Advice to a young man on food

November 11, 2015 by Joshua
in Fitness, Habits, Nature, Tips

I think you’ll like what I wrote about food to someone who wrote:

I’ve been looking for something like this [to learn to cook, in balance with my work] in my life, but what’s a good place to start learning how to cook?

I’m a young single dude in his 20s, and the most I can do is boil some pasta. I work from home so time is not really a huge issue, I just don’t know where to start. Any tips?

I responded:

Something that worked for me:

This year I bought into a Community Supported Agriculture deal, where every Tuesday I pick up a load of vegetables and fruit from a farm, usually picked a day before.

I made a rule for myself that I wouldn’t waste any of it. It began with a flood I could barely keep up with. Many vegetables I had to figure what they were and what to do with them—daikon radishes, chard, tomatillos, squashes, etc. Some I had never used, like fresh jalapeños. Without the flood of vegetable, I was always planning, never doing. With the flood, I acted. That’s where we learn—by doing.

My fall back with something I didn’t know was to steam, then put on olive oil, salt, and pepper or to sauté with garlic and onions. I ended up eating everything and much of it was the best I’d ever tasted (eating the cherry tomatoes was nearly a religious experience).

In the process, I learned a lot about food and cooking. I don’t consider myself a good cook, but at a farmers market yesterday I recognized everything, knew what to look for, and came home with radishes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, Jerusalem artichokes, and a few other things I never or rarely would get.

This year I’m just keeping up—meaning a lot of steamed vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper, which is usually pretty tasty. Next year, with the experience, I’ll make more recipes. One thing is for sure, I’ll do this for the rest of my life. It’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself.

Side benefit: six-pack abs developing despite eating as much volume of food as ever, as vegetables replace less nutritious stuff that is no longer appetizing. Plus I enjoy this food more than what I used to eat.

Side benefit 2: I spend less money on food now. Restaurants aren’t as good in comparison, with all their rice/bread/other filler.

Side benefit 3: I spend less time on food. I bring lunches with me, which saves time going out.

Tldr: Buy into local farm share with so much vegetables you have to figure it out. Eat more, save money, save time, and lose fat.

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2 responses on “Advice to a young man on food

  1. I’ll second Josh’s comment re: joining a CSA and vowing to not waste food. The CSA will provide you with vegetables that you might not have considered, and it helps to prepay, so you don’t have to think about the current cost every time you go to the Greenmarket or grocery store. Steaming and/or pressure cooking the vegetables is a good start but to add more variety, “learning” to use recipes is helpful.

    (On the other hand, this time of year, the CSAs will provide winter/root vegetables, so you may have to head to the supermarket for more variety as well as for meat and fish, if you are so inclined.)

    First, invest in measuring spoons and measuring cups (cheap is fine). Then, search the Internet for recipes for the particular food that you received/purchased. Skim through the recipes to find one that appeals to you. Treat the recipe as a chemistry lab assignment; i.e., follow it exactly as it is written a couple of times. YouTube has good tutorials to help you with unfamiliar instructions/techniques.

    Although there are sites that focus on single servings, it is more likely that you will find recipes that serve 4+, and you will make more than a couple of servings. Many dishes are even better the second day or after freezing. So, invest in some storage containers so you can store leftovers OR freeze them for a later date.

    Once you taste results, you will find it hard to accept restaurant fare…

    • Thanks for the extra advice.

      I find taking small steps helps most. Years ago I wouldn’t have expected to eat so healthily and love it so much. Changing all at once would seem too much work and I wouldn’t know what to do anyway. A few small changes a year, though, have taken me far.

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