On not spending your whole life in the kitchen

Last week I was thinking. Thinking about how in an ideal world I would make all of our food from scratch. Thinking about how if I did make all of our food from scratch, I would be spending a lot of time in the kitchen (which is why I don't).

And then I thought that we really expect a huge variety of foods. Take one food, for example: bread. Just bread doesn't cut it. We want sandwich bread and baguettes and bagels and English muffins and biscuits and any other number of things.

Once upon a time, people were happy just to have food, and ate what they had. Now we have it all, and we want it all. Myself included.

Sometimes I wonder how pioneer women managed to cook over an open fire and keep a garden and do the wash and keep their homes immaculately clean and sew all the clothes for their family as well as a hundred other things that we don't have to do anymore. I'm not trying to make their job easier than ours is—I wouldn't want to trade places with them—but they did have simplicity on their side. A person may have owned only two or three sets of clothing. The house was small. And people didn't expect three-course feasts for every meal. People who did usually had help.

Laura Ingalls ate the same few foods over and over again—corn dodgers, baked beans, game. They used what they had. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the variety available to me. Not only do we have grocery stores full of food, but we have books full of recipes from all over the world. The possibilities really are endless.

My family and I enjoy variety. We like trying new things, and I like cooking new things. But sometimes I think that if I just lowered my standards in the kitchen a little, I would save a lot of time. Although I enjoy cooking, sometimes I think that time might be better spent—I could be playing with my kids, catching up on the laundry, or whatever it is that is pressing at the moment.

Well, I haven't come to any conclusions here. What do you think about all of this?


  1. Sometimes I think the same thing about what some of you all do! I spend a fair amount of time reading about modern women who bake bread, make homemade soaps and laundry detergent, home school, can, preserve, garden, quilt, sew their own clothes, and too many other things to count. Where do these people get this much time?!

    With respect to variety, I think it's just another societal pressure. While I'm a pretty good cook, I have a fairly limited repertoire. It's mostly because *B* and I don't like onions, cooked peppers, or uncooked tomatoes. But I often feel inadequate because I cook the same things fairly often. So what if we have chicken Parmesan twice in two weeks? If it's good and my (very small) family is happy, isn't that what counts? In order to save time, I'll often double batches and freeze the rest for a quick night. That way the solid time commitment needed for a good dinner is only necessary once.

  2. I agree. Sometimes we get so bogged down with 'less important' things that 'require' our time and it's hard to do the most important things. Times are definitely different than back then. If you think of all the things we do for church, school (when kids are old enough), etc. we do have a lot of things vying for our attention. Pioneer women never had to worry about checking their emails, blogs, facebook, etc. As much of a good thing that it is, I think technology has made our lives that much busier.

    Keep up the good work. I wish I could be a little more like you and DESIRE to make homemade bread and have more time in the kitchen and all the other things a mom is supposed to do.

  3. I, too, love finding new things to cook and varieties of food. Sometimes I find myself planning my weeks' menus with only one or two tried-and-true recipes and the rest are new, exciting endeavors. What a time commitment new recipes are! What I do now is limit myself to one or two new recipes a week. And I try to stick with easy recipes and make the more complicated ones much less often, no matter how much we LOVE them.
    What a sign of an excellent mother-to be concerning yourself with these things. As The Hardy's said, keep up the good work!

  4. One way I've found to combat this is when you are in the kitchen, have several things going at once. Freez extras. It makes for a lot less time in the kitchen if you are doing several things. (While this is simmering, chop that, etc).
    If you want to get into a habit of apprciating "just one thing" for a meal, start w/ breakfast. Just have yogurt or one thing of fruit or whatever. Bread dipped in olive oil makes a good snack for later on, too, espcially the homemade breads. When our grandparents were kids, this was considred "poor mans meal" but nowdays, it's an 11.95 appetizer at fancy restaurants.

  5. We're gluten free - so our options are pretty much either spend time in the kitchen or go broke... So, I spend time in the kitchen. In the 3 years we've been GF, it's been pretty easy to just not feel like making breads, so we just don't eat too many of those any more. Plus, everyone gets super excited when we have bread. It's nice to be appreciated sometimes... :-)