Are things always better made from scratch?-Sister #3


Growing up, many of my friends, like me, had stay-at-home Moms. Considering my mother had six children and cared for her two little brothers and a sick dad when her first few children were little , it was no surprise that she needed to stay home. As a result my mom made almost everything we ate from scratch. She made jams, pickles, perogies, cabbage rolls, soups, stews, chili, casseroles, pizza, egg rolls and pies-she was always cooking. 

Every week she would make bread. A lot of bread. In her bedroom, the warmest room in the house, there were often large enamel basins of dough rising underneath tea towels. From that she would make loaves of bread, dinner rolls, and cinnamon buns.

I remember returning from my friend Elaine’s house, whose divorced mother worked full time, and asking my mom if we could buy the polka dot bread I had at her house: wonder bread. My mom gave me a little smirk and shook her head. I had no idea how good I had it. Later when my Mom was unwell and spent time in the hospital, my dad, who worked full-time and had four kids at home, would load us in the car and head to McDonalds a few times a week. I quickly discovered that processed food was not all I thought it would be and I would pine for my Mom’s home cooking. 

At culinary school, I was taught to make everything from scratch. And many things were worth the extra time and effort. When I started cooking professionally I discovered that most restaurants incorporate some short cuts into their recipes. 

So considering that I have the skill set and maybe even the time to cook from scratch, do I? Yes, and no. Let me explain. Do I always make my own stocks? If I have an abundance of vegetable scraps and a chicken carcass, then yes. But will I go out of my way to do so? No-that’s what Knorr Swiss is for.  Can I make puff pastry from scratch? Yes, but I can’t imagine doing so when I can pull a package from the freezer. I still mostly make my own pie dough, but on occasion I pick up a pre-made crust. I make tomato sauce when friends give me a ton of tomatoes, but my pantry is always stocked with a jar or two of spaghetti sauce. I think there is a balance to be had between what I buy and what I make. 

And then sometimes I’m able to find a middle ground. My Caesar salad dressing is an example of this. I’m not super fond of bottle Caesar dressing. It makes me a bit nervous that bottled salad dressings last so long in the fridge. I know how to make Caesar from scratch, beating egg yolks, lemon juice and slowly incorporating oil to make the perfect mayonnaise base, but you have to use it all up in a couple days to not risk making yourself sick. So instead I use store bought mayo and add all the rest of the ingredients to create a great dressing. Here’s my recipe. 

Almost from scratch Caesar dressing 

2 small garlic cloves, grated

1 teaspoon anchovy paste (I know you want to skip it, but don’t!) 

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together. Add some oil to thin it out if it gets too thick. I transfer it into a bottle. It will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge. 

Kath’s quote: ‘Scratch’ has been used since the 18th century as a sporting term for a boundary or starting point which was scratched on the ground. The first such scratch was the crease which is a boundary line for batsmen in cricket. John Nyren’s Young Cricketer’s Tutor, 1833 records this line from a 1778 work by Cotton: “Ye strikers… Stand firm to your scratch, let your bat be upright.”

Love never fails.

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