Back to basics: Cooking
When I graduated from college “several” years ago, I was poor. I couldn’t afford, on an $11,000 a year salary, to eat many canned foods or processed foods-they were too expensive. Instead, I lived on chicken, eggs, spaghetti sauce, rice, dried beans, fresh vegetables like carrots and potatoes, and pasta. I bought everything else on mark-down except milk and an occasional loaf of bread. Over time as my salary increased, so did my food budget. I began to add other things to my diet and “eat better”.
It’s good to add variety to diet in many ways, but in the last few years my diet has gone from decent to poor. It began with ‘treating myself’ to this or that, and ended with a rush to cook quickly, eat hurriedly, and run to another event or job. More and more of my foods were processed, filled with preservatives, and packaged in unhealthy ways.
In the last few months I’ve begun to realize just how many of the foods I’d been eating were unhealthy, and recently I also began to notice how many food packages I was throwing away each week. More recently even than that, I realized those food packages themselves might be unhealthy to me, leaking toxins into the food while it waited to be sold. Foods wrapped in plastics and sealed into cans that were less expensive and tastier fresh, but faster in a packaged state.
Take cereal for instance. I’m not fond of any and wouldn’t miss their existence if I wasn’t in such a hurry, and most that I eat are loaded with sugars. I like oatmeal better, but it takes an extra 5 minutes to make and is more difficult to eat while driving. But bought in the tub (not the cute sugary packets) it costs half of what any cereal on the market would.
Rice and pasta. They take longer to cook, but are much better for me than bread. I’m not a fan of any; grains are mainly used as a supporter of meats and vegetables for me. They are that extra “something” in dishes, but not a reason I would eat the dish itself. I’d rarely miss bread if it disappeared from my diet if it weren’t for tomato sandwiches in summer. It’s the rice that’s cheapest, followed by pasta. But it was the bread I bought.
And vegetables. Recently I’ve decided to love potatoes again. They store easily and don’t need refrigeration, a good thing when your fridge is only knee high. Thinking of them and working through stores and stores of canned foods I’d boughten and never eaten, I realized I miss the fresh foods that used to be part of my regular diet. They aren’t that expensive, and some are cheaper than their canned or frozen counterparts.
Dried beans are something I’m still working on, but while cooking rice tonight I remembered the rice and lentil dish I used to make, and my mind has been on split pea soup lately.
Why these changes to my diet? I’m not really sure. I’m not overweight; I haven’t been considering a diet. Perhaps living in a smaller space has brought my mind back to simpler days I miss. Maybe some of it is nostalgia. Part of it is research as to which items are best kept and which should never have been bought (teflon, plastic storage containers). More of it, I’m guessing, has to do with internet connections to the green movement, to a more ecological mindset that the small house movement has attaracted. Whatever it is, I’m relearning healthier and less expensive ways for it.