Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

by on July 12th, 2012

Jennifer Reese has wallsful of cookbooks and in part to justify their existence came her blog, When Reese found herself unemployed in 2008 she wanted empirical data to support her economic choices, “taking into account the competing demands – time and meaning, quality and conscience, budget and health – of everyday American family life.” She spent time raising chickens, all kinds of vegetables and a couple of children. From the blog and the data emerged this well-written, funny and surprisingly compelling book. Which foods and drinks are worth making from scratch from important perspectives: How much of a hassle is it to make, and if it’s a big hassle, is it worth the experience…at least once? How much does it cost to conjure it up compared with purchasing it at a big grocery store or Whole Foods or some other healthy food store?

Lest you think this is a dry, fuddy-duddy kind of book, know that Reese is smart, modern, funny, and tells it like it is. Yes, there is science – after making baking powder by sifting 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar (another science altogether) and comparing it with Clabber Girl double acting baking powder, the resulting cookies tasted the same, but the homemade baking powder made sprawly less cakey cookies. This chemistry lab resulted in Jennifer’s decision to purchase aluminum free baking powder such as the Rumford brand going forward. And there is math, 2.5 pounds of Camembert costs about $9.00 to make. Purchasing this much cheese in Reese’s neighborhood would cost about $50.00. “Even if you blow it and lose your whole investment in this cheese, it’s not a big one.”

There are 120 recipes in Make the Bread, Buy the Butter ranging from breads and spreads to desserts, having people over to duck eggs, junk food to canning. There’s a short list of resources in the appendix. It’s worth taking a gander at the book just to see what’s worth making and what’s worth buying. It’s worth lingering over the book because it’s funny, well-written and informative.

Spoiler alert: make the frankfurter rolls, buy the hamburger buns.



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