Food: Why Make Your Own?

Among the sentences I never thought I’d utter (from a list that dwindles annually): I’m looking into buying tofu forms.

No, last I checked, you don’t have to fill out forms to buy tofu. (Unless the 41st try at repealing Obamacare succeeds. I dunno. Leave me alone.) What I mean is, I’m going to buy the apparatus one uses to make and shape one’s own tofu, instead of buying tofu at the store.

Some of you are wrestling with the threshold question of why I’m eating tofu anyway. You may want to try another blog; there’s nothing for you here. I’m eating it because I have an adventurous palate, and Asian dishes intrigue me. I’ve been to Japan a lot, and I developed a taste for soy bean curd. It’s healthy too, which is a big focus for me and my family these days.

You can make fresh tofu by cooking soybeans in boiling water, adding a coagulant called nigari, and pressing the curds into a bamboo form.

You can make fresh tofu by cooking soybeans in boiling water, adding a coagulant called nigari, and pressing the curds into a bamboo form.

But why make my own? Why even try, when there are shelves of the stuff in the grocery store? Fair question. Consider:

  • I’m a food hobbyist. Making my own anything is not a matter of convenience, but adventure. I like to cook; so does my wife. I understand food more when I see how it’s made, and consequently, I enjoy it more. There’s also a feeling of accomplishment at having created something edible, and good, from basic ingredients.
  • What goes in our bodies is more important — and murkier — than ever before. Food author Michael Pollan suggested operating by the basic rule, “If your great-grandmother wouldn’t have recognized it as food, don’t eat it.” Surely this banishes fruit roll-ups (yuck) and the like. But what of the plethora of packaged, prepared items masquerading as food? Or qualifying as food but being…just plain bad? Be it the taste or the horse-choking portion of sodium, some packaged foods flirt with the poison moniker. After a thorough investigation of the grocery aisles of many countries, and a look at their populations, I’m more convinced than ever that processed foods are the downfall of the American diet. Our strident obesity levels prove it. People eat hearty in other countries; they just eat more fresh food and less junk that has traded nutrition and taste for so-called convenience. For all these reasons, I like to know what I’m putting in my body. Now, I’m well aware that that last sentence usually has listeners imagining my younger self in scenes from Woodstock and looking for an escape route. But face it: you don’t have to be a stereotypical flower child to be conscious of your diet. Not anymore. Bottom line is, I want control.
  • It tastes better. In a post here on why we make our own pasta, I wrote about the quality of the stuff we ate in Italy, and how it inspired us to make pasta at home. We simply couldn’t bear to just pull a box off the shelf anymore. The results of our efforts proved tastier, and perhaps for that reason, the work involved seemed lighter. Same with baking bread or making gelato. We do both things less often, and therefore eat such foods less frequently, because of the time and effort involved, but we enjoy the products of our labor more. Pizza night at our house was always an event, but now even more so because my wife has mastered the kind of crispy crust we raved about in the little village of Chiusi. And the things she can do with goat cheese and tomatoes….suffice to say, the pizza man never rings our doorbell anymore.

In a way, it’s like woodworking. The woodworker doesn’t feel compelled to fill his house with homemade furniture any more than I’ve gone completely off prepared foods. (For instance, I have neither the time nor inclination to make my own peanut butter when Smucker’s Natural is so good.) But the woodworker will labor lovingly over a side table that he knows his family will enjoy, and be proud when they praise it. So it is that my wife will work hard on her homemade pizza crust, and I do my best when I make pasta, and on and on.

It’s been said that there are few greater acts of love than preparing food for those close to you. By taking a lot of our food preparation in-house, we’re just spreading the love wall-to-wall.

Abbondanza.♦

© 2013 Adam Barr

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