Thursday, April 15, 2010

Becoming a producer in the kitchen

I don't consider myself much of a cook, but we do eat 3 meals per day at home most days of the week. My sweet mother, who is a great cook, haves us to lunch after church on Sundays and our church eats together on Wednesday nights, but other than that it's up to me most days. I've posted before about the kind of cook I am so I won't bore you again with that. Let's just say I enjoy eating the food a whole lot more than I enjoy preparing it so I try to keep things as simple as possible.

Recently as Big D and I have been attempting to transition from the realm of helpless consumers to competent producers, I've been experimenting with a few things. I use the term "experimenting" literally. While earning my doctorate in Cancer Biology I had to learn all kinds of cellular and molecular protocols and I needed them to work the first time (though they rarely did). If I can do a cell migration assay then I can do anything, or so I reasoned. I decided my first grand experiment in the kitchen was to be whole wheat flour tortillas. You might wonder why I picked tortillas. Well, for one thing we eat lots of them and for another I've been noticing the long list of ingredients for what seems to me a very simple recipe. I thougt if we could avoid the additives and preservatives then all the better. So I bought all the ingredients (yes I had to buy wheat flour and crisco) and excitedly copied down an amalgamation of several recipes I found online.

As soon as we finished morning read aloud I got to work. The mixing part was easy enough then came the simple instructions to knead the dough until smooth. Knead? I thought back to a youtube video on making bread that I saw once and hoped kneading would come naturally to me. All seemed to be going well until it was time to roll the tortillas. My housekeeper had watched all this with great interest (she would regret this later), having informed me early in the process that she had never made flour tortillas. Then came my disappointment. My tortillas were not turning out round. Big D even tried his hand at it to no avail. They were irregularly shaped at best. My housekeeper, feeling sorry for me I'm sure as I'd already botched a batch of bread that morning, stepped in and started helping me roll. Ok, she took over the rolling. We settled into a kind of routine with me wetting the dough (our theory being my dough was too dry), her rolling it out, and me frying the tortillas. After about 30 minutes of this my housekeeper says to me, "You know where you can buy these?" She looked at me kind of funny when I said, "I know, I know I can buy them for $1.33 at Walmart." She's thinking to herself then why in the world are we doing this?! Because darn it, I want to learn to make tortillas. So there.

When my Bible study friends came that night they asked me how my tortillas tasted. (I had chronicled the project on facebook.) "Healthy and authentic" was my rehearsed reply. In other words, they didn't taste all that great, but hey they really were healthy. We ate carnitas for dinner and breakfast burritos the next morning and poof they were gone. (Not one member of my family asked for the back-up tortillas I had bought just in case- though a few may have sneaked them behind my back.) All that work and they didn't even make it 24 hours. Will I make them again? Maybe. Did I save money? No, not even before having my housekeeper help out which ended up making them the most expensive tortillas ever.

Back to the point in my previous blog post on production versus consumption. Sometimes the bottom line is more than just dollars and cents. I may not be to the saving money phase of production yet, but I still enjoy the final product. My mom and dad are going to a seminar on becoming ranchers next weekend in Austin. Go figure. My parents want to be ranchers, my husband wants to be a farmer, and me? I'm still trying to figure out how to bake bread with my $60 family-size bread machine. It may not be cheaper, but it feels good knowing exactly what's in the food we eat. And who knows? I may learn to love the process as well.


  1. Ok, first of all I am jealous that you have a housekeeper! And how funny that she ended up helping you. I am planning on tackling homemade bread this summer, and looking at grinding my own wheat. I can't even begin to worry about tortillas! And we always think about a garden, but seriously we have black thumbs. Some friends of ours are exanding their garden this year and adding fruit and nut trees, all looking towards independence in some of thier food production. Maybe I will be inspired!

  2. I am laughing at you! You sound like me! I have a bread machine too.....encrusted in dust on the very top shelf of my pantry. I would love to have your bread recipe. About the tortillas. I buy 2-3 packages every week at Kroger. I guess I need to learn how to make them too!

    Off Topic:
    I am ordering my Sonlight soon. I plan to do Core 5 with my 6th and 8th grader; Core K for my 1st grader, and Core pre3/4 for my 4yo. What are you using next year?

  3. I have to laugh! I link to your blog from your visit at Sharping Arrows. I am a SAHM with a Masters Degree in Engineering. I can relate to the crazy eyes you might get from old college friends and then the ones that find out your background. I think I have always had a desire for survival.

    I want to be a producer, my husband would prefer to be a scavanger, since he really doesn't want to bother to produce but is anti-consume. He just figures it will eventually show up or he will find it on the side of the road.

    My success in producing has been making laundry detergent for my house. I am saving about $150 or more a year and have spent $10 the first year and $1 for the second. Plus I am not buying the big box every month. Also, I supplement diapering with cloth diapers, when I can emotionally handle it.
    I avoid all disposeables when possible. Just having our 4th, we do have a stash of paper plates and plastic utensils - for crisis moments.
    I work hard to only buy 2nd hand clothes, with the exception of undergarments. I feel that this limits our lack of production in America, since I am not encouraging more importing. I also have taken up sewing for my childrens clothing and my own.
    Now I did make myself crazy trying to make corn tortillas, to find out that a corn tortilla press was a must, so I quartered them and fried them into chips. BUT! I did find a press at a thrift store and bought it for $2 (it helped that not a soul in there knew what it was for).
    Making these items does take effort, I am slowly bringing my children into the task of making these items. Just this past week, my 4 yr old did the rolling and cutting of homemade biscuits. A few more rounds, he will be doing it on his own. Like he does the pancakes.

    Good luck with your ON_the-Job-Training for going off the consumption grid. I have chickens in the backyard - after watching Food, Inc. I look forward to your adventures. I might have to make a new label on my blog "survival recipes"



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.