Living for Joy: Cleaning out the Kitchen (AKA: The Life Diet)

I’m a vegetarian (well, pescatarian, but I always think that sounds too elitist) and so I am always buying fresh vegetables to eat. I cannot describe the invigorating chills I get from the delicate acidity of a fresh tomato or tasting the remnant smells of earth from mushrooms. In fact, I get so excited, I buy enough fresh vegetables to last me half a month, never thinking about how I need to eat them before the week is out, or they will go bad.

Which is why I inevitably get frustrated when they go bad in a week (largely because I am too busy to cook a meal each night, a fact I conveniently forget when I’m at the supermarket) – “I had plans for that asparagus!” I say, lip curled, throwing away the now smelly, corrupted fruit of someone else’s labor. Such a waste. Why did I think I could handle preparing all of this food with my schedule? Why did I buy those mushrooms and wait to cook them, when I knew they would go bad in a few days?

Why am I buying food like it won’t be there next week for me to purchase?

Non-perishable items are a completely different story. They are easily bought in bulk, stocking up for a rainy day, so we don’t have to go back to the store, so cooking is easier – whatever it is, they stay good. I’ll see cereal on sale and grab it, not thinking about the half eaten box at home already, or saying, it will be good to have this on hand when the first box runs out. So I will never be left wanting. And I am not confronted with the same reality as the fresh food because the non-perishables don’t go bad. I can absentmindedly buy three new boxes of pasta and just put them behind what we already have. I don’t have to clean out the cabinets the same way I do the fridge.

The fridge will smell. The cabinets will stay closed.

Then the impasse between fresh and processed begins. Why buy fresh when the other items stay good and I can just cook and eat them when I want to? Why go through the trouble?

And so I buy all pantry items – filling up on processes of science instead of products of the earth, and I don’t feel good. I begin to crave something real – something, well, fresh.

And, inevitably, in my excitement, I overbuy. I grab the zucchini, and the cucumbers, and the asparagus, and the mushrooms, and the tomatoes, and the avocados, and the beets, and the carrots, and the lettuce, and a turnip because it is on sale. I fill my cart with goodness and feel good.

And a week later I open the fridge. And the cycle begins again.

Why Does My Wastefulness Matter, Anyways?

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about life in this century lately (and the need to slow downand realized it is not too different from the issues I’m having stocking my kitchen.

Think of the kind of sustenance you get from processed food – its not much, or its empty and artificial. The chemicals, additives, and engineering are clear in the taste (which can be very addictive – example one: potato chips) but the lasting value isn’t there. In fact, you often find yourself hungry again in a few hours, and therefore eat more. And soon, your bulk buy of chips from Aisle 4 on sale are gone. And the zucchini you were supposed to cook is going bad in the fridge.

Processed food is very similar to the virtual and intangible connections we have with others – mostly online. Think about how many hours you spend scrolling through Facebook or watching videos on YouTube, desiring human connection and entertainment. I bet you found some, put your device down, and a few minutes later, picked it back up to check Instagram or Snapchat, because what else is there?

While we all sit and consume the boxed mac and cheese of the world, there is a forest of fresh broccoli going bad.

If I lost you – let me loop back around. Think of fresh food like real life experiences: the tangible, real, smells like the earth tastiness that you cannot get from a box or can. It comes straight from the ground into your hands.

  • A conversation with a friend or (gasp) a stranger, where you don’t feel the need to pull out your phone to avoid awkwardness.
  • A walk – technology free – with the sounds of the world around you and the wind in your ears as music.
  • A family dinner where eye contact is with each other, not a funny picture online or Betsy Ross’s family vacation that looks a lot cooler than yours.
  • A phone call to an old friend, full of real laughter, no hahas or lols.
  • A bird snatching up a piece of bread and feeding it to her nest.
  • A sunset that sets the world in a new light – no filters required.
  • The feeling of dirt on your toes and droplets of rain on your skin.
  • The different tastes of water, depending on where you are and what exists in the earth nearby.

Life – in its realness, freshness, in its temporary state. Moments that will perish and go bad if the timing is missed.

Okay, So How Do I Clean My Kitchen?

Well, in my life, I can say I have been pretty bad at keeping a clean house, let alone a clean kitchen. But I have taken some steps to getting things back in order.

Instead of overdosing on life – attempting to dredge through too much at once (much like that dang produce section) I am working to enjoy each moment as it is. This week, I’ll take a bike ride. I’ll call my parents and talk to them, without distractions, for a time. Check in with my roommates with more than just memes, with eye contact and conversation.

I’m not going to make the mistake of trying to do it all at once. With a commute, a long workday, and a puppy to look after – there are only so many hours in the day. But rather than taking up that time with processed food moments, I want to fill it with real ones. And the more real experiences, the less I will crave the processed ones. The less I will feel the need to keep scrolling and scrolling through tidbits of other’s lives. (I actually deactivated my Facebook the other day to start this “processed detox”)

I also know it is unrealistic to expect a life without non-perishables. For the sake of convenience and time, there are days where something out of the pantry will have to do. (And I will note I did not deactivate all my social media… Just the one where I spent the most time.) We all crave a crunchy something every once in awhile, and that is fine. But we all, myself definitely included, need to realize that crunch will not fuel us, but simply satisfy a momentary urge.

But choosing each week what your fresh items are – the perishable moments – and committing to eating living them is vital. Don’t let them spoil. Don’t load up on plans for a fresh dinner for three weeks at a time. It is too much to take on at once.

Thin out your pantry. Thin out your focus on those moments that aren’t real.

Pick out some fresh veggies for the week. Choose a couple, carefully, and commit to consuming them in the fullest. And next week, maybe choose different ones depending on what you liked.

And be sure to share your recipes with me.

with life anew,




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