Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The May Meal Challenge

There is a woman I work with who eats the same thing for breakfast pretty much every single day.  And also regularly repeats the same order from the same restaurant for lunch. "Don't you ever get sick of that?" I've asked on a number of occasions.  "Nope. When I find something I like I could just eat it forever." I give her a shrug that's meant to say something like, "They say variety is the spice of life, but hey whatever works for you, Blandy Blanderson."

But I'm a fraud. I don't select my meals from a diverse catalogue of personally tested recipes. There is no soup du jour. I eat the same old stuff day in and day out --partly because I'm lazy, partly because I can't prioritize my to-do list in a way that puts "dabble in quinoa" above "dear god, sleep." I'm no better than my meal-repeating coworker. Actually, I'm worse, because as she happily tucks into her Southwest salad with light ranch dressing for the third time in a week, I sit down at my desk with a handful of trail mix from the office kitchen cupboards, wondering what I'll eat for lunch or if I should even bother eating at all because I'm just sick of the whole activity.

There have been times when I've tried to break the cycle.  Like making my own fried calamari. And, the brief foray into locally grown organic yaddi yadda because I was pregnant and, frankly, had nothing better to do. But over (very little) time, I always slide back into a pattern of empty fridge, last minute jaunts to the supermarket, and "well there's always pasta."

Lately I've been suffering from culinary fatigue even more than usual, perhaps because I'm surrounded by people on interesting new diets. I tried consulting one of my cookbooks before grocery shopping this past Sunday, but was too indecisive and instead just bought more of the same old standards. And just when I didn't think I could feel any worse, I realized this boredom was rubbing off on Oscar. Last night, in his daily report from daycare, there was a special note "I think he needs more variation in his food.  He's not eating much of it and wasting a lot."

Oh for the love.

Conveniently it's May 1st today, meaning it's perfect timing to issue a month long challenge. Specifically, The May Meal Challenge.   31 nights. 31 different dinners.

Some parameters:

1. Resisting the urge to combine initiatives, these meals do not all have to be "healthy." Sure, I'll aim to be as well-balanced and lower fat as I typically am, but I'm not going to get carried away and doom the May Meal Challenge from the very beginning.

2. Devin isn't going to be forced into this, though hopefully he will benefit from it. For one thing, he is currently at home working on a script and has no idea I concocted this plan on the drive to work. For another, we have differing opinions on what constitutes a good dinner and (though I feel he will fight me on this) part of the reason for the rut is owing to his "meat and potatoes" tastes.  I, on the other hand, am something of a lapsed vegetarian; some meats are still forbidden, while the rest don't do much for me and I prefer to eat them sparingly. There are few meals that offer a satisfactory compromise.  Seafood is a mutual favorite of ours, but there's only so many nights a week you can eat fish before suffering intense mercury poisoning. I'm happy with all manner of vegetarian alternatives for the protein portion of a meal, and will probably have to delve into that to meet the monthly challenge, and when this happens, Devin is free to improvise his own alternative meal. (TL;DR: tough luck, you're on your own.)

3. Take out or dining out is totally acceptable. Just because I'm mixing it up doesn't mean I have to do it all from scratch. After all, nothing busts up dinner blah-dom like piping hot panang curry delivered straight to your door.

I'll be checking back in with thoughts and, of course, pictures. If you have any meal or recipe suggestions, please leave them in the comments.  I could use some inspiration!