Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Lost Arts

This week I started making my own yogourt. It was ridiculously easy, so easy it made me ask "Why do people go to the store to BUY this stuff?" And the answer, as far as I can tell, is one of two things: Either they're too darn lazy to stir a glass of milk, or they just don't know! I for one had no idea it was so easy, having been fooled by hearing about "yogourt makers" and "starter" once upon a time. Let me let you in on the secret. Pour milk into a container. Add a small scoop of yogourt and stir. Leave it out overnight. That's it. If you need any more details than that, look here.

Once I realized that people actually used to make their own (duh!) I saw why it had to be simple, and then I wondered whether other things that our great-grandparents used to make from scratch were that simple too. Um, yeah.

Cheese, we all love it, and it's only a few steps away from yogourt. Butter, again all you need is milk. And on a different thread, soap, household cleaners, and most incredibly - seeds for the garden. (A friend of mine pointed out, in response to my gardening posts, that the seeds I bought at the store were no different than the ones in my food, just older and dried out. Now why didn't I think of that?) It seems that the last couple of generations have had so much prosperity that they will buy anything, and thus have forgotten how to do the simple things. And for some of these lost arts, it's not a matter of time being to precious a commodity - the time it takes you to actively make yogourt, or even some types of cheese, is less than the time it takes most people to go to the store. Perhaps now that wallets are getting thinner, more of us will start relearning these basic skills that not only can save money but are also better for your health and for the environment.

There is one lost art, however, that does not seem to be so easy-peasy basic - although I am determined to master it. Breadmaking is a complicated thing. Sure, anyone can throw together some flour and oil and fry up a chappati, but risen yeast bread is an enigma. So many things can make yeast bread flop, so much time is required to make a decent loaf, and so much of the process requires a precise temperature... how the heck did way-back bakers do this in a stone oven? And where did they get the yeast in the first place? These answers and more I hope to resolve in the next few weeks, and I hope will result in a store-worthy loaf of bread! Wish me luck.


  1. My yogurt is in the making! let's see if it turns out lol if not i'll try to turn it into curd


  2. I've been meaning to try this bread recipe for ages: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/08mini.html?_r=1
    It requires no kneading, so special equipment, very little yeast, and turns into a better-than-bakery loaf of bread. It does, however, require a lot of time (but little input from you).


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