A week of eating in - An experience in culinary consciousness


Huffington Post Green, one of the top 5 websites I visit daily, has issued a challenge to its readers: "The Week of Eating In" starting today: Monday, February 22. Now, eating at home for a whole week may not sound like that big of a challenge; however, the typical day in the food-life of an American often consists of: no breakfast, or perhaps a hastily purchased coffee and danish from Starbucks, a quick run to the deli for lunch, a vending machine snack, and rushing to get home with no time to cook, maybe a quick drive through the drive-thru or pulling out a frozen dinner to throw in the microwave. We celebrate the weekend by making drinks plans with friends, and then make reservations at a favorite restaurant or two for Friday and Saturday nights.

I have to admit, when I lived in New York City, the thought of preparing a meal in my miniscule kitchen with nothing more than a sliver of formica that constituted "counter space" filled me with dread. I nearly resorted to using my oven for additional shoe storage, as Carrie Bradshaw did in Sex and the City... except I needed it to heat up takeout. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I can probably count the times I prepared "real" food (from scratch) on two hands during the entire decade I lived there. Braving the mayhem of the markets, cracking open a cookbook, juggling cutting boards on that aforementioned counter-sliver, and dealing with all of the cleanup (dishwasher? in that kitchen? ha!) sounded like unnecessary sado-masochism, and I avoided the whole brouhaha at all costs. Plus, in a city where any restaurant would deliver to your door almost 24 hours a day, (almost) no one I knew cooked at home.

Since living in Seattle and having more time on my hands as well as a significantly larger and more user-friendly kitchen to work in, I have become much more proficient at cooking meals at home. I usually cook four days a week, and I really do "cook," rather than "heat up." I prepare all of my foods from scratch with fresh (occasionally frozen) produce and fish. Whole Foods is two blocks away from where I live and Pike Place Market, the largest and most famous daily farmers market in the country, is just a few blocks down the street. As a result, I have tried to emulate the European market methods by shopping for food almost every other day, which ensures the produce and fish I use are as fresh as possible. I have grown to love buying bread that was baked fresh that day from the local bakery, fish that was caught that morning in nearby Alaskan waters, and seasonal produce that was picked as recently as yesterday from a nearby farm.

I like the experiment for the following reasons:
  • When you don't cook what you eat, it is so much easier to be disconnected from what it actually is and what it contains (typically, there are much more fattening ingredients in restaurant foods, and portion sizes are HUGE!)
  • Personally, I'm hoping to try out some new recipes and challenge myself further - to actually shop more often at Pike Place Market and get to know some of the growers, acquaint myself with the changing produce and fish, and create inspired dishes out of what I happened to find freshest and most beautiful that day at the market.
  • I'm admittedly a little curious about tracking cost per meal when cooking this way vs. eating out. I actually suspect it's not that much cheaper, because I kind of have a penchant for fine ingredients and all-things organic, but I've never actually compared these costs before (and I've read that it's cheaper to buy and cook your own organic food than to eat out). 
  • Cooking can be empowering, and the act of cooking requires mindfulness, depending on how one approaches the act. As the old, oft-quoted Zen saying goes: "Wash the dishes when you are washing the dishes." Staying in the moment and fully immersing oneself in the experience - of chopping, washing, stirring, sauteeing - can create a rhythmic meditative state and affects consciousness, which, according to Ayurvedic medicine, among other traditions, influences the resulting dish (in good ways).  We'll see.
For more information, or to participate, see The Week of Eating In: A HuffPost Green and Eyes and Ears Challenge

I'll post my results and the recipes I used, after the week is over. If you choose to join me, I welcome your comments and recipes too!

2 comments:

  1. Inspiring post, Amy... I think I just may try to use my counter-sliver more!

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  2. I need to do better about my eating even though I am vegetarian. I eat too much junk, ugh but right now I'm working on staying sane and getting back on medical insurance. Still, thank-you for these tips and information. I have made an effort to buy reduced fat cheese and am cutting out a lot of sugar.

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