Re: Scratch

1

I'd say pie crust and, for 99% of recipes, mayonnaise.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:12 AM
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Baby food.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:16 AM
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Canned tomatoes. Mark actually cooks and skins his own tomatoes for sauce. Fuck that.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:18 AM
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KFC fried chicken. I've made fried chicken only twice in my life, and it was pretty bad.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:19 AM
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Oh wait, I was reading it backwards. Certainly not baby food. And certainly not mayonnaise. When I first moved to Chile I was dismayed by the extreme popularity of mayonnaise, until I had tried enough homemade mayonnaise to get it. It should be creamy, not gelatinous.

I rely heavily on prepared tomato sauce as a base.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:21 AM
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butter.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:26 AM
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Canned tomatos certainly - most Italians would think you were crazy to use anythhing else - and pie crust certainly. Frozen peas, broad beans, on the basis that podding enough peas for a lot of people is seriously low utility. Usually bread, but sometimes you have to make it. Stock granules/cubes.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:33 AM
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I feel like there should be some ground rules here. I mean. I can always say that buying my own eggs is just as good - if not better - than that ill-fated chicken coop experiment.


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:34 AM
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Beef. Chicken. Pork. Fish.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:36 AM
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I agree with all the suggestions in 7. Canned tomatoes are easily the equal of fresh for cooked sauces unless you've sought out some seriously expensive/high-quality tomatoes and spent a lot of time preparing them.

I never make pasta. I much prefer dried durum-wheat pasta to fresh egg pasta.

Thai curry pastes, I tend to buy [Mae Ploy or similar]. Fresh is nicer, but making the fresh stuff is a hassle. On the other hand, if I am making a thai soup [rather than a curry to be served with rice] I tend not to use the shop-bought stuff.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:39 AM
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okay, i thought i had one end of absurdity covered, with 'butter'.

(also, possibly, one end of absurdity covered with butter).

but in all seriousitude:
anybody who lists "pie crust" or "bread" is just telling me they don't know how to bake.
i mean, i'm only a *mediocre* pie baker, and i can make a better crust than any i have purchased.
a really *good* pie-baker can make crusts that transform your idea of pie.
(and not in a soulless, robot-pie direction.)
only once, about twenty years ago, did i have a store-bought pie that had a crust comparable to home made. it was at a little fruit stand in rural delaware. the pie was blueberry.
sigh....
pie good...!


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:41 AM
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Definitely tomatoes, and, in defiance of bitzer, crusts of all sorts. I'm not saying that homemade pie crusts aren't better than store-bought, but I'm convinced it's not better enough to be worth the effort.

I like making pasta, but only for very special occasions.

On the other had, mayo is so easy to make homemade, and so much better than the store-bought stuff, that I'll just about always make my own rather than buy some.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:50 AM
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I guess I don't really knwo how to bake, because I never think a homemade pie crust makes enough of a difference to be worthwhile. But maybe this is because my pie fillings are so yummy as to always compel all of one's attention.
Ditto canned tomatoes.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:52 AM
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8: Chickens do not cooperate well, being dumb as rocks.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:52 AM
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you *defy* bitzer?!

puny mortal, prepare to pie!


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:53 AM
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For me, everything. But for example, my mashed potatoes are good, but I can't make good fried potatoes of any kind.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:54 AM
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Also, I have not been impressed with my homemade bread crumbs. That stuff int he canister with all he salt and seasonings is better than what I can efficiently drum up.
ALso, eating homemade ice cream, as I remember from childhood anyway, is not attended by the choir of angels I thought it would be.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:55 AM
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The pie crust question hinges on whether you have a food processor. With one it's pretty inconvenient, but potentially justifiable. Without one it's almost impossible.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:56 AM
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Oh! Stocks and broths. Homemade is vastly superior, but time and freezer space often prevent me from using as much homemade as I'd like. Buying a quart of chicken broth is all-too convenient.

(On the other hand, I still have a couple quarts of homemade lobster stock in the freezer that I ought to use soon, and a couple ziploc bags of chicken parts just waiting to become stock. Next free weekend...)


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:56 AM
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13--
but that's part of what makes great pie-crust great--
the way it stays in the background, and lets the filling take center-stage.
most store-bought crusts are either too sweet, too gummy, or too cardboardy or all of these.

i've got to agree with you about canned tomatoes, though.
they can really compel all of one's attention, especially when
they hit you upside the head.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:56 AM
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Dude, fresh peas are really good. No one seems to eat them in this country, but I miss the days of my childhood, with shelling and eating fresh peas. Yum.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:56 AM
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Stock granules/cubes

This is one of the only things I'm adamant about requiring to be homemade. Probably just because I like making stock, though-- saving scraps appeals to both the spendthrift and the packrat in me.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:57 AM
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Canned tomatoes for me, too. Canned black beans. When I live in Berkeley, bread. When I live in Ohio, definitely not bread. Vegetable stock from scratch is better than the stuff in the tetra pak, but I always use the latter instead.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:58 AM
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Every recipe that I've ever read that calls for a flakey baked shell for something (like in baked brie, for example) says, "Just use Pillsbury crescent rolls, they're almost as good as making it from scratch and like a hundred million times easier."

I don't have the baking chops to make my own flakey pastries, so I'm happy to take the recipes at their word.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 10:59 AM
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I also use the expensive frozen puff pastry (the kind made with butter) instead of making my own. Similarly, of course, filo dough.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:01 AM
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17: I like making ice cream because you can make it less sweet. Coffee ice cream with little to no sugar = yum.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:01 AM
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Honestly, I feel pretty crunchy when I make my own popsicles; I probably don't belong in this thread. All this talk of stock and cubes is intimidating me.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:02 AM
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24--
"and like a hundred million times easier".

i'm glad the recipes are written colloquially now.

"peel and slice carrots into, like, chunks or lumps or whatever."

"add mushrooms to pan and sautee the bejeesus out of them."

"season with thyme, fresh oregano, and dude, why am i telling you what to put on your own fucking salad?"


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:04 AM
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Canned tomatoes. If I have a really nice tomato that is gorgeous and tasty, I'm probably just going to slice it and eat it. Pasta. I love fresh pasta, but I've had it maybe twice in my life and I don't feel all that deprived. Bread, too, because there's a good bakery two blocks from here.

I find pie crust to be a royal pain in the ass such that half of the time it turns out gummy anyway, so I might as well not have spent the time trying to make it ungummy.

To be honest I'm not sure we should be counting frozen vegetables and canned vegetables as a convenience food, because frozen peas don't seem to be in the same category as frozen pasta dinners. Those are just preserved foods, not convenience foods.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:05 AM
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18 is right; everything is easier with two or three specific machines. I don't eat much cornbread, but I don't make it from mix since it isn't that difficult. If I ate it all the time, I still wouldn't make it from a mix. Phyllo is hard. That I get from the store.

