In times of great stress and turmoil, eating and (especially) cooking can seem extraneous, but existing in a body means you have to eat, even if you are actively protesting, providing essential services during a pandemic or paralyzed by anxiety and fear.
For a lot of people, the goal right now is simply to get enough to eat to fuel themselves so they can focus more important things, so we’ve compiled a few of our favorite, streamlined ways for you to do just that. But first, a little philosophy.
There is no “right” way to eat
There is and always has been a lot of moralizing around food, and while none of it is 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 prepackaged 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 jarred pasta sauce is just as “valid” as a homemade one, especially when you’ve been working a grueling shift or spent the day marching and chanting and need to shovel something into your mouth before you crash for a few hours (and then rise in the morning to do it all again). If you’re feeling depressed, the everday business of staying alive 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. 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’ll find our full list of egg articles here, but there are a few I’ll call out because whipping them up is exceptionally easy:
- Matty Matheson’s bologna bowl
- A microwave McMuffin dupe (If your eggs are prone to exploding in the microwave, give them a little poke first.)
- An egg poached in miso (Same microwave note applies to this one.)
- Toaster oven-baked eggs
- Buttered hard-boiled eggs (They’re inexplicably good.)
- Very easy poached eggs, which can be put on everything
- Eggs and rice
- Ramen eggs
- Miso-cured eggs
Also, never underestimate a scramble, the prefect vehicle for any 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 to prepare (you just have be able to 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:
- A.A. Newton’s cold spicy peanut noodles
- Sheet pan gnocchi (not really a noodle but still)
- A no-cook, veggie-heavy pasta sauce
- Creamy corn pasta made from a can of corn
- Breakfast ramen
- Instant ramen with a ramen egg
- Better Than Bouillon pantry pasta
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 favorites 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 in your everyday.)
Speaking of joy, pickles, olives and other preserved bits are a quick way to bring a little more of it 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 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. Carving out these nice little moments for yourself amid times of 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.