Peggy Sanders: Comparing scratch cooking of old to modern, quick recipes
As I was baking cookies last week, I saw the instructions said, “Form each cookie into a ball the size of a walnut and dip it in sugar.”
It struck me then — I wonder how many bakers, at least under age 40, have ever seen a walnut in its shell? Do they imagine they are to prepare a cookie in the size of shelled walnut? Maybe they’ll have to consult Mr. Google. I just looked and there are several good images with known objects and even a ruler for showing the size. Current recipe writers are unlikely to use that term. Maybe they write “1-1/2 inch size balls” instead, which would be about right.
An old recipe I have gives the instruction to “Add a glob of butter the size of an egg.” These days we have eggs labeled medium to extra large in stores. If you raise chickens for egg production you know that a pullet egg is usually on the smaller side. With any luck the size of the egg, hence the amount of butter used, is not critically important to the success of the recipe.
In an old recipe box one of my grandma’s gave me, I noticed the first cards is labeled “receipts.” You notice the same root word, which pertains to written items that are handed out. Receipts is an old word for recipes, though it is still used in some parts, particularly in period writing and plays.
Frequently, “new” recipes call heavily for convenience foods, canned or otherwise made for ease of quick food preparation. Mushroom soup is undoubtedly at the top that ingredient list.
There are recipes that just wouldn’t be the same without it, and many are popular like this one: Brown hamburger, put it in a baking dish, add a drained can of green beans, a can of mushroom soup and commercially formed potato parts, bake at 350 degrees. Does it rise to the level of cooking from scratch? Probably not, but that doesn’t seem to matter when you have a houseful of folks who love the dish, especially the kiddos.
Cake mixes used to call for adding water only to the mix, baking it and that was it. Due to the fact that these products were dry in texture and low in taste, companies started having users add more ingredients.
Now a typical cake mix calls for eggs, oil and water to be added to the boxed mix. So what would you need to bake the same item completely from scratch? Eggs, oil, water, flour, salt, sugar and baking soda or baking powder are the general ingredients.
In essence, using a cake mix saves the time of measuring the flour, salt, sugar and leavening. The mixing and baking times remain the same. The question then becomes is the time saved worth the price? And is the finished product from the box as good as the one made from scratch? ❖