buy out somebody’s stock of tomatoes because I’m going to make sauce this week. Or freeze all the strawberries I need for the year in June. But for now, I just buy a little extra each week.

A peck box of potatoes here.

A half bushel of tomatoes there.

All your strawberries, well, just about any time I can get them. 

Of course, ideally, I’d like to grow most of it myself, but that may be further off than I would like to admit given the size of my property. So for now, I’ll keep buying from my farmers.