I raised my daughter as a single mom, and during those very busy years of working multiple jobs, going back to school, and being a single parent, my cooking went from being gourmet, make-it-from-scratch, to open two bags of Trader Joe's prepared foods, stir, heat and serve.
Before becoming a mom, I had run a small catering business in San Francisco and had been proud of my culinary skills. I'd spend a week preparing an Indian food feast for friends, and my pies were legendary. Making beautiful and delicious food made me happy. I got joy out of cooking for my daughter too, even when it was fast and basic and made with inexpensive ingredients. I always strove to make sure she ate the healthiest food I was capable of providing at the time. I missed the luxury of spending a day cooking. That became a special occasion activity my daughter and I would share ...making something together from scratch. For her 18th birthday, we spent a week making an Indian food feast for her friends from scratch, just like I used to do. The food was delicious, and the memory of us rolling out the samosa dough and flavoring the lassis together are sweet.
Life on the farm is busy and the days are long and tiring, but being more home-based, I find I have the ability to start slowing down and doing a bit more cooking. Once in awhile I have the time and energy to make something from scratch, and I've vowed to learn some skills I hadn't before, the primary one being bread making.
Bread making was a natural choice not only because to me it seems as fundamental as learning to drive stick shift, but also because we live in an area that is blessed with natural beauty but not bakeries. There are a few bakeries in town, but we rarely make it in to town, and the local bread's quality is ok, but not great.
I've made a few loaves now, starting with the simplest, no-knead bread, using a recipe on the back of the bag of King Arthur bread flour and am gaining confidence. The trick so far seems to be to use my heavy, cast iron dutch oven. Preheating it for a half hour before putting the dough in actually renders a nice, crunchy crust.
I also have started boiling my own beans rather than reaching for the can opener. Such a simple thing that saves so much money and yet, as many working people know, takes time and being home, and our modern life doesn't seem to lend itself to that much, does it? Funny how something like boiling beans can make you appreciate working from home.
I have new culinary feats I want to try - I've never made pickles! I want to master jam and jelly making! Walnut Liqueur! When you have the raw ingredients at hand in abundant supply, learning how to preserve and prepare them is a no-brainer. Farming is giving me yet another wonderful gift in that it is reconnecting me to the kitchen and allowing me to slow down and get out my bowls and pots. I'll never forget those years of scratching by on one paycheck, buying two carrots at a time because that was all I could afford, buying a basket of strawberries and giving every single one to my daughter because I wanted her to have as much good food as possible, having an hour between my day job and my night job to make dinner and have some time with my little boo. I feel very blessed and lucky to have the time and resources to make my own bread now. I know this is not the reality for many, and I feel spoiled sometimes by this gift of the simplest thing- having the time to make my own food from scratch. Sometimes simple isn't so simple.