Every week, Bon Appetit associate editor Christina Chaey writes about what she’s cooking right now. Pro tip: If you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll get the scoop before everyone else.
Dear Healthyish friends,
In an attempt to stave off quarantine boredom, shave a few bucks off my monthly grocery bill, and use up the growing stockpile of dried beans in my pantry, I gave myself a cooking challenge for the month of November. The idea was to cook all my meals using only pantry staples, condiments, and a modest amount of fresh produce. I reorganized and relabeled everything in my pantry and made a list of all the recipes I wanted to cook.
And then this week happened, and my plans of eating nothing but lentils and oats and eggs galore promptly went to shit. I ordered takeout multiple days in a row, living in a blur of anxiety, carbs, the news, stress, and more carbs. When I did cook, I barely did more than heat up a tortilla and melt a blanket of cheese on top. There’s a mountain of kale in the fridge that I can’t bear to look at (much less cook), and I know it’s dying a slow, wilty death.
Instead of guilting myself for letting the kale go bad or stressing about spending money on takeout, I’m trying to give myself a pass on life this week. Since this whole thing began, I’ve noticed I often try to uphold my pre-pandemic standards—of cooking, living, working, and being. I have to fight to remember that the nonstop pace of that life is no longer realistic in a world where compounded stress, anxiety, and fear of the unknown are the new normal. And as someone who uses cooking and diet as a means of coping with anxiety and creating order from chaos, I’m trying my damndest to convince myself that, when my food plans don’t work out, that doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It just means I needed to go in a different direction. And that’s…okay.
So about that ill-fated November pantry challenge: I’ve scrapped that plan, at least in its original iteration. I’m still going to try to cook out of my pantry when I can (more on how that’s going next time), but I won’t try to force it on the days when all I want is khao soy from my favorite Thai spot. The only plan I have is to stress less.
I hope you give yourself a pass too,
P.S. When you’re ready to make beans, here’s a recipe: