The cover story of this month’s issue of Indianapolis Monthly is headlined as “Master the Homespun Life: The Ultimate Guide to the DIY Craze.” If you haven’t already read the article, it’s a fun rundown of local experts and resources for those who are interested in learning to garden, can, keep bees, raise chickens or goats, quilt, knit, and more. Many of the experts mentioned will be familiar to Slow Food Indy members, and there’s even a “Quick & Dirty Tip” promoting Slow Food Indy. Reading the article got me to thinking, though. There are a lot of reasons for reintroducing the DIY skills that previous generations of Americans depended on for day-to-day life or even survival. But, in a world where people no longer have to garden, preserve food, raise animals or make clothing, why has doing so become so pleasurable? Are we just dilettantes? Is the DIY “craze” simply a trend, appealing to a few for a short period of time but then destined to fade away? Or are we learning bigger, genuine lessons from these activities?
One of my own recent DIY projects was learning how to make homemade potato chips in my microwave oven. It’s unbelievably easy. Slice a potato very thinly, brush the slices with a little oil (I tried safflower and olive oil; both worked great), sprinkle with a little salt or seasoning, and spread the slices on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for 6 – 12 minutes (depending how powerful your oven is), turning over once, halfway through. Commence to crunching.
But why bother at all when potato chips are available at every store, gas station, and vending machine in America? Well, a few reasons. First, after reading Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, I am keenly aware that conventionally grown potatoes are raised in soil that is quite literally soaked in chemicals, which means that the potatoes uptake those chemicals as they grow. No washing that stuff off. And, a bit surprisingly, it’s hard to find potato chips made with organic potatoes.
Add to that, making my own potato chips makes them a lot less mindless than grabbing a mega bag at the Costco; my microwave is small and each batch of chips takes 12 minutes cook. I’ve really got to want them to put in the time.
To my delight, I also found that my homemade potato chips were super tasty and I can season them any way I like — a little salt and pepper; my own blend of southwest seasonings; olive oil, garlic and parmesan; you name it. The point is, I know exactly what I’m eating.
So what’s all that got to do with the so-called DIY “craze”? For me, the idea that I can make what I want, even something normally as commercial as potato chips, gives me a sense of freedom; freedom from the idea that I have to rely on some giant, faceless corporation to provide me with the perks of modern life. Being able to cook means I have much more control over my life, my health, and my money. It makes me ask, “What else can I do/make/create, for myself and for the people I care about?”
So, why do you DIY? Do you think the DIY “craze” is just a trend?
Please use the comments field below to share your thoughts and DIY tips and tricks with everyone who values the Slow Food way of life. Can’t wait to read ’em!
About the Author
Lorrie Wehr is an Indianapolis writer and sometimes-artist who believes sharing good food is the key to a good life.