I’ve been having some interesting discussions with an on-line friend lately, and it has me thinking: what are the real reasons I do a lot off this “Molly” sort of stuff, if I’m determined I’m Not a Molly? Take food, for instance: would it really save me a lot of time and money if I got diligent about coupon use, and bargain shopped for brand names? Would I save time using mixes and prepared foods?
When I boil it down (heh… cooking pun…) here’s what I’m deciding:
I do a lot from scratch because it fits the family sensibility. Teaching these life skills from the ground up gives my kids a really solid foundation, just the like one I was given, and I do know how useful those skills have been to me in life. How many college kids don’t know how to provide and care for themselves? I wasn’t one of those, and I knew those who were; the difference in life-quality was pretty startling.
I want them to know how to bake from scratch, how to make pasta, how to come up with menu plans and shop in the bulk foods section, how to chop and mix and shred. It gives them a solid base of self-respect. They can look at their own knowledge and pronounce, “Yes, I know how to do worthwhile things, and I can put them to good use in the world.” They know how to satisfy appetites and cravings at home, how to make cookies or cake to share with friends, how to plan a meal and celebrate.
That self-respect goes both ways. I really get a boost when my Eldest comes home from a youth meeting, and asks if I can help with a project or activity, because “You know how to do this stuff, Mom, and it would be fun.” How many moms have their 14-year old daughter requesting they come “play” with the girls? These kids want to know how to do useful things; relegating them only to boxed cake mixes, take-out pizza, and in-stores-only clothing is more than a bit condescending! And yes, I’m flattered to be thought useful in the world, even as a “grown up,” so if the girls want my help, I’m glad to give it. I know a nice stack of their mothers have some fantastic skills to share, too. What a great transition point for us all, realizing that mothers and daughters have a whole range of non-adversarial roles.
I do a lot from scratch because it fits my budget. That budget is not a big one, and raw ingredients are more cost-effective than pre-packaged things. I like staying within my budget. I also still get a kick out of my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal husband seeing a meal plus dessert go on the table, and his astonishment that interesting things came out of nothing. (This gives me a giggle, as I know his mom did the same sort of thing when he was growing up, but he was mostly oblivious before the age of 16 or 17, I think.)
I work from scratch because it fits our little cottage best. Pre-packaged things take up a lot of room; basic ingredients in compact storage bins are more flexible, and require less storage space. When you have six people living in about 800 square feet, every inch really does count!
I work from scratch because I like having less stuff to toss in the garbage. Most of our “discards” can be recycled: veg, fruit, dairy, grain, and even some meat scraps to our “girls” (who give us gorgeous eggs in return), or just the veg-fruit-grain scraps to the compost; cans and milk jugs to recycling, limited cardboard to recycling if it’s not used in a kid craft project first, glass jars to recycling if we don’t need them for food storage, craft storage, or leftover storage first… I like having a single trash can to wheel out each week, and decidedly non-smelly garbage.
I work from scratch because I want to enjoy the processes of life. I like being in a state of mindful work, being aware of my actions, how dough feels and smells, the crisp chunk of freshly-sliced veggies, the cool, powdery slump of adding flour to the flour bucket, the lemon-burst that happens when I add dish soap to the sink… it takes the everyday into the sublime, just for a second or two, and those short glimpses give me a great deal of happiness and peace.
I think it’s all a pretty good trade-off, after all.