To Scratch: 1. To create something from its most basic components. 2. To eliminate prefabricated components from a creation. 3. To create something with your hands.
It’s a pretty basic and simple concept, which is part of what I love so much about it. Scratching is the practice of removing as many possible pre-made items from what you are creating. The purpose of this is to produce the clearest, most direct expression of yourself, using whatever medium you wish. For the purpose of this blog the medium is FOOD.
Google “from scratch” and you find the following definition “from the very beginning, especially without utilizing or relying on any previous work for assistance.” Wikipedia adds “from basic materials or raw ingredients.”
The philosophy behind scratching is grounded in self-expression. Overwhelmingly, we are trained to go to the store and buy “products,” items conceived by others and mass-produced. What we gain in time-saved and energy-conserved, I argue we lose in self-expression and creativity. Many have spoken, written, and blogged about both the loss of flavor and affect on one’s health of using canned, processed, pre-packaged foods, but there are fewer who speak to the loss of satisfaction that comes from creating something made with your own hands, your own ideas, and your own carefully selected ingredients.
What is the cost of not expressing what is in us to express? A can of beans poured into a pot doesn’t get to speak for you, but when you take dried beans and guide them until the moment they are served, making every decision along the way (boil with onions? How much salt? A bay leaf? Parsley? One Carrot or two? Fresh tomatoes?), every little or big decision is you expressing you. It is you giving yourself to that dish, and ultimately the person who consumes it, which is infinitely more satisfying, soul-feeding, and taste-bud enjoying than what comes off a conveyor belt.
A simple way to translate this concept into your cooking is to pull up one of your favorite recipes and read through the ingredient list. How many of those items did you make yourself? How many did you have to buy at the supermarket? How many are canned, pre-packaged, and made up of multiple other ingredients? To scratch a dish you are cooking, work to replace as many of these types of items from your recipe with your own creations.
I am not AT ALL saying that using pre-packaged, canned, or store bought goods is bad or wrong or shouldn’t be done. To each their own, neh? The intention of this blog is to share my experiences of cooking from scratch. The more I made from scratch, the more I wanted to make from scratch. I found the process immensely fulfilling (read more about this here). I also found that with those with whom I have shared the process, who had previously identified themselves as anti-cooks, found food preparation from scratch not only not horrible, but deeply satisfying.
I love unconventional solutions. If you have something in your life that you hate, like cooking, and you know that it is something that you will have to participate in, in one way or another, embrace it and bring it all that much more into your life. I take myself as the prime example of this. I h a t e d cooking chicken before I started cooking from scratch. Resistant doesn’t begin to capture the experience. I found ways to avoid the dreaded experience by eating vegetarian, buying pre-made chicken, cooking only chicken parts (which were easier to manage), but the hateful experience remained.
Even though I had eliminated making chicken from my repertoire, it always loomed over me as this thing I was avoiding and resisting. And I was still filled with fear about the process. Scratching completely transformed the experience. Instead of inventing new and varied ways to avoid the experience, I decided to become a chicken aficionado. If friends, family, even complete strangers had questions about how to make great chicken, I was going to be the go-to person. I was going to master chicken. Choosing to embrace everything involved in preparing, cooking, and eating chicken changed my experience from dread to joy.
This same dynamic is also what I found when people who hated cooking started scratch cooking. In essence, they were spending more time and more energy doing the thing they “hated,” but in fact the increased investment and involvement transformed their experience. Go figure? But worth a try, no?
This blog is limited to cooking (so far), but scratching is not. It can be applied anywhere and everywhere. What form of creation (cooking, quilting, gardening, building, speaking, writing, painting, etc.) brings you to life, or do you consider could? Specific forms of creating allow you to express something of yourself that no other endeavor allows. Now you just have to ask yourself, “how can I break that form of creation, that form of expression down to its most basic components, so that I can put myself into every part of it?” THAT is what this blog is looking to inspire and answer through collaboration and continued experimentation.
And of course, GOOD EATS!