A Note About This Feature: Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about. Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.
I’ve read often how so very many Americans are overfed and undernourished. I can absolutely understand this.
I used to eat out a lot. A LOT. Well, actually, let me clarify that, I used to eat food that didn’t come from my own kitchen a lot. I ate in restaurants, in my car, and sometimes at home, of course, but the meals didn’t originate there. It generally arrived via the delivery person or was transported home after being picked up at a drive-thru. Various factors contributed to this habit. I was busy, sure. I was tired, too. I suffered from a severe lack of confidence in the kitchen. I barely knew how to boil pasta, let alone cook a complete meal. Nutrition rarely crossed my mind in these days and my flavor palette had been co-opted by Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Sonic’s dessert menu.
Eating out had its benefits, of course. It was fast and convenient. It could sometimes be cheap (if you don’t know how far $5 can go at Taco Bell, you’ve missed an important lesson in life). Alternately, it could be indulgent when I wanted it to be (a nice table, waiters bringing me whatever I order, and never having to get up to re-fill my own glass is a pretty good time, after all). It was familiar and comforting, harkening me back to trips to Burger King with my grandma. Plus, I couldn’t fail at it. I mean if the French fries were burnt, that disaster landed squarely on the shoulders of the good folks at Wendy’s.
But, as I’m sure you know, all of this convenience and food delivery bliss had costs, too. While it could be cheap, it often wasn’t. There are only so many .99 cent cheeseburgers a girl can eat before she wants a fancy bowl of pasta. The money flying out of my budget on food costs really knocked me for a loop. Before being the diligent budget tracker that I am now, I was turning a blind eye to the hundreds upon hundreds of dollars being handed over to those who prepared my meals each night.
Another cost of this fly-by-night, eat on the run lifestyle included developing a really unhealthy love/hate relationship with food. I was in LOVE with that box of donuts as I they pretended to be my perfect dinner all the way home, but I HATED them about 10 minutes afterwards, when my stomach felt sick from a combination of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and overindulgent-food guilt. I didn’t have self-control, so I ate ALL the donuts or nothing at all. I ate the ENTIRE super-sized quarter-pounder meal or nothing at all. Not one single aspect of this cycle was wise or cost-effective. It was damaging and had high costs.
I also paid for these food choices with a disconnect to what I was eating. Rarely did I really enjoy a meal. I seldom actually tasted exciting flavors and enjoyed sharing a meal with others. I was too busy. Too gluttonous. Too quick to do more than eat and run. I was pretty numb to the process. I was full of food – too full of food most of the time – and incredibly undernourished (both literally and figuratively).
When I started eating meals at home, this began to change. Slowly at first, with meals that were hardly REALLY homemade (rice-a-roni, anyone?), but small food changes were beginning to shake things up. Even sitting down to a bowl of pasta with a jar of Ragu tossed on top began to change my relationship to food. Pretty soon, I tinkered with the Ragu. I added extra peppers or sautéed some garlic into the sauce. Before I knew it, I would just make the darn sauce myself! My cooking skills were growing, and with them, came a deeper understanding of flavors and techniques. I watched cooking shows. I read food blogs. I began to figure stuff out for myself and my culinary savvy was starting to flow.
I’m still not the type to whip up a meal completely on my own, with no other guidance. I usually find a recipe, make changes to my liking and go from there. But, it’s a big change. In my home, I eat homemade meals for dinner pretty much every single night of the week. I take the leftovers to work for lunch. Even breakfast, though simple, is something taken to work from my own kitchen. Healthy grainy bread, natural almond butter, maybe a homemade muffin I baked over the weekend.
Meals out now are generally saved for two occasions: special events or celebrations and Sunday morning brunch. The latter is just a fairly new tradition that I quite enjoy – a time to honor the luxury of eating out, rather than take it for granted. Otherwise, I’m eating food I know. Food I purchased with consideration and prepared with care. I enjoy it more, I can tell you that. I get to dedicate time to it and share it with others whose company I enjoy. I taste it more deeply, now that my flavor palate has been freed from the restrictions it had for many years. My budget doesn’t terrify me in quite the same way it once did. My runner’s body finds it nourishing, and my health is tremendously thankful for it. Plus, I’m probably a much safer driver now, too. You know, now that I’m not distracted by searching for every last French fry in my bag as I navigate the streets! So, there’s always that.
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