Tomato sauce isn't hard, and pasta isn't hard either, but in all instances I have canned tomatoes (but it's a lot of work to make sure to get a unsalted, unflavored tomato sauce), and store-bought pasta on hand from backup. Same with cakes. I have cake mixes, but I will make it from scratch if I have the time.

I actually agree about the bread crumbs, but I just buy the plain stuff, since the flavored stuff is going to collide with half the things I make. I use canned stock as a starter/additive to some things (and then skip the salt), but that's mainly because of a frequent scrap shortage.

max
['I think the answer to the actual question in the post is 'nothing' if I have a choice.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:06 AM
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31

And fresh peas are awesome.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:07 AM
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32

Canned beans definitely count though!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:09 AM
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A German friend of mine living here used to make his own pretzels. He got his girlfriend to steal the lye for them from her lab.

I buy yogurt and certain bread products ready-made in Germany, and can only get things comparable here by making them myself. So I mostly just don't eat those things here. (My two years of being a hardcore yogurt maker are not quite understandable to me any more.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:09 AM
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problem with fresh peas is the damned kids eat 'em before they get to the table.
we grew them a year ago, and we'd find the kids out in the garden grazing on them.
even scare-crows didn't help.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:09 AM
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28: Well, the recipes I write are.

I think actually there's a good case for using informal language in recipes to designate what's sensitive and what's not. Like, you could have, "Finely dice celery and mix into sauce slowly; then chop some tomatoes up however the fuck you want and dump 'em in." Indicating that you should be careful with the celery, but the tomatoes aren't going to be a big deal no matter what you do.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:11 AM
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36

Yes, that's true, because they're cooked and very salty. And useful because otherwise you have to remember to soak the beans ahead of time.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:11 AM
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37

He got his girlfriend to steal the lye

Pretzels require lye?


Posted by: destroyers | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:14 AM
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38

Pie dough is not hard to make.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:14 AM
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My siblings are here and they're equally confused.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:15 AM
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37--
sure, and bagels do too, when properly made.

it's like salt; it raises the boiling point.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:16 AM
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And useful because otherwise you have to remember to soak the beans ahead of time.

Cook's Illustrated maintained at one point that you don't need to soak black beans. I intend to find out for myself tonight. (At long last—original intent was to find out on Thursday.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:16 AM
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Actually, I think the lye reacts with the flour to make the crust crisper.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:19 AM
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43

Those of us who cook in a somewhat more bachelor mode -- where making anything from scratch is decidedly the exception to the rule and the concept of making your own pasta is thoroughly alien -- should probably answer this question in reverse: for what foods can you just not tolerate the convenience / packaged / frozen version? For me, it's store-bought curry mixes of any kind.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:19 AM
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40--
although this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling-point_elevation

says it's basically an urban legend.
fucking chemists. what do they know?
who ya gonna call: avogadro?


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:19 AM
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45

Is Jiffy paying for this? Everybody needs to include brandnames. Free food!

I am trying to think of anything I eat prepared. Salad dressing, I guess. Just read that canned tuna is better than fresh. All my veggies & fruits are fresh, but I just wash & eat.

I have gotten weevils with Jiffy. I used to use freash tomatoes with pasta, but it was a really light sauce, marinara? How bout Parmesan? Anybody shred their own?

Babble.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:19 AM
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The thing I like about good canned, rinsed black beans is (a) I find the taste and texture pleasant, which is not the case with many other kinds of beans, and (b) they are essentially instant. I do have plans to buy some really nice quality, very fresh dried black beans (and beans of other persuasions) from Rancho Gordo -- I have a feeling I will find those worth the effort.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:20 AM
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I have gotten weevils with Jiffy.

Extra protein! Jiffy always goes that extra mile.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:21 AM
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48

Lye is for soft pretzels, not the crisp kind. It gives them that shiny, chewy crust.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:22 AM
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49

(Or so I thought, anyhow.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:22 AM
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Quoth Alton Brown: "Dipping our uncooked pretzels in a weak lye solution will instantly gelatinize starches on the surface of the dough, and break proteins down into small peptide chains, that will brown rapidly in the oven, creating the characteristic nutty flavor and color we want, without the hardening that so often accompany the Maillard reactions."


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:23 AM
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I always, always grate my own Parmesan. I also always make my own salad dressing.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:24 AM
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you don't need to soak black beans

Technically, you don't. But they'll hold their shape better (resist breaking apart and turning to mush should you happen to cook them a wee bit too long) if you do soak. You don't have to soak them for as long as you might other beans; even an hour will help.

I tend to skip soaking if I don't care if the beans break apart a bit, say for black bean soup or chili; but do it for, say, black bean salad.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:24 AM
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Just made a bday cake from scratch, much to my father's surprise.

Good convenience foods: pre-washed and chopped veggies and fruit. Not superior, because they don't usually taste as fresh, but good enough.

Canned tomatoes and beans, yes. Pie crust?!?!? Blashpemy--and I don't own a food processor. It isn't that damn hard, people.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:26 AM
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I totally disagree with the canned tomato consensus emerging here. I always, always, always taste the can. The Parmalat vacuum-sealed tomatoes are the closest equivalent to fresh.

The real answer to Becks's question is Pumpkin. There is no rational motive for cooking and straining fresh pumpkin.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:28 AM
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I totally disagree with the canned tomato consensus emerging here. I always, always, always taste the can. The Parmalat vacuum-sealed tomatoes are the closest equivalent to fresh.

This is what I use, and I still think of it as "canned tomatoes".


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:31 AM
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53--
you know, b, i don't always disagree with you about the little stuff like politics, religion, and gender-relations.
but i'm glad to see that we're on the same page where it really matters.

also, ditto to jm's 54 on pumpkin. canned as good as or better than fresh.
*much* better than the time my brother used fresh and didn't realize you've got to get all the stringies out.
stringy pumpkin pie = nasty!


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:32 AM
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Whoever said filo dough is correct. I made it from scratch once. *Way* too much work.

Also, tamales (though it's a fun project, but too much work to actually do it just to eat them). Ice cream's in the same boat; better homemade, yes, but there are a lot of damn good ice creams out there in the freezer section, and homemade ice cream is a lot of work.

Re. canned curries, I have to say that the curry-in-a-bag things at Trader Joe's are surprisingly good.

Some kinds of cookies are better purchased, mostly the wafery type. Buying chocolate chip cookies, however, is a moral offense.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:34 AM
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43: You make your own curry paste? Are you crazy or just bored? I could spend hours pounding cilantro root and white peppercorn and ten other random things, or I could spend a dollar on the Mae Ploy. Same with mole.

