So, this week, I wanted to talk more about the how’s and why’s of my reasons for leaning into new homemaking/cooking/”old-fashioned” skills. In my recent 20% Better post, I described the basic rationale as to why we are baby-stepping our way toward improvements around our home toward supporting local economy and sustainability.
Ok, but before we get there, I do want to emphasize that there is no right or wrong way to approach homemaking (well, unless you believe Miracle Whip is mayonnaise…well, then, we need to stage an intervention on your behalf…I’m just sayin’ is all). I think any conversation about homemaking, sustainability, slow food, shopping local, etc. need to eject the tendency to assign dichotomous value systems. If we start labeling things as good or bad, right or wrong, all or nothing, we often end up with a myopic viewpoint that sanctifies one idea while demonizing another, and we end up being exclusionary and unattainable rather than inclusive and accessible.
Let’s be real for a second. The ability to try new recipes, bake fresh bread, learn about pasta, canning, knitting, sewing, gardening, entertaining and countless other things all come down fundamentally to privilege. The privilege of time, access to resources, or both. I’m at a season in life where I have more time; I no longer have colicky babies, terrible-two’s toddlers, or full-time employment. I have the PRIVILEDGE of time in a way I did not have in the past, so I can devote it to experimenting and learning. Likewise, I have the resources or access to resources to learn, reliable sourcing to fresh, quality food, and ready transportation. Many people do not.
So, what’s my point here? I think when I talk about the value of growing in homemaking skills to ME, I never want to insinuate that it has some warped universal intrinsic moral value. If we romanticize “old-fashioned,” or elevate “handmade” in such a way that we are alienating others or creating a one-right-way mentality, we’ve missed the forest for the trees. To me, homemaking means cultivating a relatively happy, reasonably healthy, personably hospitable place where you want to be and to share with your peeps. To cast any homemaking endeavor as an all-or-nothing, good/bad thing means that we are probably missing the point entirely.
So, now that I’m off my soapbox, I want to recap some of my efforts so far, and what’s on the horizon. This year, I’ve tackled my sourdough phobia, and it’s going fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced quite a few abject failures, but I learned something new each time. Once I got into the grove, I’ve worked bread baking into my weekly routine and let’s just say, the others in this household are quite happy with this.
Going with the “ever-expanding skillset” mentality, I have also baked sooooo many new-to-me cookies and cakes, experimented with fresh pasta, and am giving an embarrassingly poor effort at spinning wool into yarn. I am about to venture into wood-fired pizza, curing meat, and pressure canning. Now, I’ll go ahead and say it now; I do not see myself expanding into sewing anytime soon. I can sew a reasonably straight line, and I managed to crank out dozens of face masks for friends and neighbors in 2020, but sewing is not my jam. At all. Too much precision required for my chaotic ass. Take that disclaimer as you will.
Back to the hows/whys. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this initiative is that nothing occurs in a vacuum. In a predictable turn that surprises no one but me, learning about one thing opens doors through which, by extension, lead to more. When I became obsessed with barbecue/smoking a few years ago, I ended up learning about sustainable meat production, butchering and cuts of meat and how they are best used, geographic flavor profiles in barbecue, the science of various smoker constructions, etc. This is what first led me to look locally for sustainably produced meat. So, my point is that small steps continue to lead me to new skills.
As I continue with these projects, I feel more connected to our home, the community, and the importance of traditions. Personally, I feel a lot of satisfaction in understanding the how’s and why’s, in being able to create, and knowing that when the zombie apocalypse comes, I could probably land a safeguarded spot in the survivor’s camp. Just kidding, but it’s a nice fictional perk, don’t ya think? Also, the kids see me researching, doing, and sometimes failing; I hope the takeaway for them is an attitude that they can figure out new things, “hard” things, if they really want to.
Well, that’s enough homemaking musings for today. I’ve got a pork belly that’s about to become bacon, and doesn’t that sound like fun?