The ‘Oy’ of Cooking: 30 Days of Eating From Scratch

January 10, 2011 at 12:24 am 3 comments

Homemade Challah

A sandwich isn't such a quick bite when you have to make the bread...

We’ve all heard an awful lot about The Joy of Cooking over the years — both the book, and also the fact that learning to cook for yourself can be amazingly creative and fulfilling.  This idea is supported by pop culture every day — all you have to do is turn on the Food Network to feast your eyes on a smorgasbord of food fetishization. 

But a 2009 Michael Pollan piece in the New York Times introduced me to a different side of cooking altogether.  It started with a simple phrase that sounded an awful lot like a dare:

“Here’s my diet plan: Cook it yourself.  That’s it.  Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.”

In the summer of 2009, I embarked on a 30-day quest to eat only things that I cooked from scratch.  And with that, I discovered what I like to call the “oy” of cooking.

Want potato chips?  Get ready to slice up that potato, fry it, and season it.  Craving pizza?  Hope you have rennet lying around to curdle your mozzarella cheese.  Thinking about topping off your meal with some chocolate?  Well crack out the cocoa nibs and start grinding.

What follows is my adventure in cooking from scratch and all that I learned — including a much better understanding of food science, a deep respect and appreciation for everyday foods we take for granted, and the fact that I have an unnatural love for food puns

Would I do it again?  Sure, especially if I was on the lookout for the perfect diet.  (Trust me — you’re less likely to plow through a pile of potato chips in one sitting if you spent 45 minutes making them). 

But beyond that, I realized that the point of putting myself through food bootcamp wasn’t just to write a blog.  It was to learn and preserve techniques that have been perfected over generations (making a creamy yogurt, rolling out a perfectly round roti, or kneading a loaf of challah just right) — and even those that evolved more recently (sous-vide cooking, or learning to love the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer).  

When it comes to relying less on processed and packaged foods and moving to a sustainable and healthy way of eating, the journey continues every day — with lots of shortcuts (because, hey, there are only so many hours in a day), and for now, withtout the blogging. Happy reading!


Entry filed under: Food Anthropology. Tags: .

Thanksgiving From Scratch: Viva Sous-Vide!

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jillian Mckee  |  July 31, 2012 at 9:15 am


    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could e-mail me?


    • 2. shiwanis  |  August 23, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Sure thing… what’s the question?

  • 3. tabmanning  |  August 9, 2014 at 5:27 am

    I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog. I’m reading a book called Urban Kryptonite where it discusses how the inorganic foods we put into our organic bodies are killing us. So, I’ve been pondering how can I make everything I feed my family from scratch. I’m looking forward to what I can learn from your blog,


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