Because I label most things here on my blog as “homemade”, I occasionally do some pondering on that word. What does homemade really mean? Does it mean different things to different people? Can we qualify something as “homemade” just because we somehow brought it to completion “in our home”? Here are the kinds of things that happen in my life that get me thinking . . . .
~ I recently saw a potholder with the slogan on it “If I have to stir it, it’s homemade!”
~ When I asked my 90 year old widowed father if he’s doing OK making meals on his own he replied, “Well, I guess I don’t really cook but I can heat things up pretty good!” Are these homemade meals?
~ If you’re asked to bring treats to an event and you use a box of brownie mix, did you bring “homemade” brownies?
~ When I hear some women say their husbands “make dinner” I always wonder what that means. A frozen pizza? Or is he making his own special signature chili recipe from scratch?
~ Should I even worry about any of this ?!?
The Expectation of Ingredients and Effort
I think the reason I bother to give this any thought and energy at all is because it’s good to have clarity. If we’re using a word, it’s good to know the expectations around that word and what it really means.
And the word Homemade definitely carries some expectations with it. When we hear that word our mind quickly decides that something more happened than a bit of stirring or heating. We immediately have visions of ingredients being lovingly gathered together and made into something a bit more unique and special. We want “homemade” to equal “you just can’t get this anywhere”.
We want the maker of the thing to have some intimate knowledge of what ingredients went into it, and to have expended some effort to bring it to completion.
It’s often hoped that when you say homemade, that you took the path just a little bit less traveled.
A New Expectation for “Homemade”
But here’s the thing about using the word Homemade. We shouldn’t use it to create guilt or to set the bar so high it discourages people from even beginning.
Let’s face it. Homemade will mean different things to different people. You have to begin where you are and find a level that works for you. Homemade should bring you satisfaction and a measure of happiness, and that will manifest differently for different life situations.
And that’s the expectation I try to remind myself to use. That when someone uses the word “homemade” that hopefully no matter where they are on the journey, or whatever life happens to currently be handing them, that they received satisfaction and pleasure from whatever stirring, baking, or heating they were able to find time for.
And yes, Homemade is often a journey and it can look like this . . .
Beginning Steps: I’ll stir together these premixed ingredients. This is the starting point for many cooks. With such a wide variety of cake mixes, noodles mixes, drink mixes, and spice mixes, it almost seems foolish to spend your time looking for alternatives. The end product is usually tasty and so it seems like a fine way to make your food at home. But it can be more expensive and you begin to wonder what mystery ingredients are lurking in all those mixes. So this leads you to . . . . .
Next Steps: I’ll mix my own ingredients. At this stage you’re more likely to be measuring out your flour and sugar when baking a cake, or you’re experimenting more with your spice rack. But chances are you still rely on things like a can of diced tomatoes, or some cream of whatever soup. Maybe then you begin to think about how you could make those things too and you move on to . . . . .
Still Moving Along: I’ll find a way to make my own ingredients Now you’re doing things like canning quarts of your own tomato sauce straight from your garden’s tomatoes, or looking for a source for wheat berries so you can grind your own flour. You want close contact from start to finish with more and more of the ingredients that are finding their way onto the family’s table.
Grace for the Homemade Journey
Here’s the thing with the homemade journey. You’ll probably find yourself going back and forth! For instance:
~ A busy new mom may temporarily abandon some of her favorite scratch recipes for pre-made mixes because it’s the current best use of her time and energy.
~ A retiree may find great pleasure in re-discovering the pleasure of canning peaches, pears, and applesauce after years of being too busy to indulge in that favorite hobby.
~ A person may receive an allergy diagnosis that requires them to suddenly dig deep and find new ways to make homemade food solutions from scratch.
~ An elderly person who used to cook all the time now finds it too difficult and needs a few more ready-made shortcuts for eating meals at home.
So yes, Homemade will mean different things to different people at different times. It used to kind of bug me when people would rather carelessly use the word “Homemade”. As I said earlier, I like to have clarity! Don’t be calling that frozen pizza a homemade dinner!
But now I’m reminding myself that we all need a little grace for the journey. What homemade means to me right now, might not be the same for you. In fact some of you may read this blog and think, heck, she’s not even raising her own chickens or grinding her own wheat or anything! She’s not very homemade!
But hopefully where I’m at in my journey will be able to continue to inspire others to give something a try. If you want to “Make Your Own”, I hope you find some encouragement here;
No matter where you are on YOUR journey . . .
And no matter what homemade means to YOU.