I’ve been pondering this question for a little while, after reading this post over at Taylor Made Ranch. How homemade is it?
We met up with some friends over the weekend. These friends are also living a simple life, although I don’t think they have defined it as such. They aspire towards having a farm or smallholding, they make the most amazing walnut wine, use cloth nappies with their small son, and knit lovely homemade gifts. (They gave me a fabulous hat for Christmas.) We were talking about how do-it-yourself and many of the old skills so often discussed, rehearsed and learned in the online simple living community - cooking from scratch, making your own cheese and so on.
We were discussing whether something is really homemade if you get a kit. If you don’t source and measure the ingredients yourself, but everything comes pre-measured, pre-washed, pre-prepared, and you just have to mix it and stick it into the oven. A posher version of instant cake mix.
I would see this approach as a stepping stone or halfway house. For instance, my little cousins make their own Christmas cake. They are able to do this at the age of 8 and 10 because they get a kit, with all the candied citrus and dried fruits included. When you’re learning - at whatever age - it’s a great way to get started, minimising your risk, your initial outlay, stacking the odds in favour of success.
But I think you should ideally want to move past this. If you are baking your own cakes but ALWAYS buy pre-measured kits, for years, then this feels a little like cheating. It also undermines the cost saving side of doing it yourself, which I feel is important.
However, how far should you take this? Where is the line? Is a half-baked loaf which you bought in the supermarket and finish off in the oven for ten minutes homemade? (By the way, whenever you see somewhere offering sandwiches or bread ‘baked in store/here’, this is what they mean.) I bake bread using flour, yeast, water and salt - but I don’t grind the flour myself, or grow the grain. The yeast is shop-bought, not a homegrown sourdough starter.
I frequently find myself wanting to take things ‘back’ a notch - to go from mending a jumper to knitting a jumper to dyeing the wool to spinning the yarn to carding the fleece to shearing the sheep… At what point is it homemade? It’s a sliding scale, rather than an either/or.
I sometimes feel that it’s not enough, I’m not doing enough of these things, but I keep reminding myself that as with a cake kit, it’s a stepping stone. My first cheese will probably be made from shop-bought yoghurt, but my second might be from homemade yoghurt using shop-bought milk, and maybe one day I will have a goat for milk in the back garden.