Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cooking from scratch is HARD WORK

Here at frugal healthy simple we (well, I) discuss the virtues of cooking from scratch to enjoy healthy and frugal foods.

One thing that I haven't really covered is that it can be really hard work. Over the last several weeks, I've gotten to thinking about it more. I remember about 4 years ago, talking to my mother and my mother-in-law (in separate phone calls) about cooking. They both said "I don't know how you can't be sick of it". My answer back then was easy: "1. I've been cooking for two years, not 40. 2. my husband eats anything that I cook."

Those are important points to make. If my latest food experimentation du jour (or month) happens to be vegan vittles, my husband will happily scarf down mediterranean chickpeas and rice, or vegan pad thai, until the cows come home. My step-father and to a much smaller degree father-in-law, however, are picky. They don't like fish/vegetables/nuts/spicey foods/ethnic get the picture. So after 40 years of cooking the same foods (or getting a grimace with something new), I can see how you could get tired of cooking.

Now here we are 4 years later. I am still not tired of cooking, but I am kinda tired of the dishes. Yep, that's where the hard work comes in. I enjoy trying new recipes, chopping, stirring, sauteing. But with a toddler in tow, the schedule gets a little dicey. My cooking tends to be in 5-minute bursts, or while the toddler is napping, or after he's in bed, or on the weekend. You see, we work during the week (though I only work 6 hrs/day). I tend to cook 2 or 3 items each weekend day, in addition to making dinner. This allows us to have tasty leftovers for lunch and dinner during the week.

But boy, by Sunday night, I am feeling a lot like a scullery maid from The 1900 house. For each of those 5, 6, 7 dishes that I cook comes with dishes. Even today, where cooking is "only" cole slaw and pizza, I used the food processor 2x (for the slaw and to make arugula pesto for the pizza), the bread machine for the dough, the salad spinner to wash the cabbage, the frying pan for lunch...and TODAY I'm only cooking dinner, not anything extra. AND I have a diswasher!

Compare and contrast this to Thursday night, when we had frozen mini tacos and frozen veggies. One cookie sheet and one microwave steamer. I can see why folks tend to cook this way after a long work day.

For us, in particular, the "hard work" comes by choice, in the form of the CSA. This past week was our last week for the year. From mid-Jan to mid-Nov, we enjoyed weekly fresh, organic produce. And each week I spent minutes to hours deciding what to make, then cooking, pureeing, freezing, etc. to make sure that almost none is wasted. I am actually looking forward to the next two months - when I can simply run down to the farmer's market, and be broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, lettuce, and onions...and be happy for the week. But we're still signing up next year for our 9th year.

So don't beat yourself up about not cooking from scratch every minute. It's time consuming and can be physically exhausting. Today, I'd just started letting the water out from the dishes when I heard "daddy? mommy?" from under my son's door.

Here are some tips (okay, gadgets) that help you cook "from scratch":

Bread machine: we love this. We wore out our first one. I have to laugh when the truly cook from scratchers talk about how EASY it is to make bread and ANYONE can do it. You know, even the most basic bread takes 2 hrs to rise and an hour to bake. That math tells me that you have to have at least a 3-hour stretch to make bread...who's got that mid-week if you work outside the home? This machine can be set on a timer.

Crockpot: another wonderful gadget that you can set and forget. As we mostly eat vegetarian, this doesn't get very much use in our household. But it can be a great tool.

Rice cooker: Brown rice, less than an hour, don't have to watch it (can be playing with cars in the other room), what's more to love?

Pressure cooker: ideal for the near-vegetarian, can cook brown-rice and chickpeas in under 45 minutes. Soups in 10 min. Beans in 15 min. What's not to love?

Food processor: hummus, pesto, shredding cabbage, shredding cheese, chopping onions...

Immersion blender: it's soup season! And my son will eat anything if it's in a soup. So we make a lot of soup.

Anybody have tips to make cooking from scratch a little easier?

1 comment:

wench said...

My tip is to make enough for a few meals. When you are making bread or muffins make 2 or 3 times as much and freeze it. That way when you have a "I DONT WANT TO COOK" day you are ready.
Join me soon with my new blogspot called: TIN CAN COOKING. I hope to have it up in a couple days. No I don't cook IN tin cans I live in a TIN CAN called a travel trailer and cooking is a definite challenge.