Today it seems like fewer and fewer people understand what “homemade” or “made from scratch” or “fresh” mean. These terms describe how people ate back in the 1950’s and earlier.
One could almost refer to this time in food history as the “pre-Wonder Bread” era. I remember in the early 1960’s when we first saw Wonder Bread- it seemed an amazing novelty because it was incredibly light and fluffy. We didn’t stop to think about how it got that way- that it had been stripped of all its natural nutrients.
Homemade used to mean more than just “assembled” in your kitchen- by combining pre-fab mixes and spice packets. Cookies are not homemade or made from scratch if you simply baked them in your kitchen using a refrigerated roll of factory made dough.
Made from scratch meant that no ingredient- no component of the recipe was pre-made in any way. Every single component of the recipe was a singular food item. Food made from scratch has disappeared from most kitchens today.
Today fresh seems to mean either not frozen or not rotten. Fresh is defined by those of us who grew up back then as just picked off a tree, straight out of the ground, or straight off a vine. That’s the highest meaning of fresh.
The study of linguistics tells us that language is a living breathing entity and that if people decide to change or adopt a meaning, then doing so makes that adaptation acceptable. Apparently the original definitions of the terms “made from scratch,” “homemade,” and “fresh” are outdated. Maybe these terms have met the fate of the dinosaurs. Let’s hope not.
Why is any of this important? It’s important because we don’t know all that we’re really eating or how the edible chemical ingredients are affecting us when our food is factory made rather than made from scratch.
Factory made foods have all sorts of considerations that homemade and made from scratch foods don’t have. Factory food must have mass appeal. Artificial ingredients are added to make food appear more attractive and to extend shelf-life. Flavor enhancers- flavor potentiators are added to ensure that the fat, sugar, and salt doesn’t fail to excite and ignite the taste buds of the consuming majority.
What’s wrong with that? Now food tastes so unnaturally good that the taste rather than hunger is driving the eating and we’re able to eat inordinately large amounts of food. Appetite distortion happens. Having an appetite used to mean that you were hungry. Now it means you’re in the mood to eat.
Eating when you’re hungry and stopping before you’re stuffed is no longer a guiding concept for eating. We end up eating more than we need to eat before we’ve realized it.
Even if you’re conscious about eating the proper amount of food, it’s a constant tug-o-war between appetite (the mood or desire to eat) and true hunger (the body’s need for fuel).
I suggest we focus on each of us discovering how much fuel we need- no extra-no shortage. Then we can wisely learn to discern how to best enjoy our required allotment.
When we use laboratory ingredients to improve taste, we don’t realize when we’re full because the flavor potentiators trick our body into a state of confusion. Before we realize it we’re uncomfortably stuffed- yet often undernourished by what we’ve eaten.
As a young child I watched my mother make pasta using only eggs, flour, and a pinch of salt. She made doughnuts from the same kind of flour and coated them with sugar by shaking the hot cake doughnuts in a brown paper bag. We had green beans growing in our back yard garden as well as several fruit trees. I once watched my mother catch a chicken. I’ll leave out the details on all that happened to the chicken from when she caught it running in the yard until she got it into the frying pan.
I was in a nationally acclaimed diner the other day and observed the pies in the display case. These pies looked homemade mainly because the meringue was at least five inches high.
I had to discover the truth about these pies before I indulged either money or calories on them.
My server assured me that they were made from scratch- that the restaurant pie maker came in regularly just to make the pies and pastries and that all their pastries are made in-house by hand from scratch.
I had a really hard time believing this- maybe because I spent my early childhood in the Show-Me State of Missouri. It’s so rare nowadays for a restaurant to make food from scratch- especially a large volume restaurant.
I was trying to be polite and courteous but my disbelief must have been obvious. He summoned the manager to further assure me.
To my surprise and delight the manager invited me to come downstairs to see for myself exactly where all these beautiful pies were made. I felt honored and was so excited to get a sort of peek behind the curtain.
These people were so nice- I’ll never forget how nicely they treated me. But the reality of what I saw is a disappointment I’ll never forget.
I saw their restaurant supplies- cans and cans of pre-made mixes. If their pies were truly made from scratch these restaurant supplies would have been unnecessary. I would have seen only basic ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, fresh strawberries and fresh apples. Instead I saw giant cans of apple filling and strawberry glaze. But these individuals believed they were making homemade pies. Instead they were assembling pie on the premises. Not any part of the pies was made from scratch.
Each time I think about that restaurant experience I’m somehow saddened. These people were trying so hard and putting a lot of sincere effort and love into feeding people- all the while unconscious of how they were missing the important mark of feeding people real, whole foods.
The solution to obesity in our country could be for each of us to get in touch with our true hunger, to eliminate all artificial ingredients from our daily diet, and to eat food that is not just homemade, but made from scratch. Keep restaurant visits to a minimum- unless you have a favorite haunt that makes the food from scratch on site.
Try to eat food made from scratch. Get away from the Frankenstein foods that can only be made with the help of food scientists and their brilliant laboratories. Eat food made by Mother Nature- food that grows in a garden or hangs from a tree or bush. Learn to use spices to make your food taste great!
It’s easy to understand what has happened to our food. If you were a factory owner who had invested millions of dollars in your business operation you’d do everything you could to ensure your return on investment. So what if you throw into the recipe a few edible chemicals to ensure success? So plenty!
Factories could show more integrity and less fear by creating healthy choices instead of trying to trick us with chemical ingredients they’ve so cutely named flavor enhancers and flavor potentiators.
Granted not everything about food and farm life back in the day is better than today. We’ve gained beneficial knowledge over the years about what not to eat-like undesirable fats- but we still need lots more research about foods and edible non-food ingredients and how they affect us.
Meanwhile, let’s not forget the old school meanings of homemade, made from scratch, and fresh. We don’t have to accept a rigged food system that causes hunger signal distortion. We have kitchens in our homes.
Let’s not rely upon factories to make our food. Let’s not buy food that has been “rigged” to make sure our taste buds won’t forget it so that ultimately company executives will get richer while America becomes obese.
Eating factory made food rather than made from scratch or homemade with fresh ingredients will never be a solution to reducing healthcare costs or creating a healthier America. Do I hear an Amen?