Monday, May 5, 2014

Reasons for cooking from scratch

I have been watching Jamie’s USA Food Revolution on YouTube. I enjoyed the UK series so much a couple of years ago, that when I stumbled onto the USA one the other day I decided to give it a go.

I know this was filmed 4 years ago in 2010 and I do hope they have seen long lasting change from what Jamie sparked. The problem of the USA school food system is not all at the door industrial food giants; it’s a compound issue, in my opinion.

Right at the start let me say that I have "met" many moms, mainly stay at home homeschooling moms, who are really diligent with their families health and eating. Please do not think that I have a skewed perspective on every American Mom because I have now watched this TV series :) What follows are simply my thoughts.

Starting at the core, with Mommy being out of the home working long hours to survive, food has become a necessity, not a gathering of the family to enjoy one of our basic needs. So fast food, ready to heat meals, convenience foods, empty calorie stomach fillers are the norm in the home.

I am saddened that those little ones did not know a beetroot from a cauliflower, a tomato from a potato. They have just never been taught. It was clear in the show that it was not even in the school curriculum for tots to learn the basic food vocabulary besides what they pick up naturally being French Fries, Hamburgers and Pizza.

At the top of the pile of blame seem to be the USA school food guidelines, for which I suppose the conspiracy theorists would have a great explanation! I think that the industrial food giants are simply supplying what the shoppers are demanding in their ignorance – or perhaps in their need for convenience. The fighters of the real food cause in the USA – Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, Jordan Rubin etc – have some fabulous books, YouTube documentaries and ideas for anyone who is looking for the truth behind most health problems.

So add the three things together – industrial food, moms out of the home and a lack of education - and you end up with the compound root of the problem. Many mom’s are not equipped with knowledge either on how to cook from scratch with real ingredients, they do not have the time to do it and because they do not have the knowledge, they cannot pass it on to their own children. Whether they are stay at home, or work out of home, there are many reasons to cook from scratch.

This is not a heavy on moms. I am one too. I know how hard it is to always do the right thing, and there are obviously times when we all want a break. I have always believed in an 80/20 rule. 80% of the time I make sure that we eat the right food, exercise and stay away from junky treats. 20% of the time which includes when my children are not with me over meal times, when they are out with friends or when we have a real craving for decadent chocolate brownies or wheat flour based pancakes J then we indulge and enjoy, guilt free.

I thought I would share a list of things that I believe are some of the best things about cooking from scratch and I have some resources listed below for you to consider.

1. Cooking from scratch becomes a family affair. I always have one, two or three of my children to help with peeling, chopping or stirring. This started when they were very young and has continued through to their teen years. Even my eldest’s betrothed is roped in when he visits. And now Superman comes to help in the evenings too and we chat while we chop and dice.

2. You use real ingredients that do not have alphabet codes followed by a string of numbers. Even bread which is made from flour, water, fat, yeast, salt and sugar made at home is glaringly different from the ingredients listed on the back of packets of shop bought bread. I decided years ago to not put something into my body if I didn’t know what it is.

3.  When cooking from scratch with young ones, you have the wonderful chance to pass on your knowledge, as much or as little as it is, to the next generation. I am not a "prepper", nor a doomsday prophet, but I know that real food is going to be harder and harder to come buy as we come the end of the age. If we can equip our children, who will equip theirs in turn, to source, prepare and cook real ingredients, we are setting them up to survive in a world vastly different to what we currently live in.

4. Because cooking from scratch demands real raw ingredients you are voting with your Rands and Dollars for the farmers. You are buying carrots, potatoes and tomatoes from Farmer Joe. Farmer Joe can feed his family and keep on growing real food for you and your kids. If you want to step this up, buy from local food markets. You are then keeping your money in the place where you live and make a huge difference to the local community. While we choose organic raw ingredients as far as possible, this would not necessarily be feasible for everyone, but just buy buying what farmers grow, not what industry produces, you are helping keep food real.

5.  Sitting down to a meal that you and your family have made from scratch together, gives a huge sense of satisfaction to everyone. There may be more dishes to wash (sometimes), more time may have been spent on making the meal, but you know that what you are putting into your bodies is good for it and will not compromise your health or the health of your family. That’s peace of mind.

6.  Following on from this is that as you make the meals and sit at the dinner table to enjoy your work, you begin to create a food culture. Something that will stay with your family for years to come. 

7. Cooking from scratch is more frugal. Even when you add organic bacon, organic bananas and homemade mozzarella to a homemade pizza base it is STILL cheaper than buying a ready-made pizza from the local delivery joint or even Woolies Foods. 

8. As your skills improve with cooking from scratch you will probably begin to think about growing something of your own. For beginner gardeners I think the best thing to do is to grow your own culinary herbs. While they are not going to fill a plate, they can turn a plain meal into something spectacular. Rosemary crushed with salt, pepper and garlic rubbed onto a chicken for roasting, or handfuls of chopped basil and oregano into a bolognaise sauce, immediately transforms the meal.

