28.11.11

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter

      Until recently, I never considered buying a frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I hadn't even known such a thing existed.  I first read about Smucker's popular frozen peanut butter sandwich -- the Uncrustable -- in a New York Times Magazine article by (or course) Michael Pollan.  He wrote, "People think nothing of buying frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their children's lunch boxes."  I thought: They don't?  What people?  What frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?  What's next, frozen buttered toast?
      I felt briefly smug in the certainty that I was not so lazy or compromised that I would ever buy mass-produced peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Then I thought, People probably once said that about peanut butter.  And bread.  And jelly.  They almost certainly said it about waffles, and pie crust, and pudding.  Not so long ago, people must have wondered who couldn't fry her own donuts, grind her own sausage, cure her own bacon.  Kill her own bacon!  The more I thought about it, the more arbitrary it seemed to draw a line in the sand at frozen PB&J.

(Jennifer Reese, from the introduction of  Make the Bread, Buy the Butter)


 Last week I bought this book as birthday gift for a friend, but since her birthday isn't until December 1st, I've already nearly finished reading it, cover to cover (sorry Caroline, I've done my best to keep it clean!)  After I put the turkey in the oven on Thursday, instead of taking the time to change out of my pajamas, I sat myself down at the kitchen table (pajamas and all) and read to my little heart's content (I also amused my mother by reading the funniest parts out loud so she could enjoy it, too...)

I was fascinated by the idea of this book when I spotted it: The author makes her way through an extensive list of food items one might usually buy pre-packaged and then breaks things down by discussing whether it tastes better (or not) to make it from scratch, listing objectionable ingredients which might be added to non-homemade items, the cost-effectiveness of making each item by scratch, and also how time/labor intensive each "project" might be.  For me, the most delightful parts of the book were the author's accounts of keeping chickens for eggs and goats for milk.  I won't spoil the fun by recounting here the authors conclusions regarding animal-keeping -- you'll just have to track down this book and read for yourself!

As for following the advice contained in this book?  Despite the authors recommendations, I don't think I'll be making my own bagels, croissants or tortillas, curing my own pastrami, or setting myself up to make Mascarpone & Camembert cheeses any time soon. I still have a pasta-maker, in it's original box, which we received as a wedding gift over 11 years ago, for goodness sakes!  But I love this book... If you read it, let me know if you like it, too!

And just for fun, if you leave a comment, won't you tell me what crazy & ambitious things you like to make from scratch?  What do you feel guilty about buying pre-made (but buy anyhow!) Me?  I like to bake the daintiest of cookies and sandwich them together with jam.  Pre-made guilt? Broth.

P.S.  FYI, in case you're interested, the author of this book (Jennifer Reese) has a blog: The Tipsy Baker.

12 comments:

  1. Hummus gets made from scratch, as do baked goods, and most foods. Spaghetti sauce and canned tomatoes are on my new "make from scratch" list---coming to a kitchen near me this summer! I buy ice cream pre-made and kick myself every time.

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  2. ha, I do have felt a bit superior thinking "Really? you have to buy pre-made pb&j" but I've also always been truly disgusted by the pb and jelly you can buy, in stripes, in a jar. I don't know why because really? its the same as putting jelly on top yourself, right? but it just seems so...banal? I, when I have the time and energy, both of which seem to be sorely lacking now, make sourdough pancakes and pizza dough and sometimes (though far less frequently) bread. what do I despise making? or not despise as much as wow, this is so much more effort then just buying pre-made is and that, the store bought, is usually better - candy...truffles and such. gah the effort makes me oh so crabby. even just to think about it. at first its kinda fun thinking oh let me roll it in this and won't this look so pretty etc...but after rolling like the 10th one (with a whole bowl full left to roll) I am OVER it...that includes dipping things in chocolate too. just annoying. the only easy to make candy is the one with rolos...on top of pretzels, you heat and press. however, the problem with those, they are so yummy I end up eating them as I make them and taht kinda defeats the purpose of homemade presents to give out, ya know?

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  3. I used to bake bread all the time when I was young, but now I try not to eat too much of it, so I don't bake it very often. I think the thing I feel most guilty for trying is the frozen French toast sticks--though I bought them for my daughter when we were experimenting with different breakfasts to see what she would eat in the morning and needed something my dear husband could make.

    On a different note, I wanted to let you know that I have passed on an award to you. Visit http://craftymomsshare.blogspot.com/2011/11/award.html to see.

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  4. Sounds like a super fun book! Well, back in the day, we used to make all sorts of whacky vegan dishes from scratch...chickpea "bacon", wheat"meat" sausages, even vegan ravioli using a hand-crank pasta maker. About the only thing we make from scratch these days are soups (although, our use of packaged veggie broth concentrate would probably make a purest frown).

    Getting ready to mail my little angels in the next day or so ... can't wait to see what everyone's look like!

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  5. looks great! I'm constantly going back and forth with this list for our home--I'd love to read her thoughts! (& get recipes)

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  6. I make filled ravioli by hand - without a pasta machine, although not very often since it is so time consuming with little ones about. Pre made guilt - probably stock cubes. I make stock occasionally, but it is so much easier to use the pre prepared stuff. Oh, and Christmas mince pies, the time and effort just don't do it for me (especially since my husband eats them so fast).

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  7. Sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for the suggestion:) I always enjoy reading your blog, so I have decided to pass along a Liebster Blog award to you, you can find your award at the end of the post here: http://www.aprilshomemaking.com/2011/11/more-blogging-fun-bit-of-christmas.html

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  8. Sounds like a great book! I put it on hold at my library. We buy frozen waffles which I feel so guilty about, but the kids just love them and have them several times a week with breakfast. We make our own pasta sauce in the crockpot, and I try to buy a chicken every few weeks to cook and then make stock with.

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  9. What fun! When I have time, I make and freeze healthy muffins, cookies and brownies for lunches and outings, and try to double and freeze sauces or meatballs when possible. But broths, breads and pasta? No, thanks. I'm don't have it in me. I can tell this is a must-read. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  10. What a cool book. Will have to check that one out. I love that she has taken the time it takes to make it into account - also weird that she said croissants (I've made them and it was a half day endeavour). And taste. That's a biggie.
    Felicity

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  11. Before I met you I had dozens less books to read!

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  12. The thing I don't 'get' is frozen chopped onion. Is it so hard or time consuming to chop an onion? When I was learning to cook, most of our baking was done from scratch but we used packets for casserole bases, tinned soup and tinned spaghetti (YUK!) but I wouldn't touch any of those things now. Apart from the fact that I can't stand the smell or the taste of them anymore, the thought of the chemical additives makes me shiver. We are fortunate to have a big garden with space for vegies and chooks and a pasta machine that cranks out pretty good pasta. I'd love a cow and some bees but the neighbours might not agree. My guilty pleasure? Sachets of chai latte powder.

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