105; 12022 H.E.

Eating is important. Eating well is crucial. For years, I have seen myself become the kind of person who eats to live, rather than the other type of living to eat. I would go have my breakfast/lunch/dinner and consume calories just because I knew I had to, otherwise, it wouldn’t go too good for you. This was all right for me at the time, as I had a crazy packed schedule, which hadn’t allowed me to simply slow down and taste what I was eating.

As an always-broke college student, frozen foods and instant meals seemed like an absolute deal. I can buy this frozen pizza for $6.99 and get a whole delicious dinner with some extras left? sign me up I think I followed this cursed eating regime for my whole junior year, as I have never been busier. I don’t even remember eating that whole year or what I ate. The fact I am alive now means I had to consume something.

I do want to note that I know how to cook and prepare complex dishes. My schedule was planned wrong by me, such that I stripped myself of time and enjoyment for cooking and grocery shopping. I've also tried HelloFresh and other food delivery (or ready ingredients) for a couple of months, however, even that proved to be kind of a hassle and a little pricey if that’s what you are relying on.

Then it happened. I started throwing up from any sight or smell of frozen or heavily processed foods, such as frozen pizzas, fries, vegetables, and burritos. It got so bad to the point that I could recall myself starving in the middle of the day, while the fridge had food in it. My body and mind would actively reject anything that reminded me of processed and just-heat-it-up foods.

Cooking for yourself is a double-edged sword as you have to enjoy your food and not burn yourself out of it. Making similar or the same dishes for some periods of time can force you to never want to look at your concoction. I would try to make myself exquisite and involved recipes because they looked and tasted good with a million spices and ingredients. I found that the key to a healthy and sustainable food regime is in something else.

That something is simplicity. The simplicity of a dish/recipe and the quality of ingredients can change your whole view on what food is and how we treat it. Instead of eating just to survive and because I have to, I started to finally look forward to cooking again, but to a new much simpler, faster, and richer experience as well. You just have to keep it simple, stupid.

Instead of using a bazillion ingredients from different disciplines, I prefer to utilize a few and be sure of their quality. The simplicity of a dish brings out the quality of ingredients, you just have to let them do the talking. Same with spices, I primarily now use just salt/pepper and maybe one more, depending on if it goes well with the main ingredient (like meat+garlic). This saves you up on the cost of extra ingredients, preparation time, and complexity, but also improves the taste and does not overwhelm your tastebuds.

What are those few ingredients? For me, you must have eggs, milk, rice, pasta, tomatoes, butter, olive oil, flour, poultry, beef (depending on your dietary preferences/restrictions), fruits, cheese, green onions, potatoes, cilantro, and fresh bread. I know it looks like a lot; imagining it, you could see how few ingredients it is. With this combo, the skies are your limits. I can combine them in any way possible, producing varying flavors, yet still relying on the basics and keeping the nutritional balance.

I am also a believer in the school of eating out. Even though I like to cook simple dishes, which you don’t get bored of by combining them in different ways and also because of the sheer foundational nature of those dishes, I love to eat out anywhere to try out new flavors, add something to my list of must-haves, and later on experiment with new recipes I tasted somewhere in the wild, seeing if they can fit my dietary framework.

I must say, I started eating better, more regularly, it’s filling, and you don’t feel like someone dropped a brick into your stomach (looking at you, McDonald’s). It even resulted in positive mood changes and better sleep. I love having guests over pretty often, so with making something presentable and good quickly, sprinkling some chopped greens over (aesthetics of the food matter a lot too), and voilà, you have yourself a delicious meal in front of you and your guests. Let the number of your ingredients be few, yet make sure they are good. I observe this applies to many situations in our lives. ◼︎