And, 45, of course I grate my own parmesan. That's like asking whether I grind black pepper or use the noxious tinned crap.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:40 AM
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Becks, your premise is wrong from the beginning. That cornbread was fantastic. The box stuff is okay.


Posted by: susan | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:40 AM
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My wife is a foodie with strong instincts toward the fresh-from-scratch end of things, but she recently started giving in to the convenience of frozen peas. At least for everyday meals. Parmalat boxed tomatoes are a staple here. Boxed chicken stock too, sometimes, but we also often make our own.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:41 AM
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On the tomato thing, it's a seasonal issue. When tomatoes are in season, I'll use fresh. When they're not I'll use cans. Never tried the Parmalat thing: where do you get them and how much do they cost?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:44 AM
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Pie crust is so easy. And kind of fun to make with your hands. Who doesn't like to mash stuff together? This recipe is easy and tasty:
http://www.supertoinette.com/recettes/pate_sablee_to_de.htm

I'm going to eat more tarte au citron.


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:46 AM
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The Parmalat tomatoes are a little bit more pricy than canned ones, but I do think they're worth it. I used to get mine from Fairway, a big NYC warehouse of a grocery store for foodies---dunno if that's helpful to you.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:52 AM
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Cook's Illustrated maintained at one point that you don't need to soak black beans.

Well, you certainly wouldn't want to if you were going to have a fart contest.

How bout Parmesan? Anybody shred their own?

Um, of course? Pre-grated parmesan is nasty.

should probably answer this question in reverse: for what foods can you just not tolerate the convenience / packaged / frozen version?

Icing. Flavored tomato sauces. Ground beef.

I always, always, always taste the can.

True.

The Parmalat vacuum-sealed tomatoes are the closest equivalent to fresh

Never seen 'em. The problems with the tomatoes goes to back to the fact that 'factory' tomatoes suck. (I managed to lay hands on some actual fresh real tomatoes this summer. I, of course, ate nothing but tomatoes for a day, raw with salt and pepper. I didn't get enough to make a sauce.)

max
['Someday they will perfect the factory tomato.']


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 11:53 AM
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This summer I discovered the wonder of farmer's market heirloom tomatoes. I like the green zebra tomatoes best, but I bought lots of others and made gazpacho twice. (N.B. sauces made of green tomatoes look like snot.)

I always grate my own Parmesan now, but growing up it was always the powdered crap in a jar. I managed to convert my mother to this, too.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:00 PM
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anybody who lists "pie crust" or "bread" is just telling me they don't know how to bake.

Anyone who questions this is telling me they don't have a full time job, or kids.

Of course I can make bread. It's easy. It also takes a lot of elapsed time. I can buy a fresh loaf in a shop on Thursday that's better than a loaf left over from Sunday when I last had time to bake. And I can eat it when I get home. If I baked every day there'd be no bread to be eaten before 9.00 o'clock.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:01 PM
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67

I never eat grocery store tomatoes at all, in fact. Bleah. In the summer we eat a ton of lovely farmer's market tomatoes, but I still don't want to use them for sauce: they aren't cheap and I find skinning them a pain, and since the Parmalat boxed tomatoes are good, that works for me. Another factor is that not all varieties of tomatoes are equally well suited to sauce. Canned/boxed tomatoes are made from genuinely ripe plum tomatoes, a good state of affairs. Some of the fancier brands of tinned tomatoes use enamel-lined cans -- Muir Glen, I think? I don't know if that eliminates the can taste successfully or not.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:03 PM
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Just read that canned tuna is better than fresh

Then the trick, bob, is to can your own tuna. More complicated than canning vegetables, but better than all but the priciest canned stuff you find at the supermarket. Not really worthwhile if you can't get cheap fresh tuna, but like lots of things, tolerance for the not-from-scratch version varies widely with geography.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:07 PM
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I have gotten weevils with Jiffy.

So much for that argument.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:09 PM
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Also, TJ's "Salsa Autentica" and salsa verde are good and way easier than homemade, but I always make my own pico.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:10 PM
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There was a recipe for pie crust in the NYT last year around the holidays that called for using a food processor to blend the butter/lard and flour. Way easy, made a perfect crust.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:12 PM
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I've never had a taste problem with Muir Glen tomatoes.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:13 PM
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73

Definately agree on the canned tomatoes as a general rule. However, if you're making a really simple basil/tomato/olive oil type sauce that you're not going to cook long, fresh grape tomatoes are actually pretty kick ass.

Also, hummous. I see no need to improve on Trader Joe's. At least not while I'm without a food processor.


Posted by: orangatan | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:14 PM
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You make your own curry paste? Are you crazy or just bored?

Crazy, I guess; I like to have some control over the flavour. None of the presets that come with the storebought versions seem quite right.

OTOH it would never occur to me to shred my own Parmesan. I guess I just don't use it often enough to care. It's pretty amusing to see what "from scratch" things people regard as essential.

I wonder how many of these things are just inherited habits. I know this is true for me: my mother never cooked with canned tomatoes, and since I learned to cook from her it never occurs to me to buy them. It would never occur to me to buy pre-made pie crusts for the same reason.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:17 PM
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my mother never cooked with canned tomatoes, and since I learned to cook from her it never occurs to me to buy them

Though curiously enough, she does use them now, but I still don't. Nostalgia, maybe? It's not really a taste thing.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:20 PM
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66 is right. I was refraining from this as the thread is ostensibly about taste, but the reality is regardless of how much better a lot of the scratch versions taste or how relatively low-labor they are, there's not much easier than taking a pie crust out of the freezer. And my two year old appreciates the extra non-distracted (by food anyway) attention more than the homemade crust that fades into the background.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:21 PM
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66--
kids: check.
full-time job: check.
living wage in the check: no, but that's a different story.

thing is, ofe, you should go back to becks' ground-rules:
the question was:

"the marginal utility isn't worth ever bothering with given plenty of time, money, etc. to choose either? (Meaning you aren't just choosing the easier option because you just got home from work and need dinner on the table in 40 minutes.)"

so considerations of what i do when the kids are screaming after i just got off work are not supposed to be relevant.

(and truth is, while i often don't have time to make pie-crust from scratch, those are just times when we don't eat pie.)


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:21 PM
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74: For me, using canned tomatoes but never using a pre-made flavored pasta sauce is definitely an inherited habit. My preference for using frozen pie crusts is not. My mother makes great pie crusts. I own no mechanical mixing tools and have very little kitchen space, so baking is not something I do often enough to have the skill to futz with a pie crust.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:26 PM
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My kitchen staff tells me that everything they cook is from scratch. And that most of it is grown on the farms in the Duchy. Duchy sheep is the source for the wool in my suits. We have to hold fast to our standards in this fallen world. I am pleased to see so many people doing their part too.


