What Does Cooking From Scratch Mean?

bwcook“Home cooking is a catalyst that brings people together. We are losing the daily ritual of sitting down around the table (without the intrusion of television), of having the opportunity to interact, to share our experiences and concerns, to listen to others. Home kitchens, despite the increase in designer appliances and cabinetry, are mostly quiet and empty today. Strangers are preparing much of our food. And our supermarkets, which once considered restaurants and fast-food places the enemy, have joined the trend by enlarging their delis and offering ready-to-eat food they call “home-replacement meals.” But bringing ready-cooked meals home is not the same as cooking in your own kitchen, where you are in control of the ingredients you use, where you fill the house with good cooking smells, and where you all share in a single dish, taking a helping and passing the platter on to your neighbor. Nothing can replace that.” — Marion Cunningham, from the introduction to Lost Recipes.

I just got off the phone with my mentor coach/one of my bestest friends, Helene.  Her daughter hosted Easter dinner and, as is the norm for her, she cooked everything from scratch.  Helene was telling me that a friend who joined them for dinner raved about how the meal was cooked from scratch and Helene commented that the Fairy Grandmother (that’s me) encourages everyone to cook from scratch.  At that point, Sierra mentioned that most of her friends don’t even know what cooking from scratch means.  She joked that they think it simply means to reheat something they picked up at the supermarket.

Helene and I chuckled but then we continued our conversation by talking about how cooking from scratch really has become a lost art.  Shows on the Food Network (I’m told this by MRW friend Hairball because I don’t get the Food Network), tout how you can just open this and that and create a feast!

I was going to write a big long description of what cooking from scratch means.  Instead, I’ve decided to simply ask you to share your own definition/description (and perhaps a fond memory of two) of what it means to cook from scratch.

Let the definitions begin!

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Dr. Julie-Ann

I'm Dr. Julie-Ann, living life in its Technicolor finest by channeling my Grandma, Donna Reed, and June Cleaver with a bit of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly glamour thrown in for good measure, too. I work outside of the home full-time as a university administrator but I nourish my soul and find my greatest happiness by trying to be the "perfect" 1950s homemaker.

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    Great question! Baking from scratch means starting with basic ingredients, not prepared items. Now whether or not it’s worth it to pursue scratch baking to the ultimate of its meaning is an individual matter. For instance, my mother said that when cake mixes first came out she was not a fan and continued baking cakes from scratch. But the day came when they had improved to the point that she no longer felt it was worth her time to start from scratch. I often bake from scratch and love to try very old recipes just for the experience. Today I baked a “pork cake” using my great-grandmother’s recipe (c. 1860). But when I make a pie, I often start with a crust mix as a time saver.

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    Cooking from scratch is an interesting concept, isn’t it? People have so many different definitions.

    I consider myself to be someone who cooks from scratch, which means that I don’t use packet cake mixes, powdered potatoes, or sauce mixes for example, but I DO use store-bought bread, pasta, ice cream, jam and curry paste.

    Not being American, I am amazed when someone blogs a ‘made-from-scratch’ dessert and it includes a packet cake mix, kool whip (sp?), packaged whipped cream and canned frosting, LOL. I didn’t know the last three things existed until I started reading blogs.

    I have often participated in the “Make it From Scratch” blog carnival, which might interest you.

    What an interesting question to ask!

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    I have developed a fascination for making things from scratch that take forever. The longer it takes the more satisfaction I get out of it. Bread and bread starters, chicken stock, anything that simmers all day, corned beef, fancy jello desserts etc. Even if it just means leaving it alone for days I know it’s still doing something!

  4. 4


    For me, baking from scratch means using a recipe with basic ingredients, like flour, sugar, butter, and eggs, rather than a commercial mix. But cooking from scratch could be a little different, because I don’t always have homemade poultry stock in my freezer, so I’ll use a canned or boxed broth instead. And there are some old family recipes we love that use a canned cream soup for a base, but I always add fresh ingredients to make the dish more appealing to us. But we only very rarely (like a few times a year) use commercially made entrees for a meal. They’re usually more expensive. They don’t taste as good as homemade, and I prefer to know exactly what I’m serving my family and friends. Plus, cooking is relaxing for me, a nice way to unwind after a stressful day of sitting at a computer at work…Thanks, Julie-Ann, for continuing to inspire and encourage us. :-)

  5. 5

    Susan Sledge says

    When I cook from scratch I use the basic staple items. I need to learn to cook from scratch because I have high blood pressure that I now have under control..I am very salt sensitive, and processed foods are out in my cooking.

  6. 6

    Pat says

    When I think of cooking from scratch it means that I haven’t purchased any mixes to use, although some of them can be even cheaper in price than buying the individual ingredients, especially if you are a coupon-user who also buys them on sale.

    I used to make brownies for potlucks and parties at work. One of my co-workers would always ask if I had made them from scratch. I would smile and tell reply “Yes, as a matter of fact I did. I scratched myself while I was mixing them up. Does that count?”

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    Scratch cookery is without a doubt the most important thing in my life. I’m stupidly strict about it and I’m forced to constantly compromise. For example,

    yeast instead of starters sometimes
    refined sugars
    store bought vinegars
    worcestershire sauce and soy sauce
    flour (I don’t mill my own… yet!!)

    By necessity of various local laws, my dairy products are of course prepared for me by dairies, but I still make crème fraiche, simple cheeses and a few other home dairy things.

    I don’t think I cheat much other than that, I usually get my ingredients in as raw a form as possible. I do use canned vegetables like tomatoes for example, if the fruit is whole and is pretty much the only thing on the ingredients list.

    I even make my own soft drinks from syrups and club soda.