Great article in the Washington Post by Debbie Koenig about cookbook cooking and real life cooking got me thinking about actually eating the way that nature intended, struggling against all of the impediments and inducements of our modern-day lifestyle.
Mark Bittman in VB6 advises us to eat only fruits and vegetables until dinner time. The dinner meal is frequently eaten at a restaurant, especially if you are the New York Times’ food writer, so it’s okay to eat meat and deserts after five. He also advises that we keep our pantry stocked with already prepared foods so that eating right is as easy as throwing it together. Get his book that I linked to above if you want a really good idea of how it could work.
Ah, to live in a world where we can bring the food home from the store, break it down, and get it ready for this week’s meals. At my house, I barely have time to keep my batches of kombucha going, and that only takes me about thirty minutes to bottle and prepare. I want to make myself a batch of muesli so that I have cereal to eat every morning. It takes about five minutes to do if I have all of the raw ingredients at hand. Sometimes I don’t have muesli to eat in the morning. Sometimes I don’t have almond milk for my muesli, because I have to think ahead to soak the almonds. I smoked a Canadian bacon over a week ago and I have yet to break out the meat slicer to slice it into bacon that I can use for bacon and eggs on those mornings when I have failed to make either muesli or almond milk.
It is really hard to be ready at all times to do the right thing. Our grocery store is literally one block away. I can’t imagine if I were like lots of you, where the store is miles away. I can go to the store every day on the way home from work. If I had to plan that trip, make it once a week, for instance, my menu would be a mess. I am not ready to actually plan to eat right. I like playing it fast and loose with dinner. I buy my meats in bulk, keep them in a chest freezer, so I have to think yesterday, “what do I need to thaw for tomorrow”, which makes planning pretty care-free. This system only breaks down on the days when we both are working all day and have no time to cook whatever we may have thawed–like yesterday. Yesterday we went to dinner and a rock concert right after work. On a day like that you just gotta eat out.
We are lucky here in Kansas City that there are some really good choices for prepared meals that are going to be really close to what we might have prepared at home. Last night we went to Aladdin’s, which is Middle Eastern cuisine. Gyro, basmati rice, sautéed vegetables, yogurt sauce, lentil soup…I could not have done so well in so short a time in my kitchen. Not a bad choice, absolutely according to plan, and there are many places that we might have picked that would have been just as good for us. We did consider fast food. The words came out of my mouth. At the last instant Karen said we had time for Aladdin’s so we tried it and we did. It was that close. The inducements to eat like ‘everyone else’ and eat foods that we don’t know what they contain are very powerful. It is so easy to say “might as well”.
Your life is absolutely filled with meals that you don’t have time to make, or maybe even don’t have time to eat! The only chance you have to break the cycle is to get your raw ingredients into your home. Get them ready to use if you have time, but at least get them into your home. Get rid of your boxed and processed foods by eating them, but don’t buy more! Fill your pantry and refrigerator with real foods that you can use. Don’t worry if you have never used some of them before. Google and YouTube will show you how to use strange new real-food ingredients. You need spices to make these foods awesome, but they don’t have to be exotic spices. Here is a list of 25 must-have spices. Buy them a few at a time, they last a while. I would only add Cardamom to the list, because it is in my muesli recipe.
I know you can do this. It’s really important for you and your family that you figure it out. It is important to keep in mind that it is a process. Change is made one small change at a time. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t keep to the straight and narrow path every meal, but do it most of the time. There is no reason to go back to the bad old ways if you miss one time in the good new ways. Give yourself credit all of the time. You deserve it.