Made from scratch


My mother is what I have always referred to as a scratch cook.

That is simply an observation. It doesn’t say how good her cooking is. It doesn’t give her marks for plating or appearance. Very general and simple observation, and one that almost says more about the kitchen when there isn’t a single person in it than it does about the food that is produced. See…

It means that in her kitchen, virtually everything is made from scratch. If there’s suddenly talk in a group watching television about how brownies might just be a good idea, there will be sightings of unsweetened chocolate squares being prepared for melting. I’ve even seen talk of brownies explode into a kitchen with homemade chocolate sauce on the stove and whipping dream being brought over to a mixer.

You will not find boxes of cake mixes in my mother’s kitchen. You will find a toolkit filled with an assortment of decorating supplies that even in what she considers her amateur status would still make even the most dedicated of Wilton enthusiasts lightheaded.

When she cooks, she cooks from scratch.

My mother is not the most professional of cooks. I am not attempting to suggest that anyone would envy her knife skills. Nor am I suggesting that she is a marvel of recipe creation or culinary expertise.

Let’s offer this summary up before we meander too far down the road of tangents: (1) She is an outstanding cook. (Her Christmas party buffets and other social event spreads are the stuff of legend.) (2) She takes the cooking done in her home very seriously. (Ok… one more good story…)

Once, when an opportunity arose to get a group of the immediate family in the same place at the same time, Terry and I were planning a brunch kind of gathering. My mother reached out to me to ask about waffles. Did I have a recipe? And, before I could respond in any way, she sent three that she liked since she wasn’t sure if I used a recipe that beat the separated egg whites into stiff peaks or not. (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that usually my waffle recipe decisions are made based on whether or not the store I am in has Hungry Jack buttermilk complete on the shelf.)

Want another example? Ok. One more. Bit of a thinker, so stop and consider. How often do you go to a summer cookout, head to the condiments, and find an assortment of several different relish options?

When it comes to her kitchen presence and awareness, I love her for it.

Maybe it’s some appreciation for generations of family before me that is deep and hidden in my thoughts… perhaps a realization of how hard it can be at times to even find a handful of extra minutes to make a full recipe ingredient by ingredient instead of pulling a bag out of the freezer and bringing it to the microwave… maybe it’s something else. I’m not really certain. But I do know I think about such concepts when I’m in the kitchen… and I appreciate it when others are in their kitchen cooking for me.

I grew up with three grandparents… Nana, Meme and Pepe. Love them all.

Meme was a very dry, quiet woman. Hard to explain. She had her ways, those are what made her comfortable, and so those created her life and home environment.

One absolutely amazing memory I have of Meme and Pepe involved the greatest recipe in my family. French pork pies. I was at their house one afternoon when both Meme and Pepe were in the kitchen, cooking together. This was beyond unheard of. Spotting the Loch Ness Monster rare. And yet, there they were… one working on the crust… one working on the filling… cooking together.

And that’s where the magic is in made from scratch cooking. Sure, we could explore all of the health benefits of making stuff at home as opposed to some of the additives used when buying package mixes and premade meals. But that is irrelevant in the discussion, because it almost isn’t about the food. It’s about the thought and the effort.

You know when people try to do that one special ingredient stuff—love—about a recipe. Every so often, that’s true. And it usually starts from scratch.


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