Make vs. Buy
There is a product management principle in the food industry called “Make vs. Buy”. Generally, this “mental formula” is a choice the purchaser makes, weighing the cost of production of a menu item and deciding whether the menu item can be produced efficiently (in-house) or purchased pre-made, hopefully with the quality in tact. In the 212 Bistro this applies (more religiously) to our breads. I believe I make a good respectable bread product, but I am certainly not an excellent baker. In turn, it makes much more sense to me to leave the baking to the experts and purchase our bread from a local bakery. We in the Bistro like The Stevens Point Co-op, Earth crust Bakery breads.
I often struggle with my family food purchases as I was mentored in the locavore mentality. Would local and organic food “stuffs” be better for me and my daughter? I would dare to bet an absolutism of this fact. But, as parenthood is no picnic, (the use of the word picnic was an unintentional and effortless food analogy) I often side with convenience over integrity. And, because I am not a well-to-do single parent, the processed food product is usually more affordable. (I can hear my hippie friends screaming the evils of big business and Monsanto!) And, when Alice Waters (the matriarch of the farm-to-table movement) thinks everyone should eat organic (and probably skip in fields of lilacs and daisies) I wonder if I should feel shame for my personal supermarket decisions. And, as poverty is, (in my mind) more of an epidemic than any contagion, I have to question Ms. Water’s motivations: I mean, is going hungry a healthy alternative to processed food?
I want to disclaim that I am certainly not starving, so most of my food purchase decisions are motivated by time management more than what is affordable. And, I am not microwaving my daughter’s dinner nightly. But, how many of us can afford organic, all of the time? And, as purveyors of these more ethically produced foods are first to capitalize on their marketability, the profit margins for these organics are almost always trumping that of the over-produced and genetically altered supermarket variety….making one speculate as to who the real villains are.
My aim with this blog is not to take big business to court, nor am I trying to expose the money making organic companies selling altruism. I only urge, YOU my customer, to calculate your own “make vs. buy” formula in your head when your shopping for your foods. My most used analogy is Gelato vs. Ice-cream. Now “Gelato” translates literally to “Ice cream” in Italian. And, as gelato is billed as a less fattening version of our frozen confection, the health conscience consumers think they are scoring wellness points with their nutrition. But, here’s the catch...from a former pastry chef. Gelato has less fat and more sugar! It has to, to achieve that creamy luxurious “mouth feel”…because a grainy textured gelato isn’t really gelato at all.
If there is any advice to be had from the Bistro 212 kitchen, it would be a suggested skepticism when you read the labels of your (more ethical) food product. A bread might be labeled multi-grain but contain less fiber. And, high fiber bread might contain more sugar! Just read the ingredient list when deciding to buy vs. make your core food ingredients, so at the very least you are aware of what you put in your body. And, come see us in the Bistro soon for some scratch made food, because we want to cook for you!
Chef Sal J