9. Learning to cook from raw ingredients has another added benefit in that you eliminate food and packaging waste, or at least reduce it. You will have less tin, plastic and cardboard in your recycling bin and less wet food into your domestic bin.

10. Lastly, when you cook from scratch you begin to develop a home mentality. If you work outside of your home you probably come home exhausted from a challenging day. Laundry still needs to be done, meals prepared, the house tidied up. These things can become a real bind when you are already dead tired. The thing is that we can all go without our favourite jeans if the laundry is not done, but we cannot go without food. When we start to rank meals higher on the agenda and we see the blessing that proceeds from this simple act of making wholesome nutritious food, we begin to see our homes as not just a pit stop in a full busy day, but the centre to our families activities and lives.

Resources for those wanting to develop cooking skills:

Jamie’s 30 minute meals (ignore the 30 minutes – just make the recipes)
Jamie’s 15 minute meals (as above)
Save Money with Jamie (my latest favourite cookbook!)
Down to Earth Blog (Rhonda has a wonderful simple encouraging blog)
Budget Bytes (Delicious tasty thrifty quick easy meals)

Equip yourself further by reading:

Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Michael Pollan’s Food Rules
Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel
The Makers Diet by Jordan Rubin
Any of Joel Salatins books

Do you have any other reasons for cooking from scratch? Please feel free to share in the comment box! I would love to hear from you!


Lois Evensen said...

Wow, is this politically charged! Don't believe everything you see on TV and YouTube. Most American Moms do know a great deal about nutrition, cooking, and food. Even those Moms who work outside the home know how to and do provide good meals for their families.

Sadly, as in almost every other developed nation, it is true there is a group culturally less educated no matter how much information is given to them, but they aren't "all American Moms" by a long shot!

All the best from one of the majority of American Mom who provides healthy food for her family,

Urban Homestead South Africa said...

Hi Lois
I know that Jamie met with huge resistance when he went into Huntington and no where did I say that there are not moms who know how to cook to be found in the States. In fact their are many wonderful woman I have "met" over the internet who live in the USA, like yourself, who do provide nutritious healthy meals.

It was his show that sparked my thinking about why I cook from scratch and why I have for many years.

No politics, just sharing my thoughts, sorry if they offended you.

Kimberly @ Turning the Pages said...

I believe in cooking from scratch and you're right it can be a struggle. I think though that its important to change our eating bit by bit, you know to avoid biting off a bigger piece than we can handle at a time. I'm not sure if you're interested but the title of your post reminded me of a cookbook I've heard lovely things about it called The Elliot Homestead: From Scratch by Shaye Elliott, she's a homesteader in the US and she's very active on her blog (The Elliott Homestead) and on facebook, many of your posts touch on the same things (though she's on a small farm). I just love your posts and I hope you don't mind me recommending Shaye to you :)

Winkel's Crazy Ideas said...

A very good post, making food from scratch and getting the family in on it is so very important. I learnt from my father (who made everything from scratch), and from my mother and gran. Now l am trying to teach my three boys and girl. Cooking from scratch has become even more important due to the celiac disease of my son. The pre-fabricated diet food they sell here is full of doubtful ingredients. I think, like you say, that we need to give meals and the time it takes to prepare them much higher priority. Pam

Urban Homestead South Africa said...

Hi Kimberley, thank you for sharing the blog and book title, I shall definitely check them out! And Pam, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Ruwen Niklas Gierls said...

Amen! Can't agree more with you.
I wish I had the option to eat at home during the week, but whenever I visit my parents on the weekends I get to enjoy vegan food, all made from scratch. And during the summer and fall everything is from their garden with only a few store-bought items.
Can't wait to do so too at one point in the future :)

Louis said...

Hi Wendy

I have dreamed of changing over to organic, free-range produce and chicken for a while now, but it's an uphill battle cost wise. The food budget is a big tight and some organic food is double or even triple more expensive. Personally, I think I must just start with the first step: organic eggs straight from a farm here in the George district and stone-ground bread from the French bakery.
It always starts with the first step hey

Urban Homestead South Africa said...

Ruwen, you are very lucky to have such great parents! And Lois, it's always one step better, as long as we don't stagnate or slide backward! Well done on your baby steps.

Damaria Senne said...

My eldest nephew says home-cooked tastes better. He chooses to come home for lunch during the week and generally drags his friends here to hang out and for meals rather than buying take out as many young men in their 20s are wont to do. He's also learning to cook a variety of dishes and is the main pizza maker here.
Cooking is a great way for me to bond with him and I'm glad he's shown interest.

As to the compound problem you raise, sadly many South African families also face the same issue.