Why I Cook and Bake

Recently, on Netflix, Clif and I have been watching a delightful show called I’ll Have What Phil’s Having. Recommended to us by our daughter Shannon, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having is a food and travel show hosted by the enthusiastic Phil Rosenthal, a writer and producer who is perhaps best known for Everybody Loves Raymond. Phil goes to, among other places, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Barcelona, and Paris.

Phil has a passion for food that might even exceed mine, and his expressive face registers pure joy every time he tastes something that is utterly delicious. As Phil is going to wonderful restaurants, small and large, his success rate is very high.Β  (Although there is one memorable scene with eggs that have been marinating in something less than delectable for way too long.) Warm, kind, generous, and funny, Phil is exactly the kind of food host I want.

Traveling vicariously with Phil, I have actually picked up a few tips for my own cooking, but it was when he went to Paris that my thoughts about food and cooking fell into place. Naturally, in the Paris episode, Phil talked about baguettes, about how bread is so important to the culture that the government actually regulates the flour and the price. The feeling is that all people, regardless of how much money they earn, deserve good bread in specific and good food in general. It is their birthright.

How different this is from the attitude in the United States, where people who live on a tight budget must scrabble to eat well by clipping coupons, shopping sales, compiling a price book, and running to various grocery stores, few of which are nearby and usually involve having a car, another big expense. Especially in Maine, to eat well on a tight budget could almost be considered a part-time job, which is why so many harried folks rely on processed food. When you are working two or three jobs, finding the energy to cook is no easy thing.

And yet, if you live on a shoestring budget, cooking and baking are essential to eating well and eating healthy. What a conundrum!

Although Clif and I live on a shoestring budget, we are very lucky to work from home, where we have the time and flexibility to cook much of our food from scratch.

Last Saturday, I made an apple pie and cinnamon pie knots.

In the afternoon, friends came over, and as we sat around the dining room table, we ate pie and cinnamon knots and other goodies while we discussed books, movies, and politics. A finest kind of afternoon.

This afternoon, I will be making bread. Where I live, there are no good bakeries nearby, and even the not-so-good bread is expensive, costing about $5 a loaf. Therefore, I bake my own bread.


I am not sure what kind of seismic cultural shift it would take for Americans to change their thinking about who deserves good, affordable food.Β  Maybe the gap is too wide and can never be bridged.

But I live in hope.




49 thoughts on “Why I Cook and Bake”

  1. Glad that you guys enjoyed the show! πŸ™‚ He cracks me up!

    Very true about cooking from scratch – so much healthier and cheaper but takes such a lot of planning and time. The weeks where everything goes wrong with my meal plan and take out and pre-made food are filled in, always give me the motivation to do better the next week!

  2. I really like the French attitude to food and how good food should be available to all. We have some way to go here too and home baking, growing our own and sharing helps a lot. All your home baked goodies look delicious Laurie! πŸ™‚πŸ’– xxx

  3. I agree with you, Phil Rosenthal is a stitch, and both his food series are wonderful. It is also a shame that living on a tight budget for most people means processed foods. I don’t think this culture is anywhere close to being ready to treat healthy and delicious eating as a human right, but I think here in the northeast we are maybe a little closer to that ideal. There are so many small farms, and so many more farmers markets than a few years ago. Although the problem mostly remains if you don’t have transportation, you are out of luck. It’s a work in progress, I hope!

  4. Thinking about providing good healthy food for all is the first step on the dangerous road to socialism and therefore must be avoided at all costs….or perhaps it is the first step on the road to civilised society and should therefore be embraced. We live in a dangerously divided world.

  5. That looks very tasty. I like cooking and baking, but do go through phases where I do it less. It’s amazing how cheap convenience food is compared to fresh food you put together yourself. It IS a problem. I noticed in Italy and the UK that restaurants are expensive and fresh produce in the stores wasn’t–so they regulate differently. On the other hand, if you have more than one job, finding time to cook fresh food may be more difficult. Hence quick, cheap meals. It’s actually cheaper for me to buy a cooked whole chicken than to buy one uncooked and cook it. How’s that work?

    1. Yes. I drool when on TV, I see the fresh produce, cheese, and other delectable food in markets. And, yes, time makes all the difference. If you work outside the home at one or more jobs, finding the energy to cook is not always easy. I do sympathize and have even been there myself. I feel so fortunate that Clif and I work from home and have time to cook.

