My mom was the first one who told me about Alana Chernila, her blog, Eating From the Ground Up, and her book, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. My mom, who is not domestic in the slightest, who can barely make toast, who has never pickled or canned or preserved or even really baked. But that’s how accessible and easy Chernila, a busy mother of two, makes baking and cooking from scratch look.
The DIY and slow food movements have plenty of pioneering voices, but many of them make it seem so…complicated. Like you have to be a professional chef with an army of help to make your own stocks, pasta, and pie crusts. But Chernila says no, saving money and lining your with homemade goodies is as easy as planning–and daring to try.
First, can you tell me a little bit about your blog, your book, and why you do what you do?
I started my blog, Eating From the Ground Up, in 2008. I was working at the farmers’ market in my town, and I made the discovery that of all the different jobs I did in the week, I loved talking about food with customers at the market the most. So I started the site as a place to store recipes, and as a way to get my food talk fix during the week.
Over the years, the site has become the place where I keep up my writing practice, develop ideas for what I want to work on in other projects, and (best of all!) meet new people around the world. The idea for my book, The Homemade Pantry, came about when I started experimenting with homemade dairy. I loved the process so much, it brought me to question what else was possible in my kitchen.
I would write about homemade basic staples on my website, and people would always respond with enthusiasm and questions about new products I hadn’t even thought of making. I looked around for resources to help me figure out how to answer their questions, I didn’t find one that worked for me. So I decided to create it.
And why do I do what I do? I love writing and talking about food because it such a good lens through which to view everything else we do. I can tell a story about trying to feed my picky daughter who only wants to eat noodles and butter, and really, it’s about so much more than that dinner. It’s about the challenge I feel as a parent in that moment, and my own hopes for being the best mother I can be while still stepping back and just watching her continue to develop into her own person. We all eat–food is such a center of everyone’s lives. So it’s a great place to find common ground.
If someone wanted to start making more basics at home the autumn, where do you suggest they start? What’s a good entry-level recipe or idea?
Autumn is soup weather (at least here in New England), so it’s a great time to start getting into cooking dried beans and stocks. It’s just as easy to make a lot of soup as a little, so double or triple your quantity, and freeze for future meals. I have two pureed soups that freeze well in my book, butternut squash and potato leek. This is a perfect time to make a few big batches of pureed soup to freeze.
This is also the moment when people rediscover their ovens after the hot summer. If you’re new to baking, want to get going on some homemade staples, and want to warm up your house with the oven, I’d start with granola. It’s a simple, wonderful, and useful recipe to get you going on homemade pantry staples.