As a big believer in making food from fresh, scratch ingredients, I am often taken aback by Americans' alienation from their kitchens. I'll be the first to admit that I don't cook for myself nearly enough, but I do my best, and it's always rewarding.
[shit, that reminds me i need to soak the lentils. be right back]
One of the most illuminating experiences I ever had was the first time I made pancakes from scratch. If you've never done it you won't believe me, but here it is - pancakes from scratch is no harder than making them out of the box. The difference in quality isn't mind-blowing, but it's significant. And you can make them out of ingredients you probably stock at all times.
There's a different but unrelated strain of curmudgeonliness that I also suffer from, and that is my somewhat agrarian-minded offense at the market's overwhelming preference for extremely storable, shippable foods.
This is one of those areas that free-market enthusiasts like to pretend don't exist. The preference of the market for storable, shippable food is a direct consequence of the industrial export system, not the result of any set of consumer tastes. I could go off on the Red Delicious apple here, but I will restrain myself. Suffice it to say that no one, or almost no one anyway, actually prefers this abomination to a real eating apple, yet it's the biggest-selling apple on the market despite not being significantly cheaper than the much better apples. According to free-marketeers, this cannot happen.
Instead I will sing the praises of a food that flies in the face of every market reality, that should without any question have dropped off the face of the planet decades ago but which endures and grows in popularity even today because it is just so fucking good.
Yes, I'm talking about guacamole.
Guacamole is literally impossible to ship or store. Many, many attempts at creating shippable, storable pseudoguacamoles have been made; all have failed utterly. If you try to store real guacamole you'll find that the absolute longest you can store the stuff in the refigerator and have it still be edible when you take it out is about 12 hours, and you'll only achieve that after you've been working with the stuff for probably years. Your first several attempts to store guac in the fridge will probably buy you about an hour before the stuff turns brown.
[In case you're interested, here's the secret - you have to put the pits of the avocados in the guac, and the container must be exactly big enough to hold all the guacamole. If there's an air gap between the top of the guac and the top of the container, you might as well not cover it at all.]
As I said, it's always rewarding to cook for yourself. But when you make yourself a really good soup or curry or something, you know in your heart that there's a can or a box out there that could do a passable version of the same dish in about a tenth of the time.
When you make guacamole, you eat it with the knowledge that there is no other place in the world that you can buy or steal anything like it, other than your own kitchen, with your own hands.
And nothing is quite so delicious as that.