Where do you draw the line for DIY food projects?


I like to think I’m an adventurous cook and baker. When I see a homemade version of something that is usually purchased, I’m generally intrigued. DIY sauerkraut? Fermented in my attic. Pancetta? Cured, rolled, and dried hanging from the rafter so my cats couldn’t reach it. Croissants? See above for my attempt – not half bad, although I don’t expect job offers to be pouring in from Paris. 

So I was rather surprised when, as I came across Food Republic’s DIY project of how to make hand-rolled couscous, I said to myself, “I think I’m gonna pass on that one.” Not that hand-rolled couscous couldn’t be better than the packaged version, but because I felt like I didn’t want to tackle this skill-building recipe.

Yes, I realize that I just posted about constantly adding more items to my culinary to-do list. (Full disclosure: I still have not used the cured egg yolk.) That is why the feeling caught me off guard and why many questions raced through my head. Have the depressing headlines zapped my enthusiasm? Am I subconsciously doubting my ability? Has my hectic work schedule finally drained me? Or is it merely because couscous isn’t one of my favorite foods?  

I have settled on the last one as the answer, because I still want to attempt the other items on my list. As I reflected on it further, I realized there were other DIY projects I have taken a pass on: homemade ketchup, alkaline ramen noodles, beef Wellington. Most everyone has a line (although they may not even realize it) for what they deem is not worth the effort.

For some, the line is fairly basic: I know many people who think that homemade pie crust is too much trouble. Others have more ambitious limits. Some lines may not make sense to an outside observer. People might try to convince you that your limits are flawed, and that you should reconsider them. If they are due to a lack of self-confidence perhaps you may want to re-think them, but as long as you are comfortable with the lines you have drawn, it shouldn’t matter to anyone if you don’t want to make ketchup, couscous, or even pie crust. Your line may change over time, and that’s okay too. Have you found your DIY cooking limit? 

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  • rchesser  on  February 20, 2018

    Phyllo dough, that's my red line.

  • EmilyR  on  February 21, 2018

    I'd try virtually anything out of sheer curiosity if I have the time, though it's super frustrating to spend the time and money to not have something turn out. I must say I'd avoid raising and slaughtering my own animals… probably not where you were going with this. It's difficult to find the effort to payoff ratio sweet spot for many things.

  • annmartina  on  February 21, 2018

    I'm always obsessed with how things are made and also a recipe magpie so I'm constantly trying things and moving on. But I do seem to hit a wall with fermentation, although I have made sauerkraut in a mason jar. I just don't want big crocks hanging about. I'm also discovering I'm kind of done with the chef driven cookbooks that are recipes made up of recipes. Especially if the recipe creates a lot of single component leftovers. Unless it's a baking recipe. Because then there's a lot of different sweet stuff hanging around. Once I may have eaten a bowl of leftover Christina Tosi birthday cake crumb with milk like a bowl of cereal. And then a spoonful or two of leftover frosting. Maybe.

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