Resorting to kitchen basics in trying times


Erin Holve

Baking and cooking from scratch can be inconvenient but it saves money, lasts longer and provides an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Frustration is rampant in the kitchen. 

The Facebook video made it look so easy to bake bread. Follow a few quick instructions and voila, you’re a baker. Instead, my mother is in a panic, hands filled with a hunk of sticky dough. 

This is exactly how I expected the endeavor to turn out. Two unhinged hens running around the kitchen, clucking at one another as the food sits unattended. When my mother asked if I wanted to bake some bread with her, I said yes. But internally, I dragged my feet like a child on their first day of school after summer break. 

At the height of exasperation, all I’m thinking is ‘why am I spending part of my time doing this?’ A vision of my teenage self comes to mind, as I act like it’s a burden to bake with my mother.

As the clouds of flour clear and settle on the kitchen counter, floor and my clothes, the mood shifts. Loud, joyful cackles are released into the air. Now that the storm has passed, you wonder why you didn’t take time to indulge in the rainfall. 

Tongues swipe over lips like a cat after it feasts when the sweet smell of rising bread hits the air. Baking bread with my mother no longer feels like a childhood chore. Instead, I am filled with a sense of joy and accomplishment. 

With a few ingredients, we were able to create something that was delicious and would last us for the week. We still have the ingredients to make more and they didn’t cost us much. This made me think about the lack of food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As more and more people lose their jobs or are laid off, there is heightened worry about where the next meal will come from. College students make up a large percentage of those lacking food security. 

We can predict how concerns with food security will play out by looking at the 2008 recession. 

“The number of food-insecure U.S. households rose from 13.0 million (11.1 percent of all households) in 2007 to 17.1 million (14.6 percent) in 2008,” Margaret Andrews and Mark Nord said in their USDA 2009 report, “Food Insecurity Up in Recessionary Times”. 

I am in a very secure position in my life and food security is not a problem I face day-to-day. Many people, especially students, are struggling to maintain food security.  This can lead to increased anxiety and depression which are already running high due to rapid changes in their housing situations and precarious employment. 

A contributing factor to food insecurity could be that many people, often younger, lack cooking knowledge. They struggle to cook on a budget. Take-out and ordering in are the preferred methods for dealing with stressful schedules and a lack of time management. 

“In fact, the popularity of the home-cooked meal isn’t just dwindling, it’s costing the average family thousands of dollars every year,” states a new survey, Cooking Nightmares, commissioned by Porch. 

The Porch survey goes on to say that take-out has become a habit that “accounts for roughly 43% of most American food expenses, and one couple even found their annual tab for dining out cost them over $30,000.” 

I suggest that we look at previous generations who made most of their meals from scratch. The Greatest Generation was thrifty while dealing with WWI and it paid off big time. 

It wasn’t about who had the most of any product, it was who could make those products last longer. Maybe it’s time we reverted to these practices. 

Clearly, there has been a boost in the sale of baking products. Sometimes it’s hard to find the staple items you need, such as flour and sugar. 

Once you get your hands on them, use them frugally to make home-cooked meals and other dishes that can last long. In the long run this will save you a lot of money. 

One way is to bake goods such as bread, soups, meatloaf and goulash which use older products to make something new.  

The Greatest Generation saw dining out as a luxury and pre-cooked food not as an option. We are lucky to have these options in our daily lives, but now that we are in a global crisis, it’s time to try old school tactics to battle food insecurity. 

Baking and cooking from scratch can be inconvenient but it saves money, lasts longer and provides an amazing sense of accomplishment. I’m not going to completely glorify making foods from scratch because there were clear moments when I was frustrated. 

Yet, in the end, I felt proud and my mom took such joy in the two of us spending time together. We can all agree that not all traditions are great for society, but cooking may be a nice habit to dust off and use during these trying times. 

Link to recipe: