Basic cookery books of the past. Image by Marie Vonow
When I think back thirty or forty years ago it seems meal planning was simpler then. One would think it would be easier now as there is much more information on every aspect of nutrition and cooking. There are more food choices and options. Recipes are easy to access with the internet as well as plenty printed in newspapers, magazines and books. Inspiration is available on various television programs. There are convenience foods and plenty of frozen options.
Nowadays I stress about the fat, sugar, salt and kilojoule content of foods. If I am cooking for visitors I may need to be aware of providing food which is gluten free or I may have to avoid using foods to which someone is allergic.
I recall my early years of marriage where meal planning and preparation wasn't a big deal. I was on a tight budget and there wasn't the variety available nowadays but we seemed to eat well.
Our main meal of the day was often meat and vegetables. As I have always liked vegies we frequently had more than three types. At other times we had a casserole, stew or mornay. I had a couple of recipe books and made use of the recipes found on soup packets.
We often had people over for a meal which might consist of three courses, soup, main course and a dessert, These meals weren't fancy but they were enjoyable.
These days many people have food allergies or avoid gluten. There are more people with diabetes. We read about the risks of too much salt, fat, sugar and artificial additives. We question the risk of hormones in meat, mercury in seafood, genetic modification and so forth.
What is the safe way to defrost food? How long is it safe to store food in the fridge? Is it safe to use those leftovers or is there a risk of food poisoning? Is food that has been in the freezer for several months still nutritious or should I throw it out?
Is it safe to use plastic wrap and store food in plastic containers? Is aluminum safe? What about non stick coatings? Is it safe to cook in containers made of plastic in the microwave and if so are all types suitable?
Should I use foil or find an alternative for the sake of the environment? What containers and wrappings can I recycle and where? There are so many questions and so much contradictory information.
And then, just when I was thinking all the fun had gone out of cooking and it's all too hard, I read an article that reminded me of the passion I used to feel for cooking.
I need to go beyond all the contradictory information and overwhelming choice and get back to basics. I need to live in the moment and concentrate on the smell of herbs as I pick them from the garden. As I cut up ingredients I need to enjoy the process of preparing food to share, even if it's a bit more challenging these days. Then I need to allow myself to enjoy eating each mouthful instead of stressing.