We do not value the very unique results of home cooking, baking, or brewing. We are instead going to the trouble of emulating something made professionally, on professional equipment. When that loaf of bread turns out to be awfully dense–nothing like that nice wood-fired bakery down the road!–it’s a failure. Or our homebrew has a mysterious funk to it when you brewed it in August, it’s got “off” flavors. Maybe your personal taste of home is just a little funky. Maybe that sourdough that’s been sitting out on the kitchen counter infiltrated the raw wort a little bit so, yeah, the beer went a little sour. Things happen.

Cooking, baking, brewing, otherwise fermenting at home will be different than what you buy. Can’t we just make beer at home and be satisfied that it is Regular Beer? That you made? It doesn’t need to be the ultimate stout or lager. Maybe you wouldn’t sell the thing, but chances are it is tasty enough to be enjoyed as HOMEbrew. Maybe it won’t even have a style to claim of, and maybe you won’t even have a clue about how much alcohol may be in it (you lost your hydrometer). Is it still sweet when fermenting? No? Ok, then, the beer is done fermenting. This batch might be weird because you dumped all your leftover malts into the wort, but it’s probably ok. It’s still beer! Next time!

Ultimately, the perfectionist, calculating attitude serves to mystify these things. I understand that making things elusive and complicated sounding is worthwhile when you can get your party guests to be impressed by your brewing or baking skills, but really, these things aren’t complicated. Sure, skill and practice always help, but none of these creations are objectively difficult. For those things that come of fermentation (baking, brewing, yogurt, sauerkraut, etc.) the basics are that you give yeasts and bacteria a sugar and they eat it and fart alcohol, acetic acid, or carbon dioxide or all of the above. Obviously there are details. But do you need to operate on those details and tedious perfectionism when you’re just trying to make something for yourself?

Mystifying things is fun and makes you feel clever, but it also serves to dissuade others from giving it a shot. Oh, there’s no way I could make something like that guy. Better not even try.

Perhaps (obviously) I did read the whole Michael Pollan ode to cooking. That book is only lucky that I’ve done many of those things already in my own pursuit of food righteousness (competition! The things have been done!) so I was unintimidated by many of those suggestions.