I'm the youngest of nine children, and while I don't want to give away my age, I was born before fast food was even a thing. I remember the first time I had Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was such a novelty that we spread out blankets on the living room floor and had a picnic. I was 12 before the first Burger King opened in my area, and it was 20 minutes away. Going out to get that first Whopper was exciting.

I remember KFC for another thing too. The chicken was good, but the sides didn't taste like any kind of natural food I had ever eaten. 99% of what I ate growing up was prepared by my mother at home. She was a great cook. And because she was always cooking for so many, she needed help. I spent a lot of time helping in the kitchen, and I learned to love cooking and appreciate good food.

Fast forward to my home and my kids. I do all the cooking and consider the kitchen mine. My kids learned to appreciate good food the hard way. I remember the Sunday like it was yesterday. I made tilapia in pouches on the grill. Two of my kids said it was disgusting. To my face! The next night they had Salisbury steak from the frozen food aisle at Jewel. They never complained about my cooking again. (I also don't cook fish at home much.)

Looking back, I find it funny that I gave my kids processed food to teach them a lesson.

I've learned that I am unique in enjoying cooking. Recently I had dinner with a couple of friends, and the subject of pasta sauce came up. One woman asked which brand we all preferred. I was the only one who said I make my own. In my opinion, there is nothing easier than marinara sauce. It has just a few ingredients: canned tomatoes, garlic, basil, EVOO, salt, and pepper. There are no preservatives. It takes less than 30 minutes to cook. When the pasta's ready, it usually is too.

This Marinara is excellent for a quick weeknight meal. Sunday gravy, as Italians call a sauce that simmers for hours and includes a variety of meats, is entirely different. What's the same is that they both use simple ingredients and are made from scratch. Good food doesn't have to be difficult to make.

Real food tastes terrific. My kids know that I will only eat homemade banana bread because artificial banana tastes medicinal to me. The same goes for most fruit flavors. Even the smell of peach jello bothers me.

Some shortcuts are allowed without giving up flavor. For example, I use organic chicken stock if I don't have broth in the freezer. Guess what? The chicken carcass goes in the soup pot just like my mom used to do. Other shortcuts include frozen vegetables, frozen crushed garlic, and canned beans.

It might be easier to buy pre-made potato dishes or frozen lasagna. Still, you are sacrificing flavor, possibly paying more money, adding to the plastic waste problem, and getting a hearty dose of preservatives as well. Try going back to basics with your cooking and see what you notice about the taste and quality of your meals. 

Until next time,