Posted by: Charles | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:40 PM
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I find pie crust troublesome, so while I can tell the difference, and greatly prefer the homemade kind, I use frozen crusts some.

I don't actually use it much, but Bisquik biscuits are pretty good, and a whole lot less trouble than real ones. But I only do that on vacation for some reason.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:44 PM
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I'm going to make a controversial entry here: mashed potatoes. Not dehydrated potatoes or anything, but the kind that you buy in a bag in the refrigerated section are perfectly good. We don't even make homemade mashed potatoes for big events like Thanksgiving anymore. I think they're great.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:52 PM
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You people are killing the economy with your homemade foodstuffs.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 12:57 PM
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apropos pretzels and lye,
in southern Germany they're
often called Laugenbrezel
(and Lauge means lye).
The baked goods with lye,
have a distinctive brownish-reddish crust.
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brezel


Posted by: BA | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 1:04 PM
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Re the curry paste and so on --- once you try to make Indian food properly, you quickly recognize that a good chunk of the culinary culture presupposes a houseful of women who will happily chop, grind, blend, knead strain, filter and dry-fry any number of ingredients to get to the starting point of actually making something.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 1:05 PM
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I'm going to make a controversial entry here: mashed potatoes. Not dehydrated potatoes or anything, but the kind that you buy in a bag in the refrigerated section are perfectly good.

OK as an Irish person I have to say this is absolute heresy. Remind me to make you mashed potatoes sometime so that you can be re-educated.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 1:06 PM
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83--
that's ridiculous.

they should be called "lügenbrezel" if they get their name from lying.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 1:12 PM
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I absolutely love stouffers frozen mac and cheese, though I wish they offered a few variations in cheese flavor.

I've never found a store bought pie crust to be flakey, even remotely flakey, which is of course what makes a pie crust good in the first place. For those having trouble making them, keep the dough cold at all times, don't over mix it, and ensure you have layers/chunks of butter/fat, it's those globs separating the dough the lend to it's flakiness.


Posted by: tom.a | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 1:14 PM
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84: That's definitely true of Indian food, but so much of cooking is easier with a prep chef.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 1:22 PM
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84: Sure, I take a lot of shortcuts in my curry (and other Indian) recipes for just this reason. However, you really don't need a houseful of women to make a decent curry paste.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 1:27 PM
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However, you really don't need a houseful of women to make a decent curry paste.

Sexist.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 2:31 PM
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When I lived with roommates I didn't cook food, and I thought it was because I was always annoyed that other people had left the kitchen in a mess and I could never count on the ingredients still being there. Now that I live by myself I still never cook food, partially because it seems inefficient to do so for just one person. Excuses after excuses.

I guess what I'm saying is I wish I was the kind of person who liked cooking, because I often feel nostalgic for food that I would definitely be able to make but never want to take the time to do so. Maybe when I get married.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 2:36 PM
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It's easier to cook once you're married. I never would make a roast chicken and potatoes just for myself, largely because just eating all the leftovers would get very boring. Same thing with lasagna or any other roast meat. And planning things like sides or desserts is much easier for two than for one.

Plus, with a spouse you can trade off cooking and dishes.

On the other hand, I think I was eating less when I was single. Mmm, married weight gain.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 2:41 PM
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90: Walked right into that one.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 2:48 PM
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Mario Batali also uses canned tomatoes for most things in his kitchen. If it's good enough for Babbo...

Those arguing for canned pumpkin's acceptability are seriously, seriously mistaken. The canned stuff is bitter, overly homogenous in texture and not even the right color. It's too dark -- I suspect that they just blend the skin right in. Gross. I'll admit that it's ubiquitous, though, and the sad result is that a lot of America thinks that pumpkin pie is supposed to be sort of gelatinous rather than a delicious, creamy custard.

And bitzer: stringies? You are using small sugar pumpkins, right, not big jack o'lanterns? The latter's fine for roasted seeds, but no good for pies. Or do you mean the guts inside?


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 2:52 PM
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You are using small sugar pumpkins, right, not big jack o'lanterns?

I'm going to show my lack of sexism by calling condescension on this type of sentence as well. It would be more polite to say something like "If you're using small sugar pumpkins instead of big jack o'lanterns, that shouldn't be a problem."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 2:54 PM
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Ned, I'm-a gonna demonstrate my lack of sexism by beating you for being a little bitch. So neener.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 2:59 PM
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In my experience, pretty much any squash will benefit from a trip through a food mill before you try to bake with it. Stringies is a good way to describe the alternative. I like pumpkin pie made with canned pumpkin, but pie made with pumpkin/squash baked and pureed at home is indeed even better.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:00 PM
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96: I try to identify things people do unnecessarily to make people less likely to respond in a friendly fashion. Maybe I should make a list of these faux pas and link to its URL from my screen name here.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:07 PM
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98: You'll be hosting that list on Typepad, right, not Angelfire or some such?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:13 PM
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Re: cheese. For some reason, I can not stand cheese that is pre-shredded. I think it's because growing up there was no such thing available, and it was a relatively easy task, so my dad assigned me the task of cheese-grating when I was like, seven. So I'm there, this little kid, grating like a pound of cheese. Ah, memories.

Seriously, though, the pre-shredded stuff has all this powdery stuff over every little strand of cheese so it doesn't stick together, and it tastes like shit. The most expensive cheese pre-shredded tastes worse than like some $2 generic wisconsin block of cheese freshly grated. It melts better, it tastes better. It's just better.

Even more so for parmesan. Mm, parmesan.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:14 PM
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You'll be hosting that list on Typepad, right, not Angelfire or some such?

I'm trying to decide which Geocity suits my personality.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:16 PM
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I was out of town for three days, and I come back to catch up on Unfogged, and there's a thread of 700 messages! And another one that's over 1000? Are you people insane? Are you trapped in cages, and they only throw slop through the bars when you comment?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:18 PM
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Ned, I really don't think that questioning one's choice of pumpkin should count as an insult. I was just trying to figure out what kb was referring to by "stringies".

100: I agree, that powdery stuff is pretty gross. From the label I take it to be cellulose, which I guess means that it's more or less ground up paper.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:32 PM
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102: No, Walt, we're cooking our own slop in the cages. We only have to comment to get the occasional passable store-bought ingredient.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:33 PM
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Given the maintenance requirements of keeping a bunch of Indian women on hand to make curry paste, the store-bought kind seems a lot more appealing.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:48 PM
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Racist.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:52 PM
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OTOH it would never occur to me to shred my own Parmesan. I guess I just don't use it often enough to care.

