Home made isn't always best. Take spaghetti. Years ago my wife and I would make fresh pasta in all the usual shapes, using our own eggs and the best flour, hanging the pasta over broom handles to dry, and one day we admitted to each other that we liked the bought stuff better.
While home-made bread is immeasurably better than any you can buy in a supermarket, it is unlikely to be better than that of the artisan bakers who have had a renaissance this century.
We liked that we could boil bought stuff to the al dente stage, just a little hard in the centre, and it had texture, and our Italian pasta roller became a bargain on a daughter's stall at Adamstown's Sunday markets more than a decade ago.
And while home-made bread is immeasurably better than any you can buy in a supermarket, it is unlikely to be better than that of the artisan bakers who have had a renaissance this century.
Except for my focaccia, that is. Dripping with the best olive oil, studded with olives and cherry tomatoes and herbs, it takes the cake.
Did someone mention cake? My wife's cakes render any shop cakes inedible, and I suppose being able to use backyard eggs helps. She makes orange cake using two whole oranges, an Asian-inspired banana and orange syrup cake (my fave), a fig frangipane, which uses almond meal instead flour, and an Armenian nutmeg cake among others.
Longtime readers may recall at this point that 12 years ago I was crowned the Newcastle Show men's chocolate cake champion, a triumph that put my wife's nose so far out of joint it obscured the vision in her left eye for years. Still smudges it.
Home made is almost always best, and even if it's a close call the fact that you made it is the casting vote. My wife and I have been home makers since we made a home together almost 40 years ago, and while there are quite a few people who make rather than buy much of their staples, most everyone, I think, makes maybe just one thing occasionally.
I don't mean meals, rather the things we have in the pantry or the fridge for longer than a meal. Today I'm going tell you what we, mostly she, makes, with the starring ingredient usually from our backyard.
With our oranges, lemons and cumquats my wife makes jam, marmalade and curd, and a little troubling is that she doesn't eat the jam because she prefers a sour cherry jam from the supermarket. Where's the cred in that?
She makes preserved lemons too, and one year recently tried to preserve our limes the same way but they had a strangely metallic taste. As well, we use the lemons to make a lemonade that is carbonated in the plastic bottle with a few grains of yeast.
My favourite jam is fig, slightly caramelised and lusciously figgy. For years I'd go to the tree right up the back each day and pick maybe four or five, and after I covered the tree with a net for the first time two years ago I'd pick 40 a day! The birds and bats had been feeding much better than I'd realised.
For a while we made a jam-like paste by simply mashing then reducing our persimmons, which may have had less sugar than jam, but last year's unseasonal spring left us without persimmons.
I fear that the very dry winds of September just passed have destroyed our mango trees' flowers, too, and as bad as not having the fresh fruit is not having my wife's Chinese mango pudding and my Thai green mango salad.
We preserve our garlic in oil and sometimes make a paste, and I have just hung 97 in the back shed to dry. Onions I pickle in brown vinegar, as I do with hundreds of long, thin and green Italian chillies.
Home-pickled beetroot may well have the greatest margin over the commercial version. My wife does it each year and it brings something special to a salad sandwich and pretty well everything else.
Much of our herbs goes to my wife's pestos, and for a couple of years she's been making a particularly interesting pesto with parsley, parmesan and anchovies.
Traditional choko pickles are an annual event, and right now the choko vine is powering over the hen house, and I make a chilli chutney that is at the pinnacle of culinary achievement. In some years we'll make an Indian tomato kasaundi and Italian eggplant pickles. We've discovered recently, by the way, that chunks of half-roasted eggplant add a unique creaminess to pizza.
For years we fermented our own olives, barrels of them, but after consecutive failures we've resorted to buying olives from small producers who use the long fermentation rather than the caustic soda shortcut. One such producer is a Greek family, whose members implore me every time they see me to cook a whole goat in our wood-fired oven.
This year we hope to get enough macadamias to make our first macadamia butter, as in peanut butter, and if the cascades of flowers a month ago are a guide we'll be cracking macadamias for months.
Occasionally my wife makes cheese, fetta and goat cheese and brie among them, and for many years she has made yoghurt and labna. The cheese is good but without the distinctive character of the best cheeses, so we still haunt the supermarkets' short-date specials for the best cheeses.
And, of course, I make beer. The world's best. And I'm hoping to grow my own hops, which will make it even better than that.