Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back to Basics

I was wondering out loud to Joe the other day when it became the norm to purchase most things we use in and around the house. I know that in the past 15 years convenience foods have become much more popular; when we were growing up my mom cooked and once in a very great while - for a huge treat- we'd go to McDonalds for dinner. Our big night out! My mom didn't work when we were growing up so of course she prepared dinner for our family every night.

Now it's unusual for both parties in a household not to be working. Dinners are naturally much more on the fly, since there isn't anyone at home who has the time (or energy) to prepare it. So the evolution of take out and prepared foods makes sense to me.

But what about all our household products? When did people start purchasing things that can almost just as easily be made from scratch? Was it in the post-war 40's? Or the 50's? I'm curious.

Until fairly recently I never even realized (and I'd wager that most people aren't aware of this) that most household products can be made quite easily. Sure, we all know that cooking can be done from scratch, that's one of the most obvious things. But household cleaners, soap, fabric softener and laundry detergent can all be made as well. None of these things takes a very long time or are particularly difficult to make, we're just in the habit of picking these things up at the store, maybe because that's how it's always been done during our lifetimes.

I suppose it depends upon each person's motivation and desire how much they are willing to do. I like making my own household cleaners because I know what I put into them and that there aren't any harsh chemicals or irritating fragrances. I've been making my own laundry detergent, which if I do say so myself, works better than anything I've purchased at a store. It has a fresh scent, isn't perfumed and costs pennies per load. Vinegar is a wonderful fabric softener and doesn't leave any odor at all on the clothes.

We've experimented with making our own Bailey's Irish Cream (delicious!) and even our own ice cream. It's easy and tastes amazing. I'm sure we'll experiment more with the ice cream in the summer, but we've gotten pretty good and found some recipes that we both like. We made a delicious egg nog ice cream for Christmas eve that I think is destined to become an annual tradition. A little fresh nutmeg on top and voila! a culinary delight. Again, I love knowing that there is only cream, an egg yolk and whatever flavors we decide to put in. Totally natural.

My brother makes his own beer, and Joe has brewed as well. This process seems quite involved and more effort than I would personally would want to go to; however, both Joe and my brother love their beer and I can completely understand wanting to make your own and being in control of the ingredients that go into it. It's part of the process of enjoying something when you create it.

Once upon a time I imagine everyone made everything from scratch, from food, to beer, to cleaning products. As our lives have become busier and our time more pressed we've cut down on doing things for ourselves and believe the marketers when they tell us that their products are superior to those that we can create. I'm actually thankful to have the time to be able to get back to basics and be doing things the way they were done in the good old days.

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