Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Gena Bigler: Buy, make? Do-it-yourself? Try, consider all costs, have fun and read this book
Sometimes the best gifts are things you didn’t even know you wanted. My thoughtful husband heard a book review on NPR and thought of me. The book, “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” written by Jennifer Reese, is exactly the sort of book I love.
This book is fun to read and a great at helping figure out which do-it-yourself projects are worth the time, energy and money required. She also rates how involved the recipes are from simple to complex. The cost comparison is the most interesting part of the summary. How much it costs to make versus to buy can be pretty motivating.
I love this book. It’s fun to read, her adventures while trying the recipes are really funny. I plan to try some of the recipes, but even if I never do, the book was worth the cost for the entertainment value alone. (I should confess here that I sometimes read cookbooks for fun). Just flipping through to read each summary is educational. I had no idea what a huge mark up there is on some food items. If I ate pork, I would be making pancetta right now; if for no other reason, to give as gifts to my carnivore friends.
My grandmother often made her own pickles and sauerkraut and I often helped her. We would chat and count the ‘pops’ of the mason jars as they sealed. It wasn’t difficult and the results were well worth the effort, but until I saw the recipes in this book it never occurred to me that I could do it without my grandmother. I may have to try to talk my sister into partnering on the venture so I’ll have someone to chat with while we count ‘pops.’
Some items are just not easy to find. A surprising number of grocers do not carry or know what Melba toast is, despite the utter need to serve it with artichoke dip. I can’t believe I’ve been searching multiple stores for it when I could’ve made in less than 10 minutes. If you decide to make your own, freeze the bread first, it’s much easier to slice thinly when frozen. This was definitely a “why didn’t I think of that” moment.
Cheese making is intriguing. Allegedly, some cheeses are easy to make. I haven’t been daring enough to try them yet, but the ricotta sounds like a nice place to start. The savings for homemade mascarpone makes it very tempting to start with (as does homemade tiramisu). At $1.50 for a cup of homemade compared to $7.00 to buy, even if I ruin it it’s worth the attempt. It can’t be more temperamental than caramel butter cream icing. The cream cheese recipe combines the best of ricotta, simple to make and the mascarpone, tremendous cost savings.
A few of the items she profiles I’ve tried or make regularly. I agree with Reese, that homemade truffles are indeed a hassle, but so very worth it providing you start with good ingredients. However, even though homemade corndogs are a hassle and probably not as cost efficient as buying premade, they are very tasty and you can be creative with the batter. I think they are worth making at least once.
If you have the slightest interest in cooking or “entertaining” buy this book. Any book that can compare a cracker to a little black dress and have you nod in agreement is totally worth reading. If you are strictly looking for ways to save money, this book is worth buying. If you love reading funny stories about testing new things, this book is worth buying. I loved reading about her experience buying and owning chickens. The collections of family narratives woven through the book are funny, sad and completely relatable. In a fast-paced world of instant mixes, Reese shares the balance she has found between buying premade and making homemade.
Gena Bigler is passionate about public service and credits her time serving non-profits in AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (V.I.S.T.A.) with teaching her extreme budgeting and bargain shopping. Gena is now CFO of a Kentucky business and serves on the board of the Kentucky RiverKeeper. Gena would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org