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Mar 22, 2007 07:08 AM

The line between homemade and...not so much.

This past weekend my fiancee's brother Gale and sister-in-law Judy came to stay with us. It was a lovely visit and i enjoyed the company, but was somewhat annoyed by Judy's continuous unsolicited advice relating to all things domestic. There is a significant age gap between she and I and I think she feels this gives her an edge. Anyhow, this all culminated when she decided to make her, "Famous Home-made Lemon Meringue Pie".

She went to the grocery store and purchased what she needed and was then given free reign in my kitchen. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that her famous home-made pie consisted of a store bought crust and lemon jello pudding. The only thing she made was the meringue.

Now, do you think this counts as a home-made pie? In my opinion this is no more than kitchen assembly. Have you ever had an experience like this when having someone's Famous Home-made ______?

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  1. She must love Sandra on the food betwork! I definitely do not think this qualifies as home made- maybe as home baked! But I certainly sympathise with you as to her rude behavior. I cannot imagine visiting someone and giving unsolicited advice- never mind commandeering their kithchen.

    1. How 'bout "home assembled"? ;-) No, I wouldn't presume to call it "home-made" unless I'd made lemon curd from scratch. I won't begrude anyone the crust, since I can't make one to save my life.

      12 Replies
      1. re: abowes

        I was thinking "home assembled" too, before I scrolled down and saw the term was taken.

        "Bad" homemade crusts (thick, doughy, heavy, undercooked) are a favorite of mine anyway :-)

        As far as the future SIL's behavior: just smile and nod. Even saying "thank you" won't cost you anything... and the Personal Superiority points you will earn are worth it (even if you have to keep the tally to yourself).

        Perhaps you could present her with a REAL homemade version of her pie sometime, and tell her you were just trying to be like her. (don't say the "only not fake" part out loud, hee hee)

        1. re: misterbrucie

          I feel a bit guilty having posted this now, but it was driving me crazy and I didn't want to say anything to my fiancee because she is his family. Fortunately they live in MI and we in FL so it is not a situation I will be in often.
          It is funny you mention making an actual homemade pie to show her because the day she left I made a homemade strawberry pie. It wasn't so much to show her up, obviously she wasn't even around, it was more of a working out my nerves on the dough/cleansing my kitchen ritual.
          I must admit I garnered a small amount of satisfaction from he fact that my SO did not touch what was left of her pie once she was gone, but mine was devoured in no time. It may be petty, but you can't deny how ya feel =)

          1. re: ArikaDawn

            hehe, good for you! it is always so reassuring, albeit mildly ridiculous, when one's SO prefers their food to anything else. i taught my boyfriend how to cook and he likes my cooking more than anyone else's so i can totally give you a pat on the back. :) thank bejesus he's an only child.

          2. re: misterbrucie

            i'm sorry, but i think giving her *your* version of (presumably) much better lemon meringue pie would be very poor form. she's proud of it, so let her have her moment in the sun. as you say, you won't be seeing her all that often. take one for the team. you realize now the loyalty of your s/o's palate, which matters more.

            if faux home-made equals family harmony, how bad is that? we all have an annoying relative. or two.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Oh, I would never be ballsy enough to give her a version of her pie. I am much more comfortable graciously swallowing her "home-made" pie and advice. It is remarkable how political family relations can be, but I am someone who will do anything to keep the peace even if it means my only outlet is venting on a chowhound board.

          3. re: abowes

            Well, I feel a little better now. I'm having guilt issues because I used store-bought cookie dough (for the first time in my life) to make the cookie pops that went on top of the cupcakes I'm bringing to the offspring's school for her birthday today. The cupcakes, chocolate glaze, and icing for the pops are all scratch-made. This is a day or two after I made a sculpted space shuttle cake for the kid's party. I have zero guilt about using pre-made fondant for that one. Sometimes store-bought ingredients can save your sanity. And I do mean sanity since I have two jobs in addition to all the above. I am a certifiable lunatic.

