Homemade gifts tend to be a theme of my December as I’ve inherited the cheap gene (thanks, Dad.) I’m also inclined to making catastrophic messes in my free time. This year I made around five batches of biscotti, salted caramels, spiced nuts, flour free peanut butter and dark chocolate cookies, and sriracha salt. The former were all on purpose, the latter a surprise impulse last gift but now a personal favorite salt.
Now that the time of homemade gift giving is basically over, I’m able to reflect on the things I made, the burnt chocolate, the scorched sugar, and the wooden spoon that appeared to be permanently stuck to the bottom of the beloved pot. And it’s interesting to see the tricky dance and politics of making it from scratch at the holidays.
I’m speaking directly to an New York Times article from last month titled “‘Store Bought’ Spoils the Potluck Spirit“, which caused a little internet stir about whether it was fair to criticize people who brought store items to holiday potlucks and such. I happened to read this article a few days before I had decided to bake around thirty biscotti cookies for an office cookie swap party I signed up for on impulse. I didn’t think much about the debate-does this author pretend all people (and specificaly women) have the time to cook? Does store bought really ruin tradition?- since I literally had a lot of cookies to make in a few short hours.
But after making a fairly disappointing bunch of cookies (undercooked, flavor all off, etc), I didn’t feel so sure making something from scratch really meant anything more than well, deciding to make something from scratch with my time. I could see exactly the backlash against the an article criticizing those who don’t want to do it themselves or just decide not to.
Let’s be honest: sometime making something can be a disguised judgement of others, trying to say “Look I’m great! I’m skilled!” I admit it, I started out thinking: I Will Bake The Worlds Best Cookies ,Everyone Will Love Me. In the end, I didn’t even like what I made. But I brought them in, swapped cookies, and realized that my personal effort in baking cookies really wasn’t the point. Serving cookies that looked misshapen, kind of like mangled fingers, was an epiphany of sorts. Making things yourself should not be about forcing other people to recognize your skills or about judging the free time of others. It should be about having fun, or not having fun and realizing you aren’t much of a baker, or about watching Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2 back-to-back while creaming butter and sugar. Food shouldn’t be a judgement of yourself or others, or a responsibilty, since it ignores the privilege some people have in taking the time to cook.
I happened to find out during the cookie swap that my favorite coworker made cookie was based on a store-bought sugar cookie mix, too. They were awesome, spiced with chai tea and glazed with eggnog.
That’s why I’m in love with this sriracha salt because it isn’t stuffy or put-on. It’s easy, not really homemade as it’s based on store-bought ingredients, but still a little crafty. If you are of the rooster sauce persuasion you can sprinkle this salt on anything: eggs, popcorn, shredded meats for tacos, soup. I’ve been keeping it in a little jar by the stove, making everything I eat from breakfast to dinner a little rooster-y.
Sriracha salt, believe it or not, is symbolic of my 2012 theme: don’t take yourself so seriously, Lindsey, but make things count. I’m changing up the meaning of my blog, too. I’m making this blog less serious in a way. That is, I want this blog to be about both food and writing, recipes and thoughts, not just a blog I feel I have to write to be A True Food Blogger. I quit my ad network as a way of rethinking everything here too. The world of food blogging became so serious in 2011, sometimes good and sometimes bad, and I’m not sure what I want out of blogging about food but I do know I want it to be less serious and more fun. I’m lessening the restriction and just freeing this space, to make and write about food in a new way. The emphasis is still on tinkering and D.I.Y., but also about the ideas behind what I’m making and eating.
So I hope 2012 is a full of traveling the US, baking better bread, writing & Sriracha salt.
From The Sriracha Cookbook (accessed from Epicurious)
Makes 1/2 cup of salt
1/2 cup kosher salt
5 teaspoons Sriracha
1. Combine salt and sriracha in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
2. There are two ways to dry the salt: the first is just leaving the salt out on a parchment lined cookie sheet for a day or two. The second method is to preheat the oven to 200 and turn off immediately before placing the salt on a parchment lined cookie sheet into the oven to dry out slowly over a few hours.