Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Convenience food triage

I like fancy-schmancy food, but I also like junk food. I really like it. Day-glo cheese powder still feels like a fun treat no matter how much I eat it. Both Jezebel and Amanda Marcotte have addressed the issue of how people eat when they're alone, and I think it's a fun topic, but seems incredibly obvious to me. I've never developed a good cooking/cleaning habit, and have frequently opted to go grab some fast food instead of digging out my kitchen. Being hungry tends to make me panic: "I'll never get dinner done before I starve to death!" Knowing that I have this tendency, I've taken a triage approach to feeding myself. If I would otherwise eat a Big Mac for lunch, I figure it's cheaper and probably better for me/the environment to make some convenience food at home, regardless of how junk-foody and excessivley-packaged it is. When I was trying to shake a bad going out for lunch habit, I turned to frozen dinners to bring to work for lunch, and got hooked on the Ethnic Gourmet palak paneer. I load up whenever it's on sale at the co-op. It's all wrapped in plastic, but it's less packaging than you get at a drive-through window. It's also significantly less expensive. It may be yuppier than Lean Cuisine, but I eat it and I like it. Plus, who can argue with brown rice and spinach? My other lazy-food crutch is the avocado. Smoosh it up with some salsa, eat on chips, and there's lunch! It's also just good with salt and a spoon (but it doesn't quite add up to a whole meal). People always warn you about the high fat content and calorie-density in avocados, but they usually aren't taking two drugs that suppress appetite.

I know in my heart of cheap hearts that making the palak paneer myself would be healthier and less expensive and tastier (and more fun), but that's when I have to go back to the triage concept. Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good has filled my belly with a lot of cheeseburgers over the years. Oddly, this has become a much more-functional operating principle since I've lost a lot of appetite and not had to contend with the hunger panic. I usually have to remind myself that I need to eat three meals a day, and I don't have my animal instincts to tell me to put that thing in my mouth NOW. If I am not likely to eat anything of substance during the day, I might as well put on some mac and cheese and knock down a few hundred calories so when I do get hungry in the evening I don't turn to quick, yummy things like popcorn and cookies.

Don't worry that I'm dying of a vitamin deficiency: I'm overstating the severity of my food-stupidity to make a point/joke.
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