So the story has been told that I, at the tender age of four or five years, was nosing around in my babysitter’s kitchen while she was preparing lunch.
“What are you making?” I asked, as she poured the contents of a blue box into a pot of boiling water.
“Macaroni and cheese,” she replied.
“Oh,” I harrumphed, “my mom makes her macaroni and cheese from scratch.”
On the flip side, once I was school-age and had experienced the soft goodness of packaged bread, I also apparently begged my mother to buy bread from the store instead of putting me through the misery of enduring yet another of her homemade loaves of bread.
What was wrong with me?!
Stories of my childhood are often humbling, and I kind of wish the people that knew me back then would stop telling them. Alas, I think their enjoyment of my discomfort is too great for them to lay aside that perceived “responsibility” any time soon. I’m certain that many of you can empathize with me on this.
I think about these stories, though, and I must say that they give me a greater understanding of human nature. My own children have looked down their freckled noses at many of the foods I have so lovingly prepared for them. When they were younger, they were even known to make snide-sounding remarks to their beloved grandmother about her store-bought eggs or grocery-store bacon. I am not convinced that my children meant to sound superior in reference to our farm-raised foods, but they certainly may have sounded like it. The fact is that most of us are pretty comfortable with what is familiar.
As I teach classes across the state on feeding our families wholesome meals within our means, I often cross paths with women who feel so completely defeated when it comes to the most basic of kitchen tasks. They feel that there is some sort of nebulous standard that they must meet, and they are frustrated when that goal cannot be attained. Oftentimes, they had a mother or grandmother that set the bar pretty high when it came to meal preparation, but did not encourage or even allow their daughters or granddaughters to take part in these disciplines. As these daughters and granddaughters became managers of their own homes, they did not allow themselves much of a learning curve. They expected to be able to put fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy on the table just like Grandma, but failed to take into account the number of decades Grandma had invested in honing her skills.
And, to make matters worse, these women often had young husbands who did not have the maturity to keep their mouths closed against the critical thoughts that entered their handsome heads in regard to these first culinary attempts. A few ill-timed and inconsiderate remarks can easily shut down any woman’s drive to do just about anything for years and years to come—and I do mean anything!
Even more tragic is the number of mothers-in-law who, forgetting that they were once young brides who struggled with inadequacies about something, exploit their new daughters-in-law’s insecurities by assuring their boys that they can “come home” whenever they want a home-cooked meal. Young women take these comments to heart, and long-term damage is easily done.
There is a lot of debate about what the term homemade means. Does it mean starting from scratch? Does it mean made within the four walls of the building in which we live? My question is, does it really matter? What if the term homemade has more to do with where each of us is at the time? For instance, when I was a young mom with three kids ages four and under, homemade was a hot meal prepared in my kitchen. I might have used canned cream soups, frozen peas and packaged noodles with store-bought bread on the side, but I considered the meal homemade. As the opportunity to grow our own food has increased and my cooking skills have expanded, homemade is still a hot meal prepared in my kitchen. Now, it may very well include a chicken from our farm, green beans we have put up ourselves and breads and sauces from scratch. Both meals were made for my family with the goal of providing wholesome foods within our means. Both meals were made with love and shared around the table with the goal of building relationships.
I wonder, would my twenty-something self be intimidated by the cooking style of my forty-something self? I suppose she could be, but, if I had the opportunity to talk to that young woman today, I would do my level best to build her up. I would remind her that every season bears its gifts and its challenges. I would encourage her with the fact that the only measuring stick we use should be God’s. He doesn’t care as much about what we cook for our husbands as He does about how we honor our husbands. God doesn’t care as much about what we spend on our groceries as He does about how we glorify Him with His good gifts. He doesn’t care so much about how we feed our children as He does about how we teach them His love.
Homemade is about more than a loaf of bread or macaroni and cheese. It isn’t something relegated to our kitchens or to the gifts we give. It isn’t a badge to be worn for our personal edification or to impress the people around us. Homemade is a focus on making a home. It is the intentional investing of yourself in the people you love for the purpose of making them feel like they have a safe place in you. That’s what a home should be: a safe place that leaves a legacy of love and peace in our hearts.
Trista Hill makes her home in Mooreland with her husband, Dave, and their children, Rachel, Gracie and Isaac. She is also an author and speaker who focuses on empowering women to live from their abundance to leave the legacy God is calling them to leave. For more information on class opportunities, booking information or to get a copy of her book, Eat Cheap!, you can find Trista at www.livingfrommyabundance.wordpress.com or on Facebook at Eat Cheap! with Trista Hill.
This article was originally written for HER magazine.