In this modern day and age, when we can just pop into the nearest grocery store and grab the pre-made frozen dinner of our liking, why on earth should we spend time creating our meals from scratch? Aren’t there better things to do?
My answer may surprise you! There are lots of reasons to cook from scratch, even if you don’t have a family to feed on a tight budget. But the biggest reason of all will likely not be the one you expect.
First here are a few of the most common reasons we often cook from scratch…
The internet is filled with ideas for eating on a budget. Weather you are a college student or feeding a family, you’ll find practically endless suggestions for how to save money on food by making it yourself.
It’s kind of an obsession in this culture to talk about how little the food cost before we talk about the quality of the the nutrition. I do understand this, money can be tight! And guess what, cooking from scratch is, in general, less expensive than eating out or even buying prepared foods.
But sadly, many folks feel that they are “forced” to cook from scratch to save money. If only they had a bigger budget they would eat out or buy prepped food more. There’s no joy in cooking just to save money, knowing that you wouldn’t if you didn’t have to.
Well, if you’re one of those people, and you’re open to persuasion, I’d like to talk to you a bit more about why I would be cooking from scratch even if I was a gazillionaire, and how you can truly learn to enjoy the art of cooking, and be budget conscious too.
“Scratch made food is healthier for you!” You’ve heard it many times, haven’t you? It is true that food made from scratch can have less preservatives, harmful chemicals, and artificial nonsense that humans were never meant to ingest.
But scratch made food can also be loaded with sugars, unhealthy fats, refined carbs, and even chemical ingredients. What’s actually in our food is way more important for our health than just where it was made! Bottomline: Made from scratch does not equal healthier just because it’s made from scratch.
(Note: I know many of you strive to cook very healthy meals from scratch, and I do believe it’s a worthy pursuit. But food is so much more than fuel…don’t miss the best part. Read on!)
Yes, fear, or at least a begrudging sense of duty. This is one I don’t hear talked about much, but would you agree that many people, especially mothers, prepare scratch made food because they are afraid of being judged by others?
We’ve all heard someone gossip about how the food another family eats is below their own standards. Thus, I believe it’s a seldom-address-but-often-practiced sense of duty that leads many wives and mothers to cook from scratch. They don’t really care about the potential health benefits, they don’t really have a super tight budget, they don’t particularly enjoy cooking, but they do have a fear of not measuring up.
This is the most tragic reason of all, and I’d like you to know that weather you eat organic produce from the farmers market, or some soggy, preservative laden pasta out of a can, there are MUCH more important metrics for measuring a person’s character than what they eat.
A scripture comes to mind: Jesus said “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matt 15:11) In other words, eating a particular food does not cause a person to be either good or bad, but the intentions of their heart and the words of their mouth does.
There’s a lot of judgementalism, fear, and duty lurking under the popular view of foods, and I do not wish to be a part of that at all. Remember, this is coming from someone (me!) who spends countless hours of labor cultivating a garden, raises her own meat, breeds and butchers her own chickens, and gets up in the wee hours to milk and make cheese, and cooks three square meals a day for a large family, all from scratch. But I’m not better than anyone because of those food choices.
I don’t do it to save money, or because I don’t have other access to healthy food, or because I’m afraid of not measuring up to someone else’s standards.
I do it for joy. And that’s what I’m going to talk about now.
When we make food from scratch…
When we make food from scratch, we have the opportunity to think about each and every ingredient. What it looks like, why it feels like, where we bought it and or how we grew it. Each piece of the “puzzle” of a recipe has a history behind it. And often we can taste that in the ingredient itself.
I know, I know. Do I hear you saying, dear reader “A bit over the top on philosophy, Jane.” Well, perhaps I do wax poetical more than strictly necessary when it comes to food, but stick with me and try this out.
Behold the blessings of the Lord
Next time you make a meal from scratch, (I mean really from scratch where there is nothing canned, frozen or pre-peeled or anything) lay everything out and really take a good look at your meal-to-be. Close your eyes and imagine those things at their origins, growing in the earth, from seed to harvest to you! The gift, the miracle of growth and life and regeneration is before you! Behold the blessing of the Lord here on your kitchen counters.
Then think of the individual flavors of each ingredient. If you can’t recall, just taste each one. Yes, taste even the salt! If it’s regular store salt, you’ll taste the dagger-like sharpness. If it’s sea salt you’ll taste the pureness of a vast ocean. If it’s Himalayan salt, you taste the soft, nearly sweet mineral-y earthiness of the mountains from which it was mined.
Are you still with me? Yes? Ok, on to textures! Touch each piece. Feel it’s skin. If it’s meat, know where it came from on the animal which was harvested for your sustenance. Muscles which were little used are soft and tender, while muscles which were often used are stronger and tougher. All of this will be detectable in your meal, take notice! Does the carrot crunch satisfyingly, the cabbage squeak in protest, or the thick honey ooze like liquid gold? Go ahead and indulge yourself in a metaphor or two. No one will know.
To me, the key in finding joy in the daily task of food preparation is to refuse to see it as an assignment, a task, a drudgery. I choose to see it as the chance to take pleasure in a hundred minute miracles. And there’s the secret; it’s a choice.
The gift that keeps on giving
Here’s another little gift that keeps on giving…our appetites. Have you noticed how they just keep coming back? Each time our middles begin to rumble, we have the chance not just to fulfill our daily requirement for fuel, but to nourish our minds, our intellects, and I believe even our souls. I can hardly think of time my soul sings a private little round of “hallelujah, glory be” more fervently than when I bite into a just picked strawberry, ya know?
Each chop of the knife, each quick beat of the whisk, each cracked egg and the epiphany of fragrance bursting forth from the herbs as I crush them in my hands; these are moments not to be wasted. This is when I choose to let myself bask in the pleasure of scratch cooking. This is when budget and popular notions about health are the farthest thing from my mind. As I breath deeply of the perfume left on my hands from a bundle of herbs, I really don’t care if my food measures up to anyone else’s standards. I cook for joy.
And that, dear friends, is why you may see me ugly cry when I bit into a piece of homemade pizza with a nearly burned crust, fresh mozzarella, basil from the garden, and hot tomato slices unceremoniously squirting seeds out the sides of my mouth. I’m alright. I’m just really, really happy.