From Scratch

The past few years were hard for our little family. We survived a divorce and adjusting the kids to living in two separate households. We also survived opening and closing our little family-owned-and-operated children's arts-n-crafts store, after two years of financial struggle. We are now back together and all living in the same house again, and I'm thankful for that. We are also enjoying the man's one year anniversary at his new job and are excited about our soon-to-be move out to the hill country to reboot our lives together. It's a little ying and a little yang. A lot of bad and a lot of good. It's life.

In the seven years before we were separated/divorced I stayed home with my two girls and I spent a good deal of my time doing what many at home moms do, I cooked and baked. I loved being in the kitchen. I, in particular, loved baking. In our first real home in The Woodlands I created a baker's nook in one section of the kitchen. We lowered the counter (better for rolling out dough) and took all the fronts off the cabinets so I could see all my pretty bowls, many of which came from my Meme, who was my mentor-baker during my childhood. I had everything I needed to cook or bake in one area and it was in this area that my girls and I spent many afternoons making pie crusts, pizza dough, scones, waffles, biscuits, bread, muffins, cakes, cupcakes, and oodles of cookies - all from scratch. And that was just the baking part.

Unfortunately, during the three years we were separated/divorced, I lost my kitchen-connection; those days were spent running the store, running errands, or helping the kids settle into new classrooms and new routines. Life was stressful and hectic and confusing and on occasions, heartbreaking. Even more so because I forgot how to cook...I lost my link to food and found I was eating without thinking. I was eating animals I had long ago swore off, I was eating out more than ever, and I no longer baked with the girls...and we no longer sat at the table together for meals. Everything was on the go or whipped up in a flurry. We no longer shared in routines and activities we had once cherised...and apparently took for granted.

Thankfully, I've been given a second chance...both with the marriage, with reestablishing lost connections and routines with my kids...and with my pretty baking bowls. We've been baking from scratch again. We are back to making muffins, cookies, breads, and biscuits together. The girls fight over who gets to 'knead' the pizza dough, and this morning the little one and I made up our own recipe for whole wheat/flax/cornmeal pancakes. We just started adding things to see how it would turn out; trying specifically to use no eggs, no white flour and only a few pinches of something sweet. They came out perfect. The blueberry muffins we experimented with, well, let's just say with some things we're better off sticking with the recipes we've grown to love. But it's fun to experiment. And I hope I'm teaching them it's OK to tweak things a bit every now and then. That's the fun of homemade - we can create what we want. And, as in other areas of our lives, we don't have to always follow the rules. Letting go of rules and myths in fact, can be quite liberating.

The kids are enjoying our trips to the farmers market and they are more engaged now in helping prepare meals and prep the veggies. They ask more questions, are more willing to try new things, and are a part of the kitchen mealtime drama - even if that just means setting the table.

I don't know that I'll ever be into making fancy gourmet meals. I'm not a foodie - whatever that means. I don't watch Food Network, and I no longer keep recipes around that have more than a few basic ingredients (unless it's spices), and certainly nothing that requires cream of 'fill in the blank' soup. Seriously, have you ever wondered what that stuff really is?  In fact, I recently weeded thru my recipe collection and threw out all my casserole-y recipes (is that a rural thing or a southern thing?), all the meat-based recipes I'm not sure I can convert, and I'm seriously considering tossing my Betty Crocker 'Bible'. Gasp!

I'm letting go of some of the myths about food I grew up believing and tried to work with in the early years of our marriage; these myths and ideals no longer fit into my belief system and I have found that the girls (and perhaps kids in general) tend to like their food either raw, or kept simple and uncomplicated. I couldn't agree more. I was the same way as a child. I have also converted most of my baking recipes over to wheat flour, cornmeal, milled flax, brown rice flour, and/or nutritional yeast (which I put on everything, BTW...even in the homemade cat food...if I'm not careful I'll probably just start sprinkling it on the kids heads and call it magic powder fairy dust stuff...or something like that). And the white sugar is off our menu for good now, too. We've replaced it with agave nectar, maple syrup, brown sugar, and I'm using more molasses now than ever. When we allow ourselves to slip too far into unknown or unfamiliar territory, for reasons we don't question or investigate, we risk losing our way. We also risk losing what an actual carrot, pulled straight from a garden, tastes like. We can't taste them mixed in some 10-ingredient casserole topped with cheese and butter. What are we hiding? Carrots are sweet. They make our eyes sparkle (what I tell my girls). Cheese and butter: not so much.

I lost my way. And I blame Betty Crocker (or more specifcially General Mills, since Betty's not real).

And the meat and dairy industry.

And my mother. But that's a whole other story.

In our little family we can't go back and be innocent anymore, we each carry our own scars from the past few years, and have healed in our own way, but we can pick up where we left off and create a new normal, and hope that whatever path we're on now, we won't lose our way again.

And I will no longer feel compelled to make casseroles.

Looking at things from their basic ingredients, whether it's in the form of your family, or your meal - creating it 'from scratch' as they say - or from whatever you have on hand to work with on any given day - as long as it aligns with your values and is done with integrity - is always best. It may not always match our expectations, certainly may not always align with what's considered 'normal', and sometimes it just plain falls apart, but in the end it's worth the effort. At least to me it is.

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