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"made from scratch"

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 06, 2007

In Reply to: "Made from scratch" posted by R. Berg on January 06, 2007

: : : What is the origin of the phrase "made from scratch"?

: : The British have long used "scratch" in various contexts to mean, essentially, nothing, as in starting a contest without a handicap, building something without tools. Its use in cooking means "from ordinary cooking ingredients that have not been pre-mixed or otherwise specially processed." Obviously sugar, flour, baking soda and the like are the result of a long process which is the culmination of the history of agriculture and of chemistry and God-knows-what. But sugar, etc., are "ordinary cooking ingredients." The apposite definition of "scratch" in the MWOD is: "b : a point at the beginning of a project at which nothing has been done ahead of time ([e.g.] build a school system from scratch)". If you make pancakes, or a cake, without using a mix, you are making it from scratch. If you and your child make a "volcano" for a school science project without using a kit, you are making it from scratch, even if the ingredients that you use would not have been available without the entire Industrial Revolution.
: : SS

: If I recall, the archives have at least one discussion of "from scratch." I won't take the time to look it up (I'm not the one who wants an answer), but I think it originated with footraces in which the starting line was scratched on the ground. ~rb

Quite possible. The OED discussion of scratch is very lengthy, and I have seen at least one entry in the archives that mentioned "from scratch," as well as others with a less obvious connection with the phrase, "made from scratch."