Last fall, I got a text message from my son-in-law:
“I want to make applesauce – tell me how?”
I gave him the super-easy small-batch version. Peel, core and chop apples. Put them in a saucepan with a tiny bit of water. Cook on low, covered, until soft. Mash. Refrigerate. Eat…
A half-hour later, another text:
“Done! Why don’t more people do this? It’s SO easy!”
Good question. If I were to guess, I’d say it never occurs to most people. They just grab a jar off the shelf at the store, because that’s what they’ve always done, and what their parents did. It’s applesauce – cheap, and good for you, right?
Not so fast; better check that label. The cheap one is more than just apples. High Fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, preservatives…The ‘just apples’ kind is way more expensive than the couple of pounds of raw product packed into the jar.
Of course, it isn’t just applesauce. Breads and breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies – even the ones labeled “Natural” – have mile-long ingredient lists, full of unpronounceable things that don’t exist outside of a factory. While it’s pretty easy to throw together a batch of chocolate chip cookies instead of buying that bag of Chips-A-Hoy, other convenience foods might seem too difficult (or time-consuming) to replace with homemade.
Some, you might never have even considered being able to make in your own kitchen…
Homemade Instant Oatmeal, anyone?
Which brings me, however clumsily, to my Someone You Should Meet: Alana Chernila, her wonderful book Homemade Pantry, and her equally-wonderful blog Eating From the Ground Up. I first ‘met’ Alana last year when another blogger (can’t remember who, sadly) linked to this post on making Greek yogurt in a slow cooker. I never got around to making it, but became a huge fan of her recipes, her attitude about feeding her family well (without breaking the bank) and of the clear, friendly voice with which she writes. Reading her short essays that accompany each recipe is like hanging out in a friend’s kitchen and chatting over coffee; the words wrap you in their warmth, and the tantalizing smell of the latest project feels just beyond reach of your senses…
Mom that I am, my first thought was, “Sarah needs this book for Christmas!”
Quickly followed by, “Wait – I need this book!”
I got two of them, of course.
Sarah and I have both been cooking from them. Oatmeal, granola, and bread to start with for me, while my daughter is fixated on the Dairy Chapter (See her post about making butter here). If you’ve been disappointed with your efforts at whole wheat sandwich bread before, you HAVE to get this – her recipe/method is foolproof! (Translation: I made it. I didn’t mess it up. It isn’t heavy as a doorstop. My family ate it, and asked for more.)
Now, I’m not saying that I’ll Never Buy ANY Prepared Foods Again. There will be times when there’s no choice but to pick up a loaf of bread from the store, or a box of cereal. But, we’re making an effort, for Angel’s sake and our own, to banish the Bad Habits and Bad Food Science of the last 50 years, and get back to eating real foods made from whole ingredients. It’s a start…
And, as Angel will tell you, it makes the house smell awesome….