Ah, but you buy a wedge and leave it in a plastic baggie in the bottom of the frdge. Then it ages (for a year or two) until you can pound nails with it; which is the best stuff for grating. And it doesn't taste like sawdust. You have to slice off the mold occasionally as it ages, which is ... just like the process used to make cheese.

they aren't cheap and I find skinning them a pain

It is. Leave 'em in a paper bag on the counter for a day or two, pull 'em out, cut the tops off, and simmer them very slowly upside down in a coupla mm of water (in a pan, but it also works in a rice cooker) for about an hour. The skin pops off and then the pulp goes through a sieve/mouli. Seeds go away. While the hour is passing, I ignore the pan with the tomatoes and do everything else. Worth it for a tomato sauce (where it is all-tomato-all-the-time), if you know the trick; not worth it for adding tomatoes to say, gulyas.

but the kind that you buy in a bag in the refrigerated section are perfectly good.
[...]
You people are killing the economy with your homemade foodstuffs.

Such a sad, sad world we live in, bleached gray and vain and bloodless, distant figures chasing from one fallen idol to another through the dusk, those last tired servants of the decayed and fallen empires of the mind.

max
['Here in Drearistan, we is groan... immaculate.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 3:53 PM
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Our house salsa is this startlingly easy recipe, but I guess it's more in the semi-homemade category, as it uses canned tomato sauce. Still: superior to store-bought in both taste and cost-per-volume.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 4:23 PM
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103--
ho ho, how wrong you are!
in many primitive societies, questioning someone's pumpkin choices is not just an insult, it is grounds for a duel!
a primitive duel.
using pumpkins as weapons.
which is how the question of choice often arises.
the person who accepts the challenge gets to choose which pumpkin to use as weapons.

look--it was my brother, okay? i would never use anything other than sugar pumpkins to cook with, obviously.
but there is some chance that, yes, he used a big honking j'o'l pumpkin.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 4:25 PM
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I find the idea of making your own tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes to be almost incomprehensible, and the idea of not grating your own parmesan to be almost as incomprehensible in the other direction. We're all different.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 4:26 PM
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oh--and ned can stand as my second if it comes to a duel.

which it may not, if tom apologizes abjectly.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 4:26 PM
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Stand your ground, Tom! Man the pumpkin-hurling trebuchet!

This is going to be awesome.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 4:28 PM
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I am actually going to a pumpkin-hurling trebuchet outing in a couple of weeks. Teh awesome.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 4:38 PM
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Alright then: gourds at dawn.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 4:42 PM
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114--
alright then: en gourd!

have at you, with a crookneck!


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:02 PM
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Contrary to some of the above, I tend to make Indian curries from scratch, pretty much all the time. I don't find it that complicated or time consuming, but, admittedly, I do tend to stick to the less elaborate/time-consuming recipes and I cut corners [I generally, but not always, use bought garam masala, for example].

The one time I totally pushed the boat out and made a huge veggie Indian meal from scratch and made not just a main but all the ancillary stuff -- naans, bhaji, pakora, pakora-sauce, popadoms, paratha, etc -- it was absurdly time consuming, and I'd probably never do it again.

Thai curries, I stick to pre-made pastes, mostly. Or soups where I just whizz up chillis, galangal, lime zest, etc in a blender to make the base.

Pre-grated cheese is indeed rank.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:20 PM
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I kind of like skinning tomatoes when I'm in a cooking mood. I never use jars of any cooking sauces. But it would never occur to me to make my own mayonnaise.

Not much of a baker, but I can make shortcrust pastry. (Although the 10 year old is already better at it than me.) Wouldn't bother making puff pastry, would buy it frozen.

Anything fishy, I'll buy the prepackaged version - I grew up not liking fish, though I do eat it now, and am not at all confident about cooking it. (Well, I can make fish pie, but that's it.)


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:21 PM
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A co-worker of English descent tells me mayonnaise is different in the UK—creamier, I think she said, and often applied directly as salad dressing. Anyone had this experience?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:26 PM
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Yes, and they call it "salad cream." It's a lot less quivery than American mayonnaise.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:28 PM
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often applied directly as salad dressing

Yes, this is true.

Creamier? - dunno, don't know what yours is like. It's just eggs and oil and and a bit of vinegar, isn't it? Delia of course says you should make your own and it only takes 10 minutes.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:29 PM
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re: 118

I've never had US pre-packaged mayonnaise so I don't know how it compares, but sure, in the UK it's often applied directly as a salad dressing [in the sense of being splodged on salad, not in the sense that people 'toss' lettuce in it]. I don't personally like it much. I prefer, sacrilegiously, 'salad cream' as a salad dressing.

I'm not mad keen on fresh mayonnaise either, which I occasionally make but don't really like enough to make the effort often.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:30 PM
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No, salad cream is different. Not sure what's in it, but it's runnier and more vinegary and yellower and I don't like it.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:30 PM
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re: 119

Salad cream and mayonnaise are different things.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:30 PM
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Oooh, salad cream v mayo fight! What about Marmite, ttaM?


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:31 PM
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re: 122

I think, salad cream was made from cooked or powdered egg yolks and was a cheap mayonnaise substitute. Or at least that's my memory of old Marguerite Patton books.

Apparently commercial salad cream contains 'spirit vinegar, vegetable oil, water, sugar, mustard, salt, egg yolks, modified cornflour, xantham gum and guar gum as stabilisers, and riboflavin for colouring'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:33 PM
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re: 124

Marmite is the devil's work.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:34 PM
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Shows what I know.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:34 PM
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In one episode of Fawlty Towers a young guest is disgusted with the taste of the hotel's freshly-made mayonnaise and insists on having salad cream.

That was the only time in my life I'd ever heard of "salad cream" before now. Seems to endorse the notion that it was a cheap alternative to mayonnaise.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:36 PM
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125 - Did you Google that? I'm preferring to imagine you going off to the kitchen to get a bottle.

And 126 - Oh, you're one of *them* .... thick slice of toast, loads of unsalted butter, plenty of Marmite - lovely. Might have to go and have some now.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:38 PM
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re: 128

It's still widely available. Some people [like me] prefer it because it's lighter and more vinegary. It is a totally fake mass-market product, though, so food purists and people who like the creamier/richer taste of mayonnaise don't like it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:38 PM
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re: 129

I googled it, although the computer is actually in the kitchen so I'd have been quicker going and looking at the bottle.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:39 PM
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I'm with you on the thick toast and unsalted butter, but then I'd put paté on it, or some tinned mackerel maybe.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:39 PM
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I grew up not eating salad cream, and we never had mayonnaise. I don't know when we suddenly started eating it. Salad cream was probably easier to bottle.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:40 PM
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Like mayonnaise but lighter, more vinegary and yellower?

