Jennifer Reese, the former book reviewer for Entertainment Weekly – although my reaction to that was who knew there was such a position, but come on, it's not like she was the in-house metaphysican at TMZ – she lost her job and used all the time in the week that used to go to work to get a little obsessive about what was cheaper to cook and what was better to purchase. The result is Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, a very entertaining book about the domestic arts in modernity.
As a someone who doesn't mind paying for quality but will travel miles on bike to safe a couple bucks and after spending a year eating in, I can emphatically state, of course we disagree: I have my own perspective on what is cheaper to make and what is easier to make and when quality and predictability count on but in this instance, different viewpoints don't matter. Here is why Ms. Reese is my new culinary BFF – her book is hilarious, opinionated, conveys a sense of adventure and unlike many books about DIY and eating local, she doesn't get all Kingsolver about what foods you are allowed to eat and enjoy.
According to Ms. Reese the rotisserie chicken about the same price as making it yourself. She is more ambivalent about the cheese than I am, she raises goats but declares fresh cheese like ricotta a draw (i think it is always better and ALWAYS cheaper). I buy yogurt and I am price, not brand sensitive, she makes her own and then makes a compelling case for why I should make my own. Duck prosciutto? Never had it and while I suppose it would be fun to have a giant ham hanging from a rafter with that little cap that catches fat, like every building in Spain does, but the initial investment, then the waiting (Yes, Tom; Correct Mr. Petty, the Waiting is the hardest part). Well, I can have a ¼ pound in minutes for about $5.
My gripes with her, aren't disagreements about individual foods, it's her perspective about time, false equivalencies and quality. If I were unemployed, I would value time differently, it would be less valuable than it is right now this month with homework, busy work and holidays, but one should always account for the price of gas/shipping and one's own time when accounting for savings. The issue of homemade oreos – Don't they cease to be oreos when you add non-processed ingredients and care about what they taste like? I don't think it's an apple to apple comparison, yet I'm totally excited about Pierre Herme's book on macaroons – the one that apparently has a 38 step process for making a cookie that can be consumed in one bite. Can't wait to own his book. Here is my biggest issue with her book; quality - it doesn't seem to be a driving concern.. Maybe a person can make a sound argument for a no-knead loaf of whole wheat bread but you aren't going to make an award winning baguette at home for 3 bucks. Even if you call both things a baguette, they are different.
Still, her book was a joy, a hoot and realistically challenges a person's preconceptions about food and how it arrives at the table more than 100 mile diet ever will. Way to go, Christmas is around the corner.