Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Slop

To the people on (and sometimes off) the internet who advocate for cooking a big batch of legumes every Sunday and eating that for lunch and dinner the whole week:

Yes, if we're being technical, this is probably the cheapest way to get down your necessary caloric intake using whole, nutritious foods. It is probably quite manageable in terms of time and effort. Your great-grandmother, whom Michael Pollan asks you to emulate, either did this or would have done so if she'd had a freezer. More power to you if this is something you enjoy doing, but what if - and we all have our vices - what if you like food? What if the same lentil slop - even if it's one of the better-seasoned, less piously bland lentil slops - is not something you want to eat ten times in a row?

So it's not that it couldn't be done logistically. The proponents of legume-slop seem to think they're arguing against those who believe a from-scratch meal on a weeknight is impossible, which maybe they are, in which case fine, point taken, possible. And I grant that everything changes when there are kids. (Children, if I understand correctly, suck up so much time and money that one is left with no option but trough-of-beans.*) But for some of us, a big batch of legume-slop sounds like giving up on life. The kind of martyrdom where someone is like, that's it, no new clothes or cosmetics! no meals out!, and this is not because they're actually penniless, or nobly non-wasteful, they're just depressed.

And that's how it seems to go with a lot of the 'simple living' advice. No, our happiness shouldn't depend on material things, on being spoiled modern Westerners who would at the very least like a different vegetable on top of Tuesday's pasta than Monday's. But unhappiness (clinical or mundane) can often express itself as an indifference to stuff, and a kind of forced indifference to stuff can feel kind of gloomy. Stuff is fun! And I'm defining "stuff" broadly to include things like a drink out even if the very same beverage (cocktail, coffee, whatever) would cost less with supermarket ingredients, or the use of primping items (lipstick, mascara, hair product) above and beyond what's needed for hygiene.

And with that, I've given myself an excuse to dissertate tomorrow from the coffee shop (or beer-ice-cream parlor) in town.

*There was a family with seven children - seven! - getting into a van just now in the Whole Foods parking lot. Siblings, it seemed. An impressive grocery bill, I'd imagine.

4 comments:

Britta said...

I find that when I make a big batch of slop, either it's not as much as I thought/bf is bottomless pit, and it's gone in two meals or less, or no one really wants to eat it after a 2nd or 3rd time, and it languishes in the fridge/freezer until I throw it out, which is more wasteful. But yes. Fast, nutritious, and tasty is IMO the reason pasta exists. Same concept every day, but you can vary up how it tastes.

Also, in family lore, my great grandmother lived on buns and coffee, leaving the real food for her many children. This was always held up as a ideal of how a good Swedish mother would sacrifice for her children.

alex said...

hah, yes, very true about unhappiness expressed as indifference to stuff, I'm so glad you point this out. I'm sort of climbing out of a solid five or so years of aimless semi-depression, during which I was pretty much uninterested in anything material-- clothes, decent food, entertainment, alcohol, whatever. What was funny was how everyone around me acted like this was some sort of virtue on my part (sometimes to the extent that they would sometimes act insecure even threatened, like: you make me feel bad because I actually want things which so now I feel selfish in comparison) and I'd be like, no like this isn't some sort of noble spartan lifestyle of deliberate self-denial, I just literally cannot muster up the ability to care about anything at all. But nobody ever really got it, which was kind of annoying because if I'm going to be admired for something I'd prefer it be something admirable. Plus I hated that some people assumed I was judging them for enjoying life because why on earth would I do that, like, trust me the alternative pretty much sucks mostly.

But yeah anyway. I am happy to say that I am (slowly!) regaining the ability to appreciate "frivolities" as I move forward and tbh it feels pretty good. :)

Phoebe said...

Britta,

Every problem with slop you mention is one I know well. If the slop is tasty, it gets eaten in unhealthy-as-i-you'll-feel-sick-later quantities. If not, to the trash. Pasta at least gives the illusion of a different meal each time.

Buns and coffee... out of context, that sounds good to me right now, and is probably my cue to seek out something of that nature.

Alex,

That's really interesting, and glad you're doing better! It's a bit like when someone loses weight because they're depressed/anxious, and everyone around them will admire their willpower. We're so attuned to the pitfalls of overconsumption that we're not sure what to make of underconsumption, other than to praise it.

Petey said...

"That's really interesting, and glad you're doing better! It's a bit like when someone loses weight because they're depressed/anxious, and everyone around them will admire their willpower. We're so attuned to the pitfalls of overconsumption that we're not sure what to make of underconsumption, other than to praise it."

Glad Alex is doing better as well.

But let us never forget: nothing is as sexy as tuberculosis.