That sounds like the stuff they put on the side salad at the local "Korean/Japanese bento" lunch place. I thought that was some Asian substance but maybe it is salad cream.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:40 PM
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re: 133

We were a salad cream household, and split on the marmite question. With the sane members of the household rightly abominating it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:46 PM
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So anyway, is the store-bought salad cream as good as the stuff you can make at home with your own hydrolyzed powdered egg yolks and xanthan gum?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:50 PM
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We usually had Bovril back then, not Marmite. And for a while, Oxo made a similar spread, so we had that, except it was runnier than Bovril (and that's a lot runnier than Marmite) and my brother and I managed to accidentally get it all over the place one day. I remember trying to lick all the excess off the knife and our hands, and it very soon becoming impossible to continue. So we went back to Bovril.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:51 PM
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136 - ha. I wonder if Heston Blumenthal has ever made salad cream ...


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:52 PM
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re: 137

We used to use a vegetable paste, can't remember the name. It was a little like a cross between miso paste, marmite, and stock cubes. It was pretty nice as a drink but, personally, I didn't like it on toast.

We were vegans for a while growing up, so a lot of the packaged foods I remember were not mainstream stuff but things bought from the local wholefood shop.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:55 PM
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re: 138

It's probably in an episode in his current series. I'm sure he'll tell us how to make an industrial hydrolyzer from an old blender, a car battery and a coat hanger. It's easy to mock, but the couple of his recipes I've made turned out really nice.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 5:56 PM
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I'm surprised that Heston Blumenthal is such a household name in the UK. I only have one friend who's ever heard of "molecular gastronomy" (although said friend has several such friends) and I suppose he would be the only person I could ever get to go to Pittsburgh's one-night-a-week MolGast restaurant.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 6:14 PM
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He's on tv, Ned. Everyone's (I use the word loosely) talking about his cheeseburger - the recipe contains cystitis medicine to get the right consistency for the cheese.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 6:26 PM
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(I use the word loosely)

The cheese, on the other hand, is anything but loose.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 6:46 PM
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137: Oxo? Bovril? Marmite? What bizarre naming conventions you people have. Those sound more like cleaning products or unprocessed ores than condiments.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-20-07 9:10 PM
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Bovril was actually named after a product, "vril", in an early SF story by Bulwer Lytton. I find that quite comforting, in an odd way.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 3:32 AM
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And Marmite is French for a casserole dish or something - in which Marmite is supposedly made .


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 3:59 AM
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'Supposedly' is the operative word, I think - it's a brewery by-product, n'est-ce pas?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 4:43 AM
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I think French people, by and large, would rather eat toe-cheese than touch Marmite.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 5:54 AM
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148. I shall avoid the obvious riposte.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 6:29 AM
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"How bout Parmesan? Anybody shred their own?"

Good lord, I do hope this was meant as a joke.

If you're buying pre-grated or pre-shredded Parm, you're severely missing the point.


Posted by: Petey | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 6:53 AM
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OK: how many people, when they're making Marmite, use shop-bought smegma?


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 7:34 AM
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I haven't read the thread, but Trader Joe's Green Curry Thai Simmer Sauce is almost as good as home-made green curry simmer sauce. Not quite as good, but close enough that it makes little sense to make your own (which involves a lot of chopping). I recommend adding some green onions, but you're good to go.


Posted by: Emery | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 7:58 AM
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1. Canned tomatoes for virtually any recipe that requires cooked fresh tomatoes.
2. Frozen peas, not "fresh" - they're likelier to be fresher. Same for sweetcorn.
3. Readymade puff pastry or filo pastry - basic shortcrust is easy enough, but the flaky kind is a lot of work.
4. Jam.
5. Mincemeat. I once made my own mincemeat for Christmas pies, and it took three days and the cost of the base ingredients was equivalent to buying a high-quality brand... and it didn't taste any better than buying a high-quality brand.
6. Thai curry sauces and basic curry spice mix.
7. Hummus, though this wouldn't be the case if I had a food processor in my kitchen.
8. Yoghurt.
9. Cheese.
10. Fresh pasta.

Pretty much anything else I eat, while I sometimes buy the readymade version, I do prefer to make from scratch. (A boxed mix for cornbread?)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:02 AM
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I'm glad that someone staged an intervention at 59 to clarify that Becks has no idea what she's talking about from step one. Among other things, from-scratch cornbread takes about 5 minutes. The fact that Jiffy takes 40% of that doesn't mean that you're saving real time. And the flavor (and texture!) is so much better.

The one time my wife made pumpkin pie from scratch, it was a HUGE hastle dealing with the pie pumpkins, and the custard never set. So, um, no.

Thai curry pastes aren't big deal if you food-process them - you can freeze the results, so one session lasts months. And the individual flavors are detecable that way. That said, I usually have a can of red on hand, just in case.

I once had to make puff pastry from scratch - unexpectedly, in the midst of making beef Wellington - because I couldn't find any frozen. My wife still shudders at the memory of that stressful day. I still remember how good the Wellington was.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:14 AM
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Among other things, from-scratch cornbread takes about 5 minutes.

This is an obvious lie, since Becks admits that the from-scratch cornbread was better, but "For the amount of time it took, it just wasn't that much better."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:16 AM
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I only eat homemade marshmallow peeps.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:17 AM
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I find all the favor for homemade mayo to be strange - if I'm making a turkey sandwich or tunafish salad, why on earth would I go to the effort? The only other function for mayonnaise is for crudites, in which case of course you'd home-make, or not bother. But are people seriously making mayo to put on sandwiches?

Ironically, I tend to do beans from scratch for cooked dishes and canned beans for salads - even though you can probably tell the difference more in a salad. But since I'm already at the stove for one but not for the other, that consideration rules.

Oh, and LB, you need a better biscuit recipe - biscuits are pretty easy, I think, and although I grew up on Bisquick, I find its distinctive flavor awful.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:20 AM
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This is an obvious lie

Seriously, Ned, you can come over to my house and watch me. I walk into the kicthen, turn on the oven, and by the time it's ready, so is the batter. I might add that my recipe uses bacon fat so, by the standards of this forum, it is definitionally superior.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:22 AM
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Canned tuna works perfectly fine for sushi.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:23 AM
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150: If you're buying pre-grated or pre-shredded Parm, you're severely missing the point.

Yeah! Also, are you people using table salt and not sea salt? You all fucking horrify me.

