How to Eat

I was talking with Joseph Yang the other day about what I eat – he noted that I don’t eat a lot, though I do intake a fair amount of junk food. It got me thinking about one of the major life skills that we’re never really taught: how to eat properly.

Sure, our parents are supposed to teach us “how to eat right”, but that’s easier said than done. When you’re a kid, it’s hard not to eat right (of course, your experience may vary with your parentage). You’re not actually involved in the process of deciding a menu, shopping for the food, and preparing it. You just eat. Even the gross stuff is still easy to eat when it’s already prepared for you.

Once you’re out on your own, it’s an entirely different story. What did I eat in university? Hmm. Wow, I’m totally blanking. I know I ate perogies. And meat, there was some meat (possibly hamburgers?) in there somewhere. And pasta, the old standBy. I seem to recall bacon, but the only real image I’m getting is of a puddle of grease in a pan, and that could have been left by the hamburgers. Thinking back on it now, it’s amazing I lived this long once I left home. As students, we all heard horror stories of foreign graduate students dying from malnutrition because all they ate was Ramen noodles, in an attempt to save money. Were we doing any better than the guy with the chopsticks, face down in his bowl in a dorm room somewhere?

Probably not.

The sum total of my culinary training is as follows: boil water, insert (eggs) or (pasta) or (soup mix), wait ten minutes, eat. Even “home economics” in junior high didn’t prepare me. Pita pizza pockets? Why bother learning how to make those yourself, when science and the microwave provided the same feast, ready to nuke? I wasn’t even out of junior high and already my cooking skills were obsolete.

Half the time, we’re just too tired to plan, tired to shop, tired to cook. What would really improve the situation would be a tool that allowed people to plan their meals, providing recipes and generating grocery lists and meal plans with a few clicks of a button. Or better yet, a site that you can tell what you have in your larder, and it will tell you how to make something with the ingredients you already have at hand.

Then again, I guess there are limits to what such a system could do: I doubt it could help you make a meal entirely out of condiments.