            Having said all that, I cringe every time a neighbor mentions her "gourmet" cooking. "Gourmet" is her word choice, not mine. Her idea of home baking can be a cake mix and a microwave. That is *not* inherently evil and it may taste just fine but it's certainly not something I would brag about. I just politely try to avoid eating anything she's made whenever I can (not snobbishness, from experience I know I don't like her cooking) and I always avoid giving advice - even when asked for - because I know she really doesn't want to hear it.

            1. re: rockycat

              Mrs Jfood is an excellent baker and has spent hours baking a decorating a basket weave strawberry shortcake for her mom's b'day. That being said she uses Ghiradelli's double fudge brownie mix from Costco for little jfood's bringto school stuff. When little jfood says she is going to tell everyone they're homemade, we tell her say, "My Mom made them." Lot's of parents call for the recipe and they absolutely love the idea they can go to Costco and replicate. Sometimes Made at Home is the new Homemade.

              1. re: jfood

                Ghiradelli's double fudge brownie mix from Costco -

                This stuff is seriously good - I don't make brownies from scratch much - and from now on probably even less.

                1. re: Jeanne

                  Totally agree about the Ghiradelli brownies. After making these, I don't know why I would ever waste time making brownies from scratch.

                2. re: jfood

                  For grown up brownies, I add a half shot of Jack Daniel's regular to the mix, subbing for water.
                  I like cakey brownies, though.
                  That is a good mix. Knowing when and how to 'cheat' is an important part of good cooking.

                  1. re: Perkyshai

                    I'm not crazy about bourbon ;). I always add nuts - adding some Kalua or Bailey's too would be good!

              2. re: abowes

                Typical lemon meringue pie isn't filled with lemon curd, but rather a translucent, cooked lemon, sugar & cornstarch filling.

              3. That's like taking bottled pasta sauce, adding a couple of things and saying it's your own homemade sauce. Like Sandra Lee on the Food's semi-home made.

                1. Jacques Pepin made a comment on his show once about how he used to chase down chickens to make his dinners. He said most Americans open a package of chicken breasts, a pack of spinach and call that cooking. Everyone has a different idea of what "home made" is. I've never chased down a chicken in my life. I've been lucky to get an egg off a nest on a rare occasion.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    I'll venture to say that Jacques Pepin has probably opened more packs of chicken breasts than chased chickens.

                    1. re: JaneRI

                      I doubt that very, very seriously. He's probably unwrapped many WHOLE store-bought chickens, but he's not the kind of guy to deal with chicken bosoms. He's a whole chicken kind of guy, for sure. If he bought any chicken parts, it would be legs. He says as much himself in one of his cookbooks.

                      1. re: uptown jimmy

                        The point I was making was I doubt he's killing his own chickens on a regular basis.

                        1. re: JaneRI

                          Who IS killing their own chickens these days?
                          I think the point is that cooks starting with boneless-skinless filets of chicken, fish and other meats and using food processors and partially prepared ingredients are bypassing the development of skills and techniques that allow them to become good cooks. At some point they'll hit a wall. They'll never learn to improvise, create from a happy discovery at the morning farmers' market, or become instinctive cooks. They're stuck with "the recipe."
                          There's no substitue for skills and techniques that start with the basics.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            I agree.

                            On a previous note, the funny thing about the now-infamous pancake mix in a box is that it's intended as a "time-saving" device. How much time are you saving when it only takes five minutes to throw pancakes together? Literally five minutes, six tops. I can get the batter ready before the pan is hot. Anyway....I'm off to prepare my garden for spring planting.....

                            1. re: uptown jimmy


                              I use the box (NOT the add water inly version) and it's not the time savings but the convenience. Mix, an egg, milk and oil and then I let it sit for five minutes to activate the ingredients. Then I turn on the griddle. Pancakes.

                              And BTW I never have buttermilk handy so I get to have B'milk pancakes when I would not have the opportunity.