(Shout out to max, hardest working commenter in blog entertainment, for the Parm advice in 107.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:27 AM
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Fresh-made microwave popcorn is definitely better.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:30 AM
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On the other hand, I think I was eating less when I was single. Mmm, married weight gain.

I don't know. If you're cooking stuff from scratch most of the time, you're probably eating better (and cheaper) than if you're consuming processed stuff, and certainly than if you're eating the equivalent thing at a restaurant of some sort.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:37 AM
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Something about this thread makes me want to go out and get like 50 Hot Pockets. I should probably get over it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:39 AM
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Mark Bittman:

Americans must have been sadly alienated from the kitchen for pancake mixes to ever have gained a foothold in the market, for these are ridiculously easy to make.

Even more bizarre - any recipe for key lime pie other than the original one. They literally cannot be any simpler; they are only worse.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:42 AM
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Look, table salt and sea salt are both NaCl (only some sea salts include more than traces of other minerals - most do not). So there's literally no difference as an ingredient. Whereas pre-grated (really pulverized) Parm is a different substance from a wedge, shredded. Among other things, real Parm melts - I had no idea of this, growing up on the green can.

Pregrated Parm:real Parm::garlic powder:real garlic


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:46 AM
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>go out and get like 50 Hot Pockets

I like the fuzzy ones best.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:46 AM
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If people don't trust their own ability to mix things together, they do trust the things they buy that are pre-mixed.

One can go one's whole life without doing the trial and error that is necessary to know how to cook properly.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:48 AM
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162: The difference is between 'oh, I'm tired and I have a seminar tonight so I'll make a quick omelette' and 'oh, I'm tired and I have a seminar tonight so I'll eat the nice chicken and fettucine with homemade alfredo sauce that shivbunny made.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:48 AM
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Something about this thread makes me want to go out and get like 50 Hot Pockets. I should probably get over it.

I think you mean Pop-Tarts - the only truly complete food - breakfast, in the car, camping, after a hurricane - it's all good.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:49 AM
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166: talk about made from scratch!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:50 AM
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I'm always frustrated by self-doubt when doing recipes that require things to be mixed together in a mixing bowl until they reach the consistency of some substance whose consistency I would not be able to recognize because I am not an experienced cook. Particularly when it says to not mix the ingredients TOO much because then the bread won't rise or the sauce will fall apart. I say it's trial and error, and I hate running the risk of wasting time and money on ingredients that produce inedible food, even though it would pay off in the long run.

And it's just going to get worse and worse with every generation that grows up apart from its parents.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:52 AM
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The difference is between 'oh, I'm tired and I have a seminar tonight so I'll make a quick omelette' and 'oh, I'm tired and I have a seminar tonight so I'll eat the nice chicken and fettucine with homemade alfredo sauce that shivbunny made.'

OK, onward to morbid obesity then.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:54 AM
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And it's just going to get worse and worse with every generation that grows up apart from its parents.

I don't think this is the case. I learned practically nothing about cooking from my parents. Pretty much figured it out on my own in college.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:57 AM
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I don't think this is the case. I learned practically nothing about cooking from my parents. Pretty much figured it out on my own in college.

Me, too. Now if you'll excuse me I've got some cheetos on the grill that need turning.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 9:59 AM
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Mmm, carmelized cheetos.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:01 AM
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Just a point on the ongoing self-abasement debate about the class nature of this esteemed blog.

Everybody assumes that everybody cooks, most people fairly ambitiously. Everybody assumes that everybody can make basic stuff from scratch. IRL, most people can't and don't. Just sayin'.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:02 AM
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I find all the favor for homemade mayo to be strange - if I'm making a turkey sandwich or tunafish salad, why on earth would I go to the effort?

Because it's notably more delicious.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:09 AM
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Pie crust. Every time. My mother makes perfect pie crusts. I can manage a passable one but Jesus H., what's the point? There are better ones sitting there at the grocery store just waiting for me.

Also, french fries. On the rare occasions I've tried to make them myself the outcome was decidedly unfavorable when compared to a bag of frozen Ore-Idas, which is saying something.

When it comes to pretty much any other baked good, though, I would much rather make it myself. Baking is easily my favorite kind of cooking. Just yesterday I made a huge homemade cornbread for some friends we were having over to help with some yard work. I like my cornbread enough that I think I'm going to try to enter it in the state fair next year. No mix is ever going to stand up to that and it's going to be worth the minimal effort every single time.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:11 AM
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re: 176

That's definitely right. I remember my mum teaching one of our neighbours how to make make a cheese sauce. She'd never made one except from a packet and that wouldn't be atypical. It was a total revelation to her [sufficiently so that when this particular woman got divorced, she went to catering college and now works as a chef].

We learned to cook at home largely because we were vegan for a long time, and so everything was home-cooked and it just seemed natural we [my sister and I] would learn.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:18 AM
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Home made chips [french fries, I suppose, sort of] are great and whenever I've made them, they've been great. But I'm still too lazy [and wary of oil fires] to do them often. Oven cooked is close enough.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:19 AM
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This recipe yields one of the best pie crusts I have ever tasted. (The specific reference to Spry indicates that it probably originated in an Aunt Jenny cookbook.)
And the whole cherry pie process in the slide show yields the best overall pie.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:22 AM
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171 is certainly reasonable enough, but I would note that the directions on a box of Jiffy muffin mix call for not mixing too much (which is the entirety of complication for pancakes, as well).

Readily granting that a lot of cooking consists of developed skills, it's not at all clear to me how measuring 1/4 tsp. of baking soda into 1 cup of flour is beyond any post-toddler human's capabilities.

As for OFE's point, I grew up in a family without fresh parmesan and garlic. My mom started watching The Frugal Gourmet on PBS when I was in HS, and suddenly our diet was transformed for the better. She never much liked to cook, but if food had to be gotten on the table, it might as well be tasty food.

Speaking of which, off to eat pancakes (and hand-sliced slab bacon!) with the family....


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:31 AM
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179. ttaM, good for her! I love that kind of outcome.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:33 AM
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Pretty much figured it out on my own in college.

I wasn't allowed to cook in college, until senior year when I moved out of the dorms.

It would definitely be possible to learn though.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:41 AM
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I remember way back, a very callow kid moved into a house with some friends of mine, and kept making excuses not to cook for the group because he didn't know how. Eventually, a woman took him into the kitchen and pointed: "Cooker. Pot. Recipe book. Now get on with it."

Six months later he was giving dinner parties for twelve.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:45 AM
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See, he had an incentive.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:46 AM
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Everybody assumes that everybody cooks, most people fairly ambitiously. Everybody assumes that everybody can make basic stuff from scratch. IRL, most people can't and don't. Just sayin'.

