The most excellent Kathryn Elliot at Limes & Lycopene confessed her hatred of stir-fries in an entry called, Do small impediments stop you from eating well?
"Don’t get me wrong stir-fries are a great meal and I love eating them. They’re quick, easy and healthy … Plus we always have tofu and vegetables in the house, which are perfect stir-fry fodder. Our mid-week meals would be better and easier to prepare if I made more stir-fries.
Instead I hate and avoid cooking them.
There are lots of reasons for this. I don’t think I cook them very well, we often run out of necessary condiments etc, etc.
But the real reason I don’t cook stir-fries is . . . I can’t stand cleaning the wok."
Rather than kidding herself that there would come a miraculous sunny day when wok cleaning suddenly appealed, she devised a different strategy – she steams her veg and grills her tofu then throws over a quick dressing.
I agree that it’s often the small, seemingly trivial things that lead to less healthy choices. Kathryn gave examples like skipping brekkie because you didn’t have milk in the house; raiding the vending machine because you forgot your afternoon snack.
Personally I’ve found eating well becomes easier if you’re truly realistic. What fits into your life? What are your likes and dislikes? What can you manage without wanting to stab yourself with a fork? Some people wouldn’t mind washing a wok but for others it could mean, Screw this! I’m dialling a pizza. (Not that Kathryn would do that, mind; being an ace nutritionist and all!)
I love food and I love cooking. In my fantasy life, I slave over complicated casseroles and ponce off to the farmers market to stroke the organic spinach. But in reality? I’m lazy, busy and irritable. And hungry. There’s no point pretending otherwise; you just have to work around it.
So I have a list of about 20 easy meals in the back of my notebook. There’s old Weight Watchers recipes, food blog recipes, soups, salads; things I swiped from Ready Steady Cook. Half of them aren’t meals so much as assembling things. I use the list to plan our meals before doing the weekly online grocery shop. I take into account the Level of Busyness – what will I have time and energy to cook? What could I be arsed to peel or steam after work or kickboxing?
I chuck the notebook at Gareth and ask for his opinion. He says, I don’t mind! You’re in charge of Foods. I say, Just look at the damn LIST would you.
We debate for five minutes: Yep. Nope. Bored of that. Aye. Nope. Too hard. That one’s good. Too much chopping. Too many utensils. Can’t we just have CHIPS for dinner? No. Oh.
Right now, with the Kitchen of Chaos, it’s about minimum effort. For example, in the past I’ve made falafels from scratch, blitzing chickpeas and herbs and whatnot. Currently the very thought of messy food processor and messy chickpea hands and messy frying pan makes me want to stick my head in the oven. So this week I bought ready-made, non-dodgy falafel that take ten minutes in the oven. Last night while they baked I slapped hummus, salad leaves, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and grated carrot on a wholemeal wrap. Then I plonked on the wee falafel… squeeze o’ lemon… dinner in 15 minutes. Rock n roll.
In summary: Online shopping, a daggy old list and a strong sense of reality make it easier for me to do the healthy thing. It took a lot of time and effort to find my groove, and sometimes I still fall out of it. But when I screw I just return to the basic formula and soon enough we’re rattling along again.
I realise this topic won’t be particularly earth shattering for some, but I know from experience that eating healthy can feel like a royal palaver and totally overwhelming. Do you have any crafty strategies for eating well? Let’s hear ’em!
UPDATE: Many people have requested a copy of The List – you can find it here.