The thing about eating is that it has to happen, no matter how you're feeling at the moment about cooking. A busy day, a nasty cold, or plain old just not being in the mood can all keep us away from the chopping board and stove. But hunger is a strong imperative: a growling belly and plummeting blood sugar can only be put off for so long.
Modern life has addressed this dilemma with ferocious efficiency and now we've got (blessing or curse?) drive-thru windows, microwave mac'n'cheese and pre-washed bags of lettuce. "Real" cooks frown on all this convenience but I'll bet most of us have the odd canned soup and frozen pizza hanging around just for those no, I do not want to finely chop six cloves of garlic moments.
So what do you do when you're not in the mood to cook?
I live alone so theoretically can get away with all sorts of secret culinary conveniences, but mostly I don't. In part it's economics and in part it's a feeling I have around my life and what's important to me. Most convenience food is full of fat and salt, is made with factory raised meat and has had life and soul engineered out of it. Not interested, not at all. And while a proper restaurant meal is always an option, the economy has moved this firmly from an occasional indulgence into a rare treat.
So what to do when I can't or won't put on a full, home-cooked meal? Here's a few options:
- My city has a dearth of fast food chains which is one of the reasons why I live here. Instead, it has a plethora of taqueria and taco trucks, mostly in or near my neighborhood, which is also why I live here. I'm not, nor will I ever be, above stopping for a quick burrito or carne asada when I don't feel up to cooking dinner. A few of my local places even use organic meat (ah, San Francisco!).
- Cheese, sausage and crackers or a loaf of hearty bread. Mustard and pickles. Sliced apple or pear.
- Leftovers, of course. Sometimes I have my wits about me and actually plan ahead for those times when I don't want to cook by making enough for leftovers. Bonus: many things, like soups and stews, taste even better after a day or two in the fridge.
- Peanut butter sandwiches. Maybe with jelly.
- Pita with store-bought hummus, briney black olives, a few carrots, a slice or two of feta.
- Breakfast for dinner! One of my favorite things regardless of my mood. A few pieces of toast, a soft boiled egg (boiling water isn't really cooking, right?) and a glass of Sancerre. Bliss.
What are your solutions when there's hunger in the belly but the rest of you can't rise to the occasion?
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I hope you enjoyed this encore Weekend Meditation, originally posted in February 2009. I will be posting these vintage posts every Sunday (with the occasional new post, if I can manage!) for the next several months while I focus on writing my first book., 2009