On Saturday I roasted tomatoes.
I am not sure how many tomatoes were roast, but there was a lot.
I cut each roma tomato in halves or quarters and roasted them on big baking trays in the oven, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with basil leaves and shards of home grown garlic.
I wished I had some onions to add to them, but I didn’t.
Once they were roasted I slid the tomato-ey, garlic-ey, basil-ey, goo into a bowl and left it to cool while I started the whole process again.
Eventually I had bowls of tomato goo, which I whizzed in the food processor until it was smooth and creamy tomato concentrate. I plopped it into freezer bags and stuck them in my new freezer.
When my pajama clad boys brought in the last buckets of tomatoes and I set up the last tray to roast while we ate dinner I mentally added up how much tomato concentrate I had made that day. There was probably around four litres sitting in my freezer, not bad for an afternoon’s work I thought.
But then I calculated how many meals that would make, how many jars of tomato would we not have to buy this year? It came to around a month a half of tomato meals, 12 jars that we wouldn’t have to buy.
That didn’t seem like much and it made me wonder why I bothered.
Why did I spend all that time growing the tomatoes, nurturing the the seeds into seedlings, protecting them from the insane summer heat, watering, adding crushed egg shells to boost the calcium in the soil and stinking like dead fish from all the sea weed solution. That was a lot of time and effort for just a handful of meals, not to mention the time spent cooking and processing them, and the electricity to freeze them.
Was it worth it?
I wondered the same thing on Sunday afternoon as I attempted to render some lamb fat for the first time. It seemed like a good thing to find a way to use the trimmings of fat that would otherwise be thrown away, and apparently it makes the world’s best roast potatoes… but was a half jar of fat in my fridge worth it?
I was still pondering the same question when I had a last minute urge to make my kids dessert. As I attempted to make our favourite chocolate self saucing pudding, while trying to cook the lamb, and get kids in and out of the bath I wondered…
Was it worth it?
I could just buy the jars of tomato. I could just use olive oil and throw the lamb fat away. I could just buy my kids a pre-made dessert from the supermarket when the urge for a treat strikes… so why do I go to all the trouble of making these things myself?
It’s not because we are food saints and never let a processed ingredient or nasty additive pass our children’s lips. Our family knows the craving and convenience of pre-packaged, highly processed food as well as the next family.
It’s not because we are all about saving money. We do have a tight food budget but not so tight that we can’t splurge every now and then.
It’s not because I am a martyr that slaves in the kitchen all day and night and equates the food I painstakingly prepare with how much I love my family. I do feel a sense of pride I never expected when I cook for my family, but there are plenty of things I’d rather do than cook, and clean up.
It’s not because we have some crazy idea of being self sufficient. It is cool to grow the food you eat, but four litres of tomato concentrate an half a jar of lamb fat aint gonna gets us through the winter!
It’s not really about any of those things… and yet it is partly about all of those things.
Why do I bother? Because it feels good.
It feels good to grow something, from a seed, and then eat it. It’s kind of magical and amazing.
It feels good to be able to cook food for my family, good, wholesome, not perfect, food that they appreciate.
It feels good to think that I will now buy 12 less jars of tomatoes, that I will save that money, and those food miles, even though it is just a tiny amount.
It feels good to know that my children understand where real food comes from, that they are part of growing it, processing it and then enjoying it.
Is it worth it??
Some days when I am overwhelmed and stretched to breaking point… no, it isn’t worth it.
But some days when the autumn sunshine is lingering, and I can hear the kids laughing in the garden, and I have no deadlines looming… then it is most definitely worth it, because it makes me happy.