As I work through my leftovers from the holiday feast I prepared for myself this past winter holiday period, I find myself reflecting on my cooking habits once again. After all, I’m aware I have a tendency to eat the same stuff over and over again because the recipes are familiar and require very little mental effort. Something like baking a turkey breast might also be fairly easy, but it’s not something I’ve successfully done very many times (I’ve eaten dried-out turkey all but two of the times I’ve made it myself) so it takes a bit more mental effort than even putting together a stew does. That has lots of steps, requires pretty active monitoring throughout the process, and requires a non-insignificant amount of chopping, but it’s still easier to make myself do that than it is to bake a turkey breast.
That said, I’m finding it much easier to eat through my winter feast leftovers than when I’ve got a lot of stew remaining. Most of the time, I wind up having to push myself to eat the last two servings of stew before it goes bad, since it doesn’t have a super long fridge life (and has always tasted terrible after freezing, but I might just need better freezer storage options). It can feel like a real chore to consume something meant to feel a few people by myself, since I basically have to eat it once a day or it’ll go bad, but I’m finding myself gleefully working through my leftover vegetables, turkey, and mashed potatoes. Their fridge life isn’t much longer, so I’m under pretty much the same amount of time pressure, but I don’t have to convince myself to eat them.
The easy answer to all this is variety. I don’t make mashed potatoes very often, even though it’s less effort than stew, so I expect I grow tired of the taste less quickly. Plus, I can pair them with just about anything else and it’s basically an entire different meal whereas when you eat stew, that’s the whole meal pretty much. You can bring some variety in with various types of bread, but that’s a very small change considering the bread is probably going to just taste like the stew if you combine the two at all (which is the whole reason I bring bread to a stew meal, so there’s no escaping this). I also don’t bother with some of the more complex vegetable recipes most of the time, sticking to things that are either a part of frying/baking whatever meat I’m eating, raw, or frozen because it’s the only way to make me put in the effort sometimes.
I mean, it definitely helps that I only make things I really enjoy for special occasions like a winter holiday feast, but I think most of the reason I go out of my way to cook things I normally wouldn’t is because I already feel like the holidays deserve some effort from me. Growing up in a family where sharing food is a major sign of affection and was one of my primary duties for a long time, it feels like an easy, symbolic way to show that I’m putting effort toward noting the passage of seasonal holidays. I mean, it’s not like I decorate for any of them. Gotta mark their passage somehow. At this point in my life, cooking these foods is pretty much the only parts of my holiday celebration rituals that have survived.
I took a break while writing this too make and eat a dinner composed entirely of leftovers. Having a microwave after years of not having one means it is pretty easy to warm up sliced turkey, corn, and mashed potatoes. Which is probably another reason I still stick to the same recipes for so long. I didn’t have a microwave for most of my adult life (I bought one, finally, in 2021), so all of the food I made had to be something I could easily reheat on the stove or in my toaster oven. You can reheat turkey in a toaster oven, sure, but it usually dries out instantly and isn’t a very pleasant food experience. Much easier to do in a microwave, and more flavorful, too. Funny, the patterns you notice when you start to think about stuff that has or hasn’t changed in a while.