How? Make a larger variety of dishes for each meal.
Our norm is meat-vegetable-starch. Protein with a salad for color. Maybe ice cream?
When I took a look at Japanese bento, I saw the huge mix of multiple dishes and strong flavors that one wouldn’t necessarily expect to see on one plate. As Just Plain Marie (author of Cabin Full of Food) has written in her blog, our own culture used to serve many more side dishes to stretch supply among large families and farm hands.
Watching the detailed meals prepared in Japan had me thinking they must spend four hours a day just cooking it all. Soup, broiled meat, rice, pickles, savory this and that – it looked as detailed as a Thanksgiving menu.
Or a DIY potluck that you have to figure out for every. Stink’n. Meal.
This is how it can look at home. (I’ve been aiming for four or five dishes a meal, but tonight was Shabbat.) Peaches, pickled okra, beet root, jalepeño poppers, leftover chili, leftover beanie weanies, buttered garlic cauliflower, and broccoli. I had eight dishes with a wide spectrum of flavors in one meal – and I ate less. (Even went gluten free without thinking about it.) Seriously, try it! One dinner spoon full of each thing, and you may find you feel stuffed!
Burrito night, I lined up a spoonful of olives, a spoon of spicy meat, a spoon of pintos, one of corn, and a dollop of plain yogurt on a tortilla. I normally would have eaten two large burritos of everything mixed together, but not this night. Going through one item at a time made me too full to finish the tortilla at the end.
One perk is that if you have something unhealthy, it is moderated by the other, more healthy dishes. There isn’t the guilt of eating a full, unhealthy meal of mac n cheese.
If you only have one serving’s worth of your favorite leftovers, you can still serve it to a family of five. All those small things threatening to go to waste – clear them out of your fridge. Just a spoonful is enough to give each person if there are several other dishes filling them up as well. Dig out the strong spices, the bitter lettuce and horseradish, sweet preserves, fresh veggies, pickles, get the potent cheeses. Eat up the fresh fruit before it can go bad.
Try FRYING your salad. It’s tasty and easier to eat more vitamins in fewer bites. I think bitter garden lettuce tastes far better this way!
And the cooking time? I thought I would be spending a full hour fixing meals like this, but it is actually the same 20-30 minutes I regularly spend on our meal prep. There’s only one fresh dish you have to fix, and the rest is digging out leftovers from the fridge or jars from the pantry.
So what do you think? Complicated? Going to give it a try? Or are you accustomed to “see food” nights to clear the leftovers?
A neighbor, Paul Kohler, RIP, used to eat his salads fried. “Makes it stick to your ribs,” he said. It’s a tradition in Japan, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he picked it up from his Japanese employees back in the day. Anyone else know stories about him?
I fried bitter garden lettuce with garlic, chili powder, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Turned out to be pretty good!