  6. I agree about having fresh homemade food, my mother always baked bread and when I moved out of home, my flatmates used to wait patiently for me to come back from visiting my parents, hoping I would have a loaf of Mum’s bread with me…and I always did! Who doesn’t love homemade bread!

  7. Lots of Americans live in virtual food deserts, even in the middle of vast cities if they are poor and live in the parts of the city that the big supermarkets don’t want to serve. But the time and energy and expertise of making one’s own food must feel overwhelming, too. You set a good example, with your baking creations!

  8. You guys eat well because you take the time to cook at home. We’d probably all be healthier if we did that rather than eat out. When we are shopping at our grocery stores, of which there is quite a selection, we don’t stop to think about those without those options, and we should.

  9. I am extremely fortunate to be able to afford to eat well. It was not always so. I have been very poor in the past and struggled to find the money for basic food so I empathise with those in our society who buy poor quality food through necessity and not through choice. Of course, processed food is addictive and it is cheap and fills one’s stomach and so becomes ‘the food of choice’. As you say, what can a poor person do with two or three jobs and no time and energy to cook every day? What can a poor person living in a rented room with nothing but a microwave or a shared two-burner hob and nowhere to store food do? Most poor people cannot afford to have a full store cupboard with tasty herbs, spices, pasta, rice, flour to add to the very cheap and basic ingredients they might be able to afford to make them palatable. Our government is being persuaded to bring in a sugar tax to try to curb obesity especially among the poor. I am sure these people who wish to do this have no idea what being poor is like! Nobody wishes to consider that our society is at fault and that by making things fairer the obesity problem will begin to be less of a problem.
    I am not an enthusiastic cook, I am not a foodie and I don’t particularly enjoy eating out, mainly because I find little on menus that I am able to eat. However, I try to provide well-cooked and well-balanced, nutritious meals for my family because I have had the benefit of a good education and have a very sensible mother who trained me well.
    A friend of ours teaches cooking at the college Elinor attends. She teaches groups of young mums who have limited budgets and often limited intelligence. She also teaches a group of retired lone men who have no idea how to cook. She works tirelessly researching menus and ways to cook food easily and quickly. I admire her greatly.
    I apologise for the rant but your post struck a chord and this is a subject my mother and I talk about very often.
    Your food looks delicious and I envy you your fun sociable afternoons with friends. πŸ™‚ xx

    1. No apologies at all necessary! People who haven’t had to scrape for money often have no clue what it is like to wonder how the money is going to last until the next payday. I am with you all the way.

  10. Great post, Laurie. One of my goals this year is to bake bread once a week. It is delicious and I know every ingredient in it. And it feels and smells like love. I, like you, often work from home, so I am lucky to have the time to do it.

    1. Good luck with the bread. We really are fortunate to have the time to cook. Sounds like a funny thing to state, but so many families are so harried that cooking really is a burden. I suppose that ‘s one reason why cooking shows are popular. People long to cook good food, even if they are too exhausted to do it.

  11. There is no processed food in our house. Rick makes our bread and does most of the cooking, although my specialties are soups and stews. I make enough to last many days. I do the canning the tomato sauce he makes, and we have homemade pizza with sauce from our own tomatoes.

    I agree with those who said that our society seems to reward fast food and convenience food. If one is working several jobs to make ends meet, it can be really hard to find time to cook. Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive.

    1. Yes, yes! Too many families are so stressed that cooking is way down the list. Sad. And you don’t have to be a great cook to produce tasty meals. Clif and I are average cooks who have been at it a long time. So we know what to do. Sounds like you and Rick have really wonderful meals.

  12. When we ran the project on the farm it could be quite depressing talking to kids about food. So many of the kids from the city existed on takeaway food. A lot of them were given a free school meal when they visited and they often threw the fruit away instead of eating it. When we had bread-tasting sessions they always chose white sliced as their favourite.

    I have many other similar stories I’m afraid.

    And now we have had a lecture from the US Ambassador on our antiquated farming standards.


    1. Really sad. And you don’t have to be a great cook to provide wholesome, homemade meals. I consider Clif and me to be average cooks who cook nearly every single day. This used to be common in households. Less so now, I think.

  13. I suppose that when parents don’t cook, then children don’t learn what good food should taste like. Sigh. As for the U.S. ambassador… the less said, the better. Sigh.

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