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In praise of 'one-pot glop'

They may not look pretty, but slow-cooker meals provide cheap and filling fuel.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:33AM

Crunch time: Exams are approaching, two final projects are due, and I am still fairly shaky on certain fine points of Spanish grammar. 

That's why on Saturday I filled the slow cooker with great northern beans, ham scraps, chopped onion and grated carrot. I stirred up a pan of cornbread and settled down to read Hélène Cixous. By midafternoon, I had five or six nights' worth of dinners in the fridge.

I refer to this as "one-pot glop" nutrition. Some days you don't have time to wonder what you'll fix for supper. Leftovers rule, and one-pot leftovers reign supreme. 

For the past couple of years I've been far too busy with work and school to cook something different every night. Instead, I cook something different every four or five nights: chili, spaghetti, stew, ham and beans, meatloaf, half a dozen chicken leg quarters. 

It's not fancy cuisine, but it's healthy. It's tasty. More to the point, it's ready.

Cook once, eat (the same thing) for a week
Since I am likely to rebel after chili for five nights in a row, I usually add other simple dinners to the mix. These generally are made with ingredients I already have on hand -- dinners like scrambled eggs with a bagel and cream cheese or barbecued chicken quesadillas -- or maybe even a frozen dinner bought on sale with a coupon.

Foodies might sniff at the idea of such sameness. Of course, ordinary people might feel the same way; see "chili for five nights in a row" above. For these folks, I have a suggestion: Make two one-pot glops, then mix and match. Or add quick-fix dinners, the way I do.

If your kids revolt, give them the option of a PBJ or a bowl of cereal. But don't fix an entirely separate meal. The whole point of one-pot glop is to make your life easier, not turn you into a short-order cook when Junior decides he doesn't want beef stew two nights running.

Waste is a thing we should mind
It's not just a time issue. Money and ethics figure in, too. One-tenth of American's grocery dollars go for what will become wasted comestibles -- food that spoils because it isn't eaten.

Ordering takeout because you don't want to eat what's in the fridge is not a smart use of available funds, especially if you have consumer debt and/or financial goals.

It's also a lousy use of available food. When leftovers linger untouched, it's easy to consider them "old" and throw them out.

Some people spend part of their weekend doing batch cooking. That's a great idea, if you have the time. But some of you would probably rather spend those hours relaxing or playing with your kids. So why not try the one-pot plan one or two weeks each month?

Cuisine vs. leftovers
Believe it or not, I love good food. I'm not saying that we should give up entirely on culinary imagination and flair. 

But right now I need to use my time for things that matter more, like studying the difference between the pluscuamperfecto de indicativo and the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo

And hey, all you working folks: How many hours of your weeknights do you want to spend obsessing over arugula, for heaven's sake? 

By the way, simple meals mean simple cleanup. Bonus!

This policy is easier for me than for some because I don't have kids or a spouse carping about the level of cuisine. Even if you do, I still suggest declaring, gently but firmly, that the spaghetti will be eaten until it's gone. 

Don't want spaghetti? Peanut butter's in the cupboard, jelly's in the fridge, knife's in the drawer.

Published March 3, 2008



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