Friday, April 23, 2010

Who has the time?

You do, for one. People are busy, I get that. I'm a busy person myself. I have full- and part-time jobs, I'm in grad school, and I take three non-academic classes a week. Some of my days begin at 5 a.m. and don't end until the next day around 2 or 3 a.m. (This isn't a who's busier contest, it's just a statement of fact).

And yet, somehow, every day, my coworkers peer over at my desk and ask what's for lunch as I unveil my home cooked vegan offerings. I don't hit up the fast food joints and I don't bring frozen or microwave meals and I sure as hell don't eat the pathetic pizza management orders every Thursday. I load up my little purple bag with my Pyrex containers and pull from it three to five times a day.

Today, breakfast was Chia Pudding, lunch was a Southwestern Bowl from Get it Ripe and Cornbread from The Joy of Vegan Baking, and my afternoon snack was a slice of Peanut Butter Cup Cake from Sweet Utopia (I usually follow a fruit-only policy for workday desserts, but I need to finish that cake before it goes).

Every day people tell me they want to cook or eat healthier, but that they don't have the time. These people are wrong. What you really don't have the time for is anything that distracts you from caring for yourself. And I say this as a person who pulls that line all the time. Even now, my teeth are bothering me thanks to a rogue blackberry seed, but like some kind of jerk, I'm very insistent that I haven't the time to go to a dentist this week.

Well I had the time to watch NCIS and Southland Tuesday night. Sure the dentist isn't open that late, but had I gone to the dentist early, then done my cooking and working out later in the evening, then my teeth wouldn't hurt today.

The point is this: we're busy, and yet we find the time for FaceBook, YouTube, TV and that BBC America Dr. Who marathon.

So when you say you don't have the time to cook, chances are that what you really mean is that you'd rather do something else. And that's fine. There's a lot of fun stuff out there. But I'm telling you to make the time.

Make the time to cook (or prepare raw foods) for yourself. It's not as hard as you think. The more you do it, the faster you'll get. You'll learn to multitask and work intuitively. You'll also learn to love it.

I do have some advantages in this. I love to cook, so I never think of it as a chore. Also, my intense need to get my money's worth out of anything I buy means that if I don't make every recipe from every cookbook I have, I'll feel that I've been wasteful. I have a lot of cookbooks, and a long wish list, so it's no time to procrastinate.

Finally, it's easy for me to combine my biggest time drain and cooking. I love the TV and I know that's dangerously unhip to admit to these days, but I have a group of shows I can't get enough of. I don't have a television in my kitchen, but I have a laptop and Hulu. Rather than watch my shows when they air, I watch them when I cook.

However, as much as I'd like to agree with USA, no one needs six hours of NCIS in one night (forgive me Special Agent Gibbs!). So if I can't watch and cook, I remind myself that TV will wait for me, my body will not. I need to care for it now. So be mindful about your time. If you love the internet, set a reasonable limit, and then take some of that time and make yourself a sandwich.

If your schedule keeps you from your kitchen, as mine often does, then deal with it. Start meal planning. I very often cook a bunch of dishes on Sunday and eat them throughout the week. It's a very small time investment and if you're making one dish, you may as well make two. Sometimes I just prep; I soak beans or nuts, I chop veggies, or measure out spices. Then when it's time to make the dish, it's half done.

I'll make you a deal: you make yourself a splendid dinner one night next week and I'll make my dentist appointment.

Besides, you can't very well self-righteously declare that your vegan dinner is better than any restaurant meal if it came out of a box.

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