Cooking from Scratch

Nothing, I mean nothing, tastes more delicious, more addictive than homemade, from-scratch food.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that so many people don’t cook at home and, those who do, don’t cook from scratch. The semi-homemade meal has taken over and, while I understand the necessity for a quicker, easier meal after a full-day of work, I think it’s quite sad that from-scratch has been put far beyond the back-burner.

Though many dishes can be difficult and time-consuming, most of what people are serving, semi-homemade, are easy to replicate from scratch. Not everything takes as much skill as a soufflé.

In all truthfulness, home cooking not only tastes worlds better than shelf-ready, processed foods, but it’s healthier and much cheaper. It also opens up a world of options because you have every base ingredient at your fingertips to play with, rather than settling on a few options from a handful of different brands. Yes, you may end up having to clean an extra pan or two, actually using a knife from the expensive set that just sits in a block on the counter, but it pays off. Once you’ve established a routine, cooking becomes second-nature and you’ll wonder why you ever allowed yourself to eat stir-fry from a bag in the freezer.

It seems to me that we put too much emphasis on fast and easy, too much of our time on laziness and “relaxation.” People will come home from work, make a quick meal out of a bag or a box, and then spend hours in front of the television or computer until it’s time for bed. It’s actually quite pathetic! What happened to everything in moderation? Spend a bit of time watching TV, a bit of time surfing the web, and a bit of time cooking and eating with someone you love.

Of course, some of us don’t have much time to watch TV or surf the web in the first place, even without taking the time to cook dinner. We’re busy with preschool, swim class, dance class, story time, nap time, grocery shopping, laundry, changing diapers. Some of us go to work for over eight hours and don’t sit down and relax at home until the kids are in bed. If we cook a meal, then we’re doing dishes and straightening up the kitchen after bath time and bedtime routines and, at that point, we couldn’t keep our eyes open in front of the TV if we tried.

But should we forego the hour of cooking and the time at the family table for an extra hour or so of television before bed? The problem isn’t that you don’t get to sit and relax. The problem isn’t that cooking is just another burden. The problem is your viewpoint. If you learn to cook, it becomes something natural, something enjoyable, something you can be proud of. Instead of relaxing in front of the TV for an hour once the kids are in bed, you enlist their help in the kitchen. Sure, when they’re young it’ll extend the process, but when they’re older and more comfortable and skilled, they’ll help speed it along and will have learned something valuable for their future on their own. And from the earliest age, you’ll find cooking with your children can put the biggest smile on your face.

Instead of relaxing in front of the TV, you sit at the table with your family. You take a deep breath and savor this rare moment with your loved ones, to talk about your day, what’s going on in your life, to create memories you and your children will value for a lifetime. When all is said and done, you’re not going to remember that hour in front of the TV with fondness, but you will cherish the time spent at the table with your loved ones, whoever they may be–spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends.

We all get the same 24 hours and what matters is what you choose to do with it. If you’re wearing yourself thin, it’s probably not because of taking the time to make a meal and sit down to eat, it’s probably because you’ve overscheduled your life or your children’s lives. So take a breather and a good hard look at your values and priorities. Chances are, so much activity isn’t as important as you think it is and, certainly, your health and well-being and that of your family’s are two of the most important things in life, are they not?

In my parents’ home, we had a home-cooked meal just about every night. It wasn’t until the weekend that we indulged ourselves with high-fat, high-calorie processed foods from outside the house–Saturday night Little Caesar’s pizza (back when the Hot-N-Ready didn’t exist and “pizza pizza!” was on everybody’s lips) and Sunday morning breakfast at Big Boy. Fast food we saved mostly for road trips up north to our cottage or heading south to Virginia to visit my father’s family. These things were occasional indulgences for special circumstances, not everyday meals.

Yet, both of my parents worked full time jobs; my mom went into work early while my dad stayed behind to take us to school; then, my mom got home early to start cooking dinner. And when she cooked dinner, it wasn’t just one meal for the four of us; she sometimes cooked two to three different meals. Sure, the sides would often overlap, but she was cooking one main dish for her and my father, and two different ones for my brother and myself, who were both very, very picky eaters. After nine hours at the office, she could have easily given into bags and boxes or forced us to all eat the same thing, but she made the food herself, threefold. And, somehow, she still managed to make time for herself and for us.

The point is, cooking from-scratch doesn’t have to be torture and it doesn’t have to consume your entire morning or evening. With a lot of pre-prepared foods, you have to go through most of the same steps for cooking; you simply save yourself a few measuring spoons, a pan, a spoon, a knife, and maybe 15 minutes of your time.

You can break this bad habit, though, with your body (and taste buds) thanking you. Just make it fun; create meals you’ve never tried before that you can’t find in any restaurant or on any shelf. And work as a team! Cooking together, you get to enjoy each other’s company, spending quality time together while the task before you just flies by. Simply start your own traditions and take solace in the fact that you’re doing something good for yourself and the people who love you.

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