Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is it Worth it?

I wish I were making more of my own food. I have friends who make most of their own bread, cheese, yogurt, beer, and other essentials. For the most part, my friends make these things because they find that the quality of the food is better not to mention the fact that you know what is in it. This later issue has had me thinking as I have read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan which was recommended to me by Laurel. The simple premise is that we should be eating food, a radical idea only once you consider how much not-food there is in what we buy at the grocery store. To wit, this list of ingredients in Wonder Bread:
1. Whole wheat flour
2. Water
3. wheat gluten
4. high fructose corn syrup
5. soybean oil
6. salt
7. molasses
8. yeast
9. mono and diglycerides
10. exthoxylated mono and diglycerides
11. dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide)
12. datem
13. calcium sulfate
14. vinegar
15. yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate)
16. extracts of malted barley and corn
17. dicalcium phosphate
18. diammonium phosphate
19. calcium propionate (to retain freshness)

You may be familiar with calcium sulfate because they make drywall out of it. When I make bread, it contains:
1. flour
2. yeast
3. salt
4. water
5. honey (sometimes)

Beyond not putting weird things you don’t know what are in your body, it may actually be cheaper to make your own. I read an article several months ago in Slate magazine indicating that you can make less expensive, more delicious bagels, yogurt, crackers, and granola at home (although cream cheese and jam are about the same). So with all of these things rumbling around in my head, I’ve decided to start a semi-regular series that I’m calling “Is it worth it?” There is a long list of foods that I frequently buy that I want to try making myself. Bearing in mind that I am trying to complete my dissertation within the next year, a major consideration is how MUCH better is something given the amount of effort that goes into it. So without further ado, the first review is here.

Is it worth it to make your own flour tortillas? YES! Absolutely hands down. Homemade tortillas are chewy and flavorful (did you know tortillas could taste like something?) not to mention that their thicker texture saves you from the devastating burrito rupture. I made mine based on this recipe from the apartment kitchen and it was a snap. Mix everything together, wait 30 minutes while you assemble the rest of your fixings and then roll them out and cook them in a dry pan. Super fast and easy – the hardest part is rolling them out. I’ll admit that most of mine looked like a central African country, but they sure tasted like Mexico to me.

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