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Our Changing World: The Lost Art of Cooking from Scratch

March 5, 2013

When I was 15 my mother taught me to back a cake. And after that I was hooked.


I used to do quite a bit of baking. The peak of my baking career came when I made two large christmas cakes for a musical society’s Christmas party. They were pretty good if I do say so myself. I am probably still carrying some of the marzipan from them around my waist. And maybe there are not many people living and remembering the event to contradict my rose tinted view of those cakes at this point.

Over the years, my enthusiasm for baking waned, or maybe I just got busy, and by my thirties I was pretty much down to making chocolate chip cookies using a killer but easy recipe. Sadly I don’t think I even have it any more.

In addition to baking, I had to learn how to cook main courses after I left home on my 19th birthday. I learned how to make Inidian curries and a whole lot of other stuff. For me it was never about making fine cuisine, or something that looked good, but simply something that tasted ok and was recently healthy. I could never be a chef.

When I was young, people didn’t eat out a lot, at least not the sort of people I knew. And eating out in New Zealand in the 60s and 70s was generally not an exercise in fine dining. I remember going to a Chinese restaurant in Hamilton New Zealand once. They served a plate of bread and butter with the metal (no it wasn’t foccacia!) and when we asked for tea it was English tea, with milk, in a cup and saucer. Ah, the good old days!

These days, there is so much processed food and pre-cooked dinners. A lot of people seem to rely on the microwave for most of their cooking, when they are not using takeout or going to a restaurant. There are now websites devoted to cooking from scratch (e.g.,


I can remember when we used to cook from scratch. And there were even home economics classes in school. Yes, it was a bit sexist (the girls did Home Ec and the boys did metal working) but at least someone learned how to cook.

These days the hipster idea of cooking seems to be buying a store-made cupcake, dumping some frosting on it, making a smiley face with a chopstick, adding some sprinkles, and then taking a picture with the iPhone and uploading it onto the Facebook page for all one’s friends to comment on what an act of genius it is.

You know that something fundamental has changed when cooking from scratch is the exception rather than the rule. Even the language has changed. Now they are calling it “scratch cooking” (call in the language police!). Here is how Wiki answers defines scratch cooking (

‘from scratch’ cooking which means taking ingredients that aren’t previously prepared and adding them together to create a dish. For example, biscuits made from Bisquick are not from scratch but biscuits where I measured out the flour, baking powder, etc. are.

So there you have it. Now it is official. Cooking from scratch has now become a quaint curiosity with the new special moniker “scratch cooking”.
For all this convenience, is the world becoming a better place?
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