Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Betty Crocker’s bad-ass sister

By
December 31, 2007

Oh gosh, yesterday I felt the fever. If I was ever confused about how to utilize my time in the home during the winter, it has passed. Slowly I am getting this “import replacement” effort down. Slowly I am replacing the store-bought little boxes and jars in my pantry with the boxes and jars of my handiwork. I am heavy into production mode. I am producing, ever closer to the source, what we, as a family, are consuming.

Cases in point: Gnocchi made from homegrown potatoes and served with brown butter and sage, with the potato-cooking water going into sourdough starter. Butter made from cream that I whipped with the remaining buttermilk used for starter to make cheese. Ripened tomatoes (I picked them green in October), roasted and cooked with onions and thyme in a crust made from rendered chicken fat and homemade butter. Poached and chilled chicken breasts served with aïoli made with Jim Dixon’s wonderful imported olive oil, duck eggs from Kookoolan Farms, and basil-garlic-white-wine vinegar I made this summer with produce from the garden.

And that was just yesterday.

Butter AND buttermilk. Oh my.

Clearly it was a full day. But I didn’t mind, since it gave me a new way of considering how my time at home is spent. If I were working outside the home I would be busy for at least six good hours on other people’s needs. Not that I have a problem with working with others (well . . . ), but rather I see a new horizon opening for what I will call (for the sake of this post) Home Makers for A Sane Economy.

I see a movement unfolding. Currently it is rather small. If there are others interested in getting together to see what such an effort might mean, I’d be all for it. Why not speak as a voice? Why not transform our voices from conscious consumers (Portland has got that act down) to conscious producers? Let us take back the market by becoming the market. Let us close the loop on this crazy global economy. Let us think and live and produce really, really locally, like homemade local. Let us transform the economy by living ever more outside it. It is possible.

Cute little butter packages for friends and family.

As I have said before, the home offers a good starting place to consider the flow of goods and services. It offers a small-scale environment that is manageable and trackable. It can be as easy as looking at your garbage to determine how much trash is still going to the dump. Or it can be as assertive as creating a newsletter or building a community to assist, communicate, and support our individual efforts in the home.

What will distinguish this effort from others in the sustainability movement is exactly the fact that we choose to stay home and make homes — if not entirely in lieu of a career, then in a reasonable balance between work in and outside the home. And we need this articulation of intent, because homemaking is still wrapped in the diminishing gauze of feminism.

I believe we can and should challenge this premise because it does us all a disservice. We no longer need to be apologetic. Just as we need the leaders and visionaries in the world at large, so do we need those who will envision new models for the home. The time has come for a revisiting of the principles of home economics.

Betty Crocker, it’s time to move over. Your bad-ass sister is coming home to roost.

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1. by Bekki on Jan 22, 2008 at 6:59 AM PST

I love it! Homemaking Activism! I’ve been doing this rather silently for a few years now. I have much more honing to do, to get more local. But, yes, I cook from scratch out of rebellion against the grocery store.

2. by Fasenfest on Jan 25, 2008 at 7:39 AM PST

Oh goodness. I am so pleased to hear there is another homemaking activist out there or, rather, another spirit who considers cooking from scratch a radical act. So for the moment there are two of us in the movement. Certainly it is a start. Thanks Bekki.

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