                            2. re: MakingSense

                              Using a food processor will impede in my skills as a cook? Well, I guess I can learn to make pesto as quickly with a knife, mortar and pestle as I do with a food processor... It's not like I use a food processor to make julienne cuts.

                              1. re: Blueicus

                                No way can you make pesto as quickly with a mortar and pestle as you can with a food processor. But as part of a good cook's training in basic skills, it is useful to learn - preferably from someone who knows how to to do it properly - how to make pesto by hand. Once you see the proper texture, you'll be able to transfer that knowledge to your use of the processor.
                                How much bad pesto have you had, made by people who think that it's nothing more than a bunch of basil ground to a mush with some other stuff?
                                There are even julienne blade for processors that make a holy mess of perfectly innocent vegetables.
                                Nothing replaces learning basic skills if you want to be a good cook.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  After several years of learning to cook, I recently came to the conclusion that I need a mortar and pestle. Asian dishes frequently call for several things to be ground to a paste, and their ain't no other way to do it, really.

                                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                                    you will find a blender to be one of your best friends. It can puree things and make pastes that a food processor doesn't have the precision to do... we made ground spice blends with a blender at the Indian restaurant I worked at... and the chef was very good.

                                    1. re: Blueicus

                                      Yeah, I need a blender. I never had one, and maybe it's time that changed.

                                      1. re: uptown jimmy

                                        You need both a mortar and pestle and a blender. A blender can't do a tablespoonful of something or one clove of garlic. Get a good ceramic set that won't retain odors. Don't cheap out and it will last a lietime.
                                        Blueicus is right though that there are many things that a blender can do that a food processor can't. Fortunately, you can get a pretty good one without spending a lot if you watch for a good sale.

                                  2. re: MakingSense

                                    I thought the metal blades of a processor turn the basil dark? Can't remember who told me this but they said to never make pesto in a processor. Sucker that I am, I believed this and never have. Is it not true?

                      2. Jfood for the contrarian point of view.

                        This is not a contest on who is better in the kitchen or anything and future SIL wanted to make something nice. At some point you buy stuff and assemble. Do you need to grow the lemon (in FL you may), the wheat for the crust, churn the butter, raise the chickens for the eggs. Yes this is a long putt from buying frozen dough and jello lemon pudding, but you get the point

                        Here's another example. Homemade spaghetti and red sauce. Buy a box of pasta and boil til done. Buy a can of whole tomatoes, garlic and onions and throw together in a pot for 30 minutes. Serve over pasta. Is that homemade pasta dinner. Most would say yes, heh I made the sauce.

                        What she made was the effort, which is far more important than the geneology of the ingredients. She made the meringue. And yes your strawberry pie can be characterized as "revenge pie." and yes you are right you were petty.

                        But, most important is that your fiancee ate your pie over his sister's. Even if he liked his sister lemon over your strawberry he is one smart cookie. Sounds like a keeper.

                        BTW - Any recipe where the home-cook calls "My Famous Home-Made blah blah blah" is usually crap.

                        18 Replies
                        1. re: jfood

                          Thoughtful and hilarious! I'd love to get together with AD, fiancee, and Jfood for some pie.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Sammy, You fly I buy. from where i understand you live, i get the better trade.

                            2. re: jfood

                              I think my mom makes the same pie! And she is terribly proud of her meringue. I have never tried to make meringue, so I still appreciate it when she goes to the trouble of making that pie, even if it is made with jello. And she makes her pumpkin pie (my favorite) starting with Libby's, not a whole pumpkin. She used to make her own crust, but now that she lives in a small apartment with limited counter space, she sticks to store-bought. I could care less because I know when I'm not there, she makes no pies at all.

                              And on Jfood's point, I honestly don't know anyone who makes red sauce starting with fresh tomatoes. Everyone I know uses canned, and in the strictest definition, that wouldn't be homemade. How do you make your sauce?

