For this week’s faculty meeting, it was my turn to help provide the snacks, and so I baked a batch of brownies Tuesday evening and brought them in. They garnered several compliments, and I was really happy with how they turned out….but did I “make” them?
Here’s why I am questioning: I used a box mix. To be more specific, I used two boxes of mix (Ghirardelli mixes are my favorite) for a 9×13 pan and added a container of chopped up fresh strawberries. The brownies were delicious, fudgy and sweet, and the strawberry flavor permeated the entire pan. I dusted them with powdered sugar and brought them in; next time, I might drizzle them with a cream cheese glaze. But did I “bake” them?
If you Google “doctoring brownie mix,” you come up with dozens of responses, variations on adding nuts, candies, extracts and other ingredients. There’s the Cake Mix Doctor and many threads on Chowhound about doctoring mixes. I’ve made brownies from scratch and brownies from mixes, and have not found a big enough difference in taste to justify forgoing the box, but I also enjoy doctoring them, adding swirls of peanut butter or cream cheese, throwing in butterscotch chips or a splash of almond extract.
In the food in America, the evolution of selling processed foods and mixes to home cooks has progressed over decades, blurring the lines of what it means to “cook.” My mother, who put dinner on the table for decades as a single working mother, jokes that if you turned on the oven (or the stovetop), you can count it as a homemade dinner, even if the main ingredients came out of a box. Yet when I was growing up, she also prided herself on her homemade tomato sauce and put on a full Thanksgiving dinner each year, cooking it from scratch. I use panko instead of Shake-and-Bake, but one of my most popular dinner recipes with my kids includes a tube of Pillsbury Grand biscuits and bottled barbecue sauce.
Like most working mothers, I often feel pressed to get dinner on the table, especially on those days (three a week, this year) when I don’t get home from a kid’s activity until 6:30 or 7:00. I am always looking for more slow cooker recipes and fall back on quick recipes like ground-beef tacos, but even on the few days I do get home earlier (4:30 or 5 is “early” this year), I’m exhausted, quite frankly, and am just as likely to make tuna melts or a simple pasta dish. I enjoy cooking, and I collect cookbooks, pin recipes on Pinterest, follow food blogs and watch Top Chef, but on those quick-fix dinner days, I don’t feel like a true home cook.
What counts as “cooking” in your house?
- Tasty Tuesdays with Cory! Scream Cheese Brownies (ineedaplaydate.com)