Submitted Date 06/22/2019

Let's talk about 'peasant food', or 'famine food'.

There's something beautiful and exciting about it to me. The creativity of only using a few ingredients, the resourcefulness, and the thoughtfulness of picking out what ingredients are a must and what are some that can be left out due to budgeting, is not usually something most of us deal with - with constant Instagramming and snapping of food and extreme recipe ideas like the unicorn food fad or giant-ified food.

I have always found it funny with the contrast between how people in the past probably got somewhat tired or bored and just overall done with a certain dish that they had constantly, versus someone today oohing and awwing at the same exact dish. Take, for example, ratatouille. It's essentially just a bunch of vegetables thrown in with some sauce and herbs from a garden (AKA peasant dish of the past), but damn, I still think it's a beautiful dish, and I absolutely love it. Although each time I prepare it I can't help but be jealous of how back in the day, people would just go back in their gardens to gather these veggies while I had to pay for it. Darn you 79 cent onions.

In college (and even still today) I have been a well-committed follower of making such dishes.

Especially now, I have a terrible appetite and a need to save money. I constantly try to make the most out of what I got in the fridge. But really, did you know you can come up with some delicious things for just a few ingredients?

Literally, think of all the ways you can make rice! I could be fine with the big tub of rice in my place and all the spices I got, with occasional frozen veg and fruit. I also heavily rely on canned foods because, since my appetite never wants to cooperate, if I buy a lot of perishable things, well, they'll perish. But really, canned chickpeas and rice, or beans, turmeric rice and peas, rice pudding, rice porridge, like wow. In Korea, bibimbap was a signature dish. I used to eat it while growing up, looking down at a huge bowl of rice and a rainbow of veggies topped with a sunny side up egg. I thought it was really the epitome of fine dining, only to later find out it really is just considered "mixed rice" in Korea and was first made by peasants in the farms. And after thinking about it, bibimbap really is a money saver, and it tastes amazing.

You either get creative as a college student or a post-grad paying loans and rent, with your food, or you just end up eating out all the time. And trust me, I would be eating out every single day if I could (especially because who wants to deal with dishes?) but I have to choose between spending that money on food or drinks, and I think we all know the winner. Eating out is expensive, anyway. You could pay a bunch for a dinner meal that you could've probably bought the same ingredients for less, and they'd last you way longer. It's the sad truth. As much as I want to fill up my takeout box with Whole Foods hot bar or get a taco plate to go, I just can't bear spending that extra money. But you see, with no appetite and no motivation to really cook most days, it's a bit of an issue. At first, I was eating apples or bananas and peanut butter, living off of endless amounts of fruit I had, or overnight oats, or rice. Then I tried to get creative with my ingredients, and honestly, simplicity is just the key to everything. I later realized there is a whole world of recipes from way back when resources weren't so readily available to everyone, and quite frankly, a lot of those recipes involved what I had in my pantry.

I mean, I would really challenge you to look up some of these recipes and create one. The stressors of work life and life life had been compressing on me and my friends around me and we really gave up most of the time when it came to making dinner or meal prepping. The joy had been taken out of cooking for me when I started having appetite problems, and I really didn't want to be bothered that much, in the end.

I also notice how much food has changed over time, and it seems like a lot of fast alternatives have been popping up. From Soylent to ensure diets and protein-packed granola bars, or meal replacement cookies…I mean, sure, those things can be helpful when you live a very busy life but please still sneak in some real food like fruits and veggies. What's nice about a lot of peasant recipes is how simple and quick it is to prepare them.

Though, I will admit that following a recipe to me right now seems tiresome. But I do have some staple ingredients that I keep around that I know has saved me time and money. Like Japanese sweet potatoes, which are little purple potatoes that are ever so sweet if you are ever looking for a sweet pick me up. You just pop em in the oven for about 15 to 30 minutes depending on size and the end! I always have nutritional yeast, cinnamon, dried dill, pumpkin spice, and your good ol salt and pepper handy. Also oats! Overnight oats…porridge…the best. Rice is also versatile as mentioned above. Favorite frozen fruits and canned foods are perfect. There really isn't much else you need (after all, I guess we are trying to stock up like a peasant from the past). You can do so much with potatoes, simple ingredients like butter and flour, some pasta noodles and canned tomatoes. There is a whole world out there of simple cooking that really is not bland or terrible, I promise. Try it for yourself and save some major bucks, wish I would've known sooner.


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