Posted by: foodtalker | June 11, 2011

home grown

The credit crunch has made people frugal – and industrious.  Does everything these days have to be homemade?  Now it seems there’s a backlash against anything that is store-bought.

A few weeks ago I went to a party and took the hostess some chocolate cheesecake brownies.  She put them on a plate and passed them around.  Everyone seemed happy.  Right up until someone asked: “Did you make these?”

It’s no longer enough to bring something, I have to claim having made it too?  I said no, I hadn’t made the brownies and in an effort to redeem myself pointed out that they were Fair Trade, that no animals had been exploited or harmed and my employees were well paid.  No one cared.  The guests continued chewing, but disappointment hung in the air. 

I am in the food business and it’s just assumed I personally make every morsel produced.  Food fairies are at work in the wings.

Suddenly, instead of making money, people have started making cookies.  My friend Laura was excited about a new man she’d met.  She loves that he bakes and makes pasta from scratch and declared: “He’s very self-sufficient.”  Why?  Because he knows how to make a peanut butter cookie and can shove his dough through a hand-cranked ravioli machine?

The other day I ran into a friend on the street and made a comment that I loved her hat.  She took it off and handed it to me.  “It’s yours,” she smiled.  “I made it.”

It was like a scene out of Fiddler on the Roof.  Only instead of a Russian Shtetl, we were in Lexington, Kentucky.  I know that times are tough but is this what it has come to?  People are making things and giving them away.  No wonder stores are closing.

Generally speaking I am not good at making craft things.  I’ve tried in the past but it hasn’t worked out.  Sure I can come up with something edible but not every occasion calls for food and I’ve discovered no one really wants a poem for their birthday.

There are people who are not only good at making things but actually enjoy it.  Ella, for example, will always make a homemade card, the kind you’ll want to spend money having framed later.  Every year the cards become more creative.  She has an arsenal of glue guns and glitter, rhinestones and markers; and she puts pressure on herself to improve upon previous years.  When she’s making a card, she’s in lockdown.

Giving homemade gifts is one thing, receiving them is another.  A good friend gave me a scarf she had knitted and I love it and wear it all the time.  The wearing of it has caused some loops to come undone so I sent her an email concerned that it might unravel.  She wrote back: I did the best I could.

It wasn’t a criticism, it was an enquiry.  Should I have said nothing?  I was looking to extend the life of her gift.

Making something should be a magnanimous gesture with no expectations that it will be reciprocated or even appreciated.  If I buy someone a handbag, I don’t want to feel badly that I didn’t tan the leather.

Not everyone is willing or able to bake their own bread or grow their own vegetables.  There are plenty of reasons I let people down – not being able to hand-embroider a kimono shouldn’t be one of them.

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