                              1. re: mojoeater


                                Red Sauce - My favorite method is "Hey sweetie, we're low on spaghetti sauce". This has worked for 25+ years. Miraculously appears on the stove within 24 hours. Mrs Jfood out of town all week so I tried to make Rao's recipe. It just was not what I expected and there I am looking at lots of red. I did not like it solo on pasta. What to do? Decided we were getting low on Lasagne so off to the butcher, some good sweet/hot sausage, mozzy and ricotta and some noodles. Couple of hour later nice lasagne out of the oven. Let it sit and took a nice sized chunk. What a difference the sauce was when combined with the sausages and cheese. It was really good. So I went from "do i throw it out?" to "Very happy". Mrs Jfood got quite a hoot out of the story. To be honest if I would have thrown it out, it would have been my little secret. No sense sending a bus over my own foot.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  I love lasagna! You can put just about anything in it and it will be delicious!

                                2. re: mojoeater

                                  If you don't use canned pumpkin in your pie, what kind of 'pumpkin' do you use?

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    I worked at a bakery that actually got a shipment of whole pumpkins and started from there. That was many years ago.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      Kubocha squash makes excellent pumpkin pie. Much better than "real" pumpkin.

                                    2. re: mojoeater

                                      Actually, I just made a batch of spaghetti with homegrown tomatoes that I froze from last summer. Ok, I used tomato paste from a can (though I had a lot last year, I didn't have *that* many tomatoes to make paste). The sauce comes out a little more watery than tomatoes from a can but it's a lovely bright red color and flavor.

                                      1. re: vsoy

                                        Could have been the variety of tomatoes you used. All homegrowns aren't good for cooking. Some have too high a water content. If you want tomatoes for sauce or paste, try growing a plum tomato.

                                      2. re: mojoeater

                                        you don't know anyone? Seriously?
                                        That's interesting.. I rarely cook- DH is a chef and it's better to just let him reign in the kitchen. But I've been taught to do a simple 'red sauce'- that and nasi goreng are pretty much all I can cook (and the nasi hasn't been done in a while, so don't hold me to it.
                                        Here's how the idiot proof red sauce is done at my house (I'm the idiot):
                                        dice up onions (have been taught how to do this) and throw in some garlic (everyone can use the presser thingy right?)
                                        saute until the onions go pale - not cooked, but pale
                                        get some canned whole tomatoes- chop em up and throw them in
                                        add s & p
                                        throw some pancetta in the oven and cook it off- add to your sauce-

                                        that's it. I shouldn't call it idiot proof though, cause the first time, I undercooked the onions (yuck) the second time I overcooked them (you could taste the cooked onions- not right).

                                        1. re: nummanumma

                                          Nope. Absolutely nobody I know starts with fresh tomatoes to make a red sauce. I know it's done, but everyone I know starts with canned tomatoes, just like you.

                                          1. re: mojoeater

                                            ohhhh! I feel like a doofus now. I misunderstood.

                                        2. re: mojoeater

                                          Making from fresh tomatoes doesn't take much longer then canned. My tomato sauce comes from canned when I didn't go to the farmers market and buy fresh (or because the flower buds keep falling off my tomato plants and I don't have any in the garden)

                                          1. re: jturtle

                                            Unless its a super quick, warm the fresh tomatoes through and toss them with the pasta, I find that sauces starting with fresh tomatoes never develop the depth of flavor and texture that one can get when starting with canned. To me, its not about time, its only about the result. What I'm looking for from a tomato sauce in not something that can be had starting with fresh tomatoes. Just because it starts with a can doesn't mean it can't be homemade.

                                            1. re: ccbweb

                                              Yup... I do a quickie sauce that starts with canned diced tomatoes (not the Italian style). I heat up the tomatoes and most of the juice, then add fresh herbs, a dried bay leaf, and salt/pepper. Then, I simmer it for at least half an hour. I use a potato masher to break down the tomato pieces for a chunkier sauce. If I want something smoother, I use an immersion blender.

                                              Some might call it homemade, some might not. I call it good. :)