How To Feed Yourself When You Have More Important Shit To Do

In times of great stress and turmoil, eating and (especially) cooking can seem extraneous. This is, quite obviously, not a normal time, but existing in a body means you have to eat, even if you are actively protesting, providing essential services during a pandemic, or paralysed by anxiety and fear.

For a lot of people, the goal right now is to get fuel themselves so they can focus more important things, and we’ve compiled a few of our favourite, streamlined ways for you to do that. But first, a little philosophy.

There is no “right” way to eat

There is and always has been a lot of moralising around food, and while that moralizing is never productive or helpful”even in the best of times”it’s even more counterproductive right now. If you have any guilt or shame associated with convenience eating or pre-packaged foods, take a moment to banish it from your brain.

If buying a container of pre-chopped vegetables means you make a stir-fry that nourishes you, then buy the container of pre-chopped vegetables. A jar of pasta sauce is just as “valid” as a homemade one, especially when you may have been working a gruelling shift, or out marching and chanting all day, and need to shovel something into your mouth before crashing for a few hours (and then rising in the morning to do it all again).

If you’re feeling depressed, things can seem even more overwhelming, and you should feel absolutely no shame in embracing instant meals like ramen, boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen pizza, or frozen dumplings.

I’m going to share some recipes, because that is my job, but you don’t have to cook at all. Outsourcing is and always has been an option, so feel free to pay someone else for a sandwich or whole rotisserie chicken, and then turn your attention back to any of the very pressing matters at hand.

Eat some eggs

Now “more than ever” is the time to lean on eggs and easy egg preparations, and we have many suggestions on how to do that. Eggs are an obvious pick for breakfast, but you can also eat them for lunch, as a snack, or for a quick, protein-packed supper. You can see our full list of egg articles here, but there are a few that whip up exceptionally easy:

Also, never underestimate a scramble, a prefect vehicle for any sort of leftover protein or vegetable you wish not to waste.

Send noods (to your stomach)

Noodles of all kinds are a good option because they are quick, require almost no culinary skill (you just have to boil water), and can be adapted to suit almost any diet (except paleo, I think). Though handmade pasta tossed with a sauce that’s been simmering for hours is delicious, it is not a good project for this particular moment in time. Instead, try one of these streamlined pasta approaches:

Kraft macaroni and cheese is good too, especially if you splash in a little buttermilk.

Roast a chicken

Protein is important, and a roasted chicken is a very easy, versatile protein source. There are a lot of different ways to cook this bird, but my favourites are aggressively simple. If you have 24 hours, a labneh-marinated chicken is worth the wait, and requires very little activity on your part, but a chicken brushed with mayo and bouillon will also give you delicious results with very little prep. Poaching a chicken is another very smart, efficient tactic; you get a mess of juicy, flavorful meat and a gallon of delicious broth (which you can use for noodles).

Just eat snacks (and pickles)

A pile of snacks is a valid supper”I’m always saying this! In fact, I wrote a whole blog about it, which you should read, if that sounds like something you’d be interested in. Cheese boards, charcuteries boards, bowls of popcorn, and chips and dip are all low-effort ways to refuel yourself, and they are fun. (“Fun” may seem like an alien concept right now, but it is important to still find small bits of joy.)

Speaking of joy, pickles, olives and other preserved bits are a quick way to bring joy to a simple meal. Kimchi, pickled sprouts, and seasoned spinach (which can all be purchase pre-made at most Asian grocery stores) can turn a plain bowl of rice into something intensely flavorful; top it with an egg or some kind of some crispy tofu, and you have a full meal. Add some Tajin pickled onions to a breakfast sandwich, and it’s suddenly exciting. Put a pickled cherry and a piece of cheese on a cracker, and you’ll feel fancy, if but for a moment, and carving out nice little moments for yourself during all of the heartbreak, unrest, and uncertainty is vital. Food seems a little silly right now, but what you are doing isn’t, and you have to eat, my friend. You have to eat.

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