When cooking too much food isn’t a mistake

Let’s talk about that time when cooking too much was not a mistake.

Not the time — or times — when you overestimated how much your family or guests might eat. Or the time (maybe the times) you cooked every recipe profiled on that cooking show that you watched while quarantined so many days last year.

No, I mean the time — and, I hope, times — that you cooked “too much” food on one day and used it for a meal or three down the week. The large pot of brown rice, say, that you lovingly coaxed to perfection for an hour on your stovetop one Sunday afternoon and spread out later over three delicious (and different) dinners.

Grains like bulgur often take time to prepare — and so we avoid preparing them on a given day because we do not wish to spend that time that day. (Getty Images)

Or that time when you got carried away at the farmers market, buying that bushel of corn you thought you’d never see again. Or the time when a big pot of something warmly delicious and comforting went into several containers for the freezer and, thence, onward to table times beyond.

We have a double-edged issue with time and times, we American cooks. On the one hand, we cook for the day — say, tonight’s family dinner — and, in our rush, we oftentimes settle for something someone else cooked for us, a processed meal or takeout, or we just go out. Cooking “scratch” takes more time than we want to cook that day.

Or, on the other hand (and what’s worse to my mind), we treat the kitchen like the gym and use it as a proving ground for our efforts, vaulting over a recipe and through its instructions — invariably  a complicated one, word-for-word a tour de force — to demonstrate something to ourselves or, again worse, others. As such, recipes do not unfold their stories on our stoves; we conquer them there.

Cooking (or avoiding cooking) either way is unhealthy, and in different but significant meanings of “unhealthy,” too.

I write often about leftovers, not only because I love them, but because I honor them. I write here about “meant-overs,” raw or simple foods we purposively prepare (or purchase) in abundance one time and use again and again a few or several more times.

Cooked French green lentils (sturdy little buggers, if ever a lentil was) can stick around the refrigerator for a good week and perform roles in three or four different weekday meals. (Getty Images)

Grains are a great example. They often take time to prepare — and so we avoid preparing them on a given day because we do not wish to spend that time that day.

But prepared one day, a large amount of brown rice, for example, makes a pilaf for Sunday dinner, stretches a burger on Tuesday, and plays a part in a grain and pulse medley on a meatless Friday.

Or cooked French green lentils (sturdy little buggers, if ever a lentil was) can stick around the refrigerator for a good week and perform roles in three or four different weekday meals. Quinoa is a complete protein and, washed of its protective sheen of saponin, likewise delivers on diversity (and takes little time to prepare).

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