In Praise of Culinary Monotony

Doctors, acquaintances, and the internet regularly remind me that nutrition plays a significant role in seizure control. My subjective opinion is that my diet is awesome. Objectively, there is probably some room for improvement.

I sometimes joke that my favourite flavour is bland, but there’s more than a grain of truth in that statement. If left to my own devices, my meals would consist of flexible combinations of pitas, artificial cheese, iceberg lettuce, yogurt, cucumber rolls, avocado rolls, Reese’s Pieces, and oatmeal. Oh, and animal crackers. And matzo balls. Not so much the soup so much as the balls themselves, which satisfy all of my top food rules: uninspiring, mushy, limited source of vitamins and minerals.

meal
Three-Course Meal

This is not to say that I never consume more exotic foodstuffs or that I don’t try to broaden my admittedly narrow horizons. When with company, I am perfectly willing and able to eat what is available/served. Alone, I challenge my instinctual desire to eat tasteless, processed “nourishment” by buying various canned and dry goods, usually inspired by momentary whims and the attractiveness of the packaging. The majority of these acquisitions pile up in the cupboard until I am forced to throw them out. Who knew that pasta expires?

I’ve learned over the years that even though they are not affected in any tangible way by what I put in my mouth, people who love food tend to react emotionally to my eating habits. Indeed, it seems that watching me consume a naked pita is distressing to some, as evidenced by a stranger on the streetcar who offered me an unopened container of hummus from his Loblaw’s bag, insisting that my snack would be much improved by the addition of dip. I am growing increasingly suspicious of a friend who tricked me into entering a fruit and vegetable market with her last week, modeling adult behaviour by filling her basket with fresh, mostly organic, goods and describing the dishes she would prepare with each of them. Eyeing my tidy swirl of tart original during a trip to Menchie’s the other day, my frozen-yogurt companion was evidently about to ask if I planned to adorn my dessert with any of the available sauces, candy, or fruit, then resignedly shook her head and said, “Oh right. Plain is your favourite topping.”

Things at home are a little different. Although he is a foodie, my husband has by and large adjusted to my close-mindedness about sampling new cuisines. But even now, almost six years into our relationship, he lavishes me with positive reinforcement when I temporarily incorporate a new, more flavourful item into my diet. His efforts are always in vain, since I invariably revert back to my usual rotation. Case in point: I recently purchased tandoori sauce, which I proceeded to pour on a plate of boiled cauliflower (my idea of gourmet). He praised me as one would commend a small child eating pureed sweet potatoes for the first time, cooing, “Good job! I always worry about how boring your food is.” Not “I always worry about how void of nutrition your food is” or “I always worry about the lack of variety in the food on which you subsist.” Rather, his primary concern was, and routinely is, that I don’t enjoy eating as much as he does. I get his point, I guess—I am always shocked to discover that others don’t delight in, say, obsessively playing solo games of Boggle. The fact of the matter, though, is that I would rather spend fifteen minutes making and consuming a meal I tolerate and use the time saved to work on my dissertation, view a documentary about ordinary teenagers doing extraordinary things, or read a Baby-Sitters Club book translated into Italian. Simple pleasures.

Maybe some day I’ll move past my predilection for the bland and start cooking food that requires more than just the microwave. Perhaps I’ll invest some time figuring out why my husband thinks trying new restaurants is fun, not a chore. But let’s be real here: I’m a creature of habit, I’ll never be a gourmet chef, and tonight I’ll consume sushi, a bowl of yogurt, and a box of Reese’s Pieces before popping a multivitamin and watching adolescent magicians attempting to win the Super Bowl of… adolescent magicians. That such a film exists makes me much happier than any culinary experience ever could.

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3 thoughts on “In Praise of Culinary Monotony

  1. “The fact of the matter, though, is that I would rather spend fifteen minutes making and consuming a meal I tolerate and use the time saved to work on my dissertation, view a documentary about ordinary teenagers doing extraordinary things, or read a Baby-Sitters Club book translated into Italian. ”
    Exactly! I remember some people used to react in horror when i told them of my time living by myself in tampa and knowing how to make 7 dishes (one for each day of the week). The point of that was that 7 different dishes could give me a routine and they were all prepareable in 40 minutes which let me do other things.

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