ColumnIt’s not just about healthy foods, it’s about simplifying your approach to what you eat.
Last week I got asked what I ate for lunch.
This is a very common question – we often ask people what they ate for lunch. But it was for an interview for an article about my book “The Culinary Cyclist”. So of course I had the “thank god I whipped together something interesting today.”
But then I thought about it a little more. It wasn’t that I had made something super interesting or spent a lot of time cooking (I had deadlines after all), it was just that I happened to have good ingredients on hand. A reminder that if you make an effort to have good stuff on hand, the rest sort of falls into place. It also helped that the winter has been extremely mild and because of it I miraculously have a cilantro plant that is going crazy on the balcony. A boring dish is a boring dish, but a dish with cilantro is something else entirely.
If you start with good ingredients and healthy foods, you don’t need to do much else, and while for some, eating well seems intimidating and complicated, I find it quite the opposite. It’s in simplifying that I have come to eat better. It’s not about having all the healthy foods in the world on hand, it’s about having some and just using what you have, even when it’s not that inspiring.
Which is the problem about eating.
Often we are so concerned with what we can and can’t eat, or what we should and shouldn’t eat, that we complicate things. We lose track of the joy of food. Eating is one of the simplest acts of our day, somewhere after sleeping and daydreaming.
We don’t have to think about chewing, we don’t have to do any of the work to digest what we eat, all we have to do is give our body nutrients and it does the rest for us.
But we love to complicate things, and in fact, the food marketing world would like us to believe that cooking is inherently complicated. Why else do you think that they sell you prepackaged meals and microwavable burritos? Because the assumption is that whatever you are giving them money for is too complicated for you to do yourself.
This is all one big lie.
Certainly, cooking takes time. There is no denying that food does not end up on the table on its own. But doing things like making your own vinaigrette instead of buying salad dressing aren’t really above and beyond your cooking capacities, even if you have a very base level.
Chopping up some vegetables and stir-frying them won’t take you hours. Neither will cooking some brown rice.
If you start to have the staples on hand then the rest comes together.
To eat better, we have to think in simple terms. Whole foods instead of processed ones. Vegetables instead of packaged meals. No one is expecting you to whip up a three-course meal for dinner, but maybe learning how to make a simple vegetable soup would be a good starting point.
Cooking with the basics isn’t only healthy, it’s cost effective. Sure a hamburger costs only a few dollars. But a potato, olive oil and some lentils? Not really that much difference, and when you put roasted potatoes on a bed of warm lentils on the table, you all of a sudden have a meal you can feel good about.
Kick the recipes with 18 different foreign ingredients, stop the obsession with complicated sounding dessert names, forget the notion that you need to be taking a bunch of vitamins and supplements, just get back to basics and cook.
Stick to things that only require a few ingredients. Simplify your kitchen in the name of healthy foods. Keep olive oil, brown rice, and an assortment of nuts and seeds on hand. Stop with the processed condiments, salad dressings and pre-made dinners. Drink water. From the tap. Throw an apple slice in it if you find it boring. Eat chocolate, just make sure it’s dark. Try to not buy food when it’s not in season. Cook at home. Get a takeout pizza with a bottle of red wine once in awhile. You don’t want to become neurotic after all.
Stop stressing so much about what you eat and enjoy it instead. That’s a tasty simple way to living.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.