Okay, let me just say straight away that that’s a misleading title. We did, in fact, have access to a kitchen during the two months we spent at the Mennonites’ house, but we did not, in fact, have access to:
- Cooking supplies
- A surplus of time
- Cash money
- A prescription for Lipitor
For twelve straight weeks making “real” meals was out of the question, as was dining out every night. So… what did we do?
Eat our own salty tears, natch.
WHEN WE WEREN’T DOING THAT, we feasted according to a special formula I’ve honed over years of 1) liking food and 2) being lazy. What this formula entails, basically, is putting a bunch of stuff in a bowl, heating it, and eating it with a utensil of your choice.
I prefer a spoon.
It sounds obvious, but I never realized I had an eating system until I grappled with it every day for a quarter of a year. And by sharing it here with you I don’t mean to insinuate it’s the way to eat. It’s just a way to eat, and one that appears to have worked okay for us given the circumstances at the time.
What we always had, even during that dark period when the kitchen was 100% gutted and we were washing dishes in the bathtub, was a rice cooker, a toaster oven, and a microwave. Which isn’t a lot but turns out is just enough to get by — the perfect bisection of home-cooking and convenience, as it were.
I usually try to limit processed foods, but in a situation like ours you can’t really avoid processed foods. In fact, in situations like ours processed foods are a good friend; a gentle blessing, especially when paired with readymade fresh food like pre-washed greens. So every week we’d go out grocery shopping and buy stuff like this:
Canned beans, precooked lentils, tofu, seitan, precooked rotisserie chicken
Zucchini, cauliflower, squash, beets, garlic, spinach, kale, spring greens
Enchilada, spaghetti, peanut, salsa, curries, TastyBite Indian pouches
Quinoa, avocado, cheese, nuts
And one night a week, we’d ignore house stuff and do food prep. Two pounds of quinoa would go in the rice cooker, and tofu and vegetables would be sliced and roasted in the oven. Then everything would be stored in the refrigerator until they were brought out again, piecemeal, and assembled into an assortment of edible delights.
What does that look like? Well, one night I might throw together some roasted zucchini, spinach, tofu, and peanut sauce, and top it with crushed cashews. The next I might mix some beans and quinoa with salsa and top it with avocado and cheese. The next could be cauliflower, kale, and curry. A little from column A, a little from column B, and so on. The same things, reunited in different ways.
Does everyone eat in a mix-and-match way or am I weird? Basically, my whole approach to food is to make it as hot, melty, and saucy as possible. I also have a high tolerance for eating a lot of variations of the same flavors over and over again, so you know. That helps.
I realize none of this is groundbreaking, and that to some degree everyone has a system of food prep and cooking. But I spent so long eating in a highly specific way that I couldn’t not talk about it, not after everything we’d been through together. And after having cooked our first real meal last night since the end of July, with pots and pans and everything, I felt this was a fitting tribute. The end of a distinct culinary era.
This isn’t goodbye, though. Over the last three months I’ve learned things I’ll take with me into our new life of normal living. Like making quinoa in a rice cooker instead of on stovetop. That shit is golden!
HAVE YOU EVER learned anything about food in times of duress and if so share with me now your secretssssss.