Right. One of the weird effects of blog comments is that absence is less visible, so it seems like everyone on Unfogged is an ace cook when it's really about seven people.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 10:56 AM
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Oops. 11. Chips.

I don't eat chips that often, and I'm not keeping enough oil on hand to be able to deep-fat fry them.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 11:27 AM
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Jes! Have you commented here before? At this rate, we'll have suborned all the fun commenters from ObWi soon.

Fried food for me is almost on this list -- not exactly because there isn't an easy substitute, so I just don't make fried stuff often at all. But I love fried chicken, and fritters made with leftover lamb or pork, and homemade fries; I'd make them much more often if the process didn't make me nervous, and the fat usage didn't seem wasteful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 11:43 AM
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I've been lurking for a while, LizardBreath, but this was the first thread I was tempted to comment on.

I just cannot resist the smell of freshly-baked cornbread, made from scratch...


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 12:50 PM
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Hey, it's (one of) guy(s) from ObWi who makes sense!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 1:03 PM
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jes is a dame too, but yeah, one of the few obwi regulars that is still making sense.
why you still try with that crowd, i dunno, but it's your headache.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 10-21-07 6:53 PM
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canned tomatoes. canned black beans and garbanzos. hm, I use hellman's mayo most all the time unless it's a crucial independent variable like aïoli or whatever. it's pointless to make homemade ketchup (I tried). that tetra-pak chicken broth is fine and I use it frequently. puff pastry and phyllo. I've made puff pastry at home and it's incredibly good but too much trouble.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 2:59 AM
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I realize to my consternation that I have nothing to add to this thread apart from taking sides in controversies that have already been aired.

For the record...

Homemade pie crust: Accept no substitutes. You can use the appropriate mixture of fat (80% unsalted butter, 20% leaf lard). With a small investment in a pastry cutter, you don't even need a food processor.

Canned tomatoes: Better than fresh for at least 9 months of the year.

Frozen peas: Ditto.

Tetra pack stock: I use this for a lot of things (e.g. braises), but a broth-based soup or a demi-glace calls for homemade.

Cornbread: Where is the time savings in using Jiffy? You mix cornmeal, salt, and baking soda together? Also, you can use a better quality cornmeal like Goya.

Phyllo dough: Storebought is the way to go. "Puff pastry" in the sense of pâte feuilleté I would buy, but pâte à choux (e.g. for profiteroles) is worth making at home, as the required effort is much less.

Pumpkin: I've done it both ways, and I can't say that the results warranted the effort to bake fresh pumpkin. But I respect Tom's purism on this count.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 7:26 AM
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I make my own vegetable broths, pie crust, cornbread, and so forth. I really do prefer fresh peas, and will even shell and cook my own favas (very annoying). I almost always make beans from dried, so that I can add flavor as they cook.

I buy hummus, but make my own baba ghanouj. I mix my own trail mix, but will buy granola bars. Fruit is my convenience food. (At my school cafeteria, whole fruit is mysteriously labeled "hand fruit," which delights me deeply. Whenever I grab a piece of fruit from the fridge, I dub it "hand fruit" and giggle to myself.)

I make cakes and candies from scratch, though I don't much like them myself. If I decide I love you all enough, I will package up some brittle or pralines or something and send them out while I'm procrastinating in December.

But then again, I'm single and have no kids. Cooking is deeply meditative for me, and I'm not all that busy, really. In my ideal life, someone lets me live rent-free with them and I'm their live-in chef. I have gotten a few offers like that, but they were mostly from couples who obviously also wanted a sex slave. My prostitution comes only in food form.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 7:41 AM
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I have gotten a few offers like that, but they were mostly from couples who obviously also wanted a sex slave.

You know, the problem with the world today is that you just can't find good help anymore.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 7:45 AM
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Clearly, they fail to recognize the high value of lavish breakfasts, homemade dinners, and endless sweetmeats.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 7:51 AM
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endless sweetmeats

IYKWIM


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 7:54 AM
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Jam - but not the flavorless junk sold as 'jelly' in the US - anyone tried making homemade jam successfully - what a pain!


Posted by: Herr torquewrench | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 8:00 AM
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ooh, on the pumpkin thing, the secret is to use butternut squash. kabocha squash is good too but maybe less available. the flesh is denser. even the sweetest pumpkin can be too watery. IIRC most canned "pumpkin" puree is in fact butternut squash. the canned stuff is distinctly browner and less fresh tasting than mashed roasted butternut. you can put it through a food mill but the bits of pure pumpkin you encounter in the pie made from mashed are charming and sparkly. a crumb crust made from gingersnaps can be a nice change from the usual, and good garam masala is great in pumpkin pies. thus endeth the lesson.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 8:05 AM
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I buy hummus, but make my own baba ghanouj

This intrigues me. I agree that unless you have a *very* good deli you should make baba ghanouj, but hummus is so easy to make I'm surprised you find it worth buying. Over here such things in shops are always oversalted to my taste - is this an issue left of the pond?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 8:06 AM
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my dad makes incredible homemade jams and jellies, they are th yummiest things on earth, but yeah, what a pain, and it involves hours of standing over boiling pots right in the very height of the summer. having 6-8 female relatives around to do this for you would be convenient. maybe when the indian ladies get done with the curry-pounding they could look into that. and that just makes me think that one of the crappiest things about being the new lowest daughter-inl-aw in a traditional indian peasant family is that in addition to all the shittiest rice-grinding jobs you actually are a sex slave too! (just to your husband, I mean.) w00t feminism!!!


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 8:11 AM
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Sabra Salads hummus is rather tasty, and very smooth. I have a crappy little food processor, which is only good for making chunky things, and a nice smooth hummus is delightful. Plus, peeling all those garbanzos is deeply annoying.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 8:11 AM
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re: 199

My uncle makes jam from my granddad's strawberries and then gives it to us. Problem solved.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 9:00 AM
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peeling all those garbanzos is deeply annoying

?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-22-07 9:10 AM
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peeling all those garbanzos is deeply annoying

double ?? I mean, I see the rationale, but doesn't the blender take care of it? it's probably more authentic AWB's way. I do have a recipe for west african black-eyed-pea fritters that involves rubbing the skins off all the black-eyed-peas, and I suppose that's even worse than garbanzos. I have never cooked them for that reason.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:06 AM
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Weed.


Posted by: johnny p. | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:43 AM
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But AWB, you also have a food mill!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 5:52 AM
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206. To be fair, AWB says her food processor isn't equal to making hummus. If you have to puree it through a sieve, peeling the peas probably makes sense (and buying it in shops, even more).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-23-07 6:06 AM
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