Yesterday I spent much of the day making bread and cheese from flour and milk. A few years ago, you would have never caught me doing that. In fact, I rarely touched a vegetable if it wasn't in a can or from the freezer case. But these days, there is a lot of fresh food in my house, and things are made from scratch if possible.
Why the change? As my husband often wonders, why bother taking the time to peel, boil, and mill apples when I could just as easily, or more easily, buy applesauce at the store already made? Why would I boil the milk, add the starter, and strain the cheese by hand when it would be much faster to just throw it in our grocery cart?
Well, I can't say that I always choose homemade over convenient, because I don't. Sometimes I don't have the time, energy, skills or inclination to do things myself. But when I do, I like to make things at home. There are many reasons for this. One is that it is often much less expensive to do it that way, particularly as it relates to my daughter's many allergies and food sensitivities. Another is that I prefer throwing apple peels in the compost, knowing that they'll someday feed my garden, as opposed to consuming the energy and packaging that is required to get the same product at the store.
But mostly, it's because I like doing it myself. There is something about the satisfaction of eating something, knowing that you made it with your own hands. Food tastes better when you know where the ingredients came from and what they looked like before. The exhaustion felt at the end of a day of hard work is satisfying. I think it is important to know, in our culture of consumerism and specialization, what it takes to make the world tick.
On the New York Times' Motherlode blog, Lisa Belkin interviewed Carl Honore about Slow Parenting. It's worth a read. He talks about how Slow does not mean at a snail's pace - it simply means that you give tasks the time they deserve to be completed properly. Instead of rushing through life in the name of efficiency, people who embrace the ethic of Slow take the time to enjoy the things they do, and do them well.