Cooking is not one of my arts. Even baking is a project I grudgingly undertake in order to produce warm, sugary results (or use up spotty bananas). Being chronically underweight, I also do not—in the traditional sense—diet. I am allergic to several things that are considered basic components of American food, like gluten and paprika. I like overcooked burgers and consider really sharp cheddar cheese to be the height of refinement. Basically, I’m the last person you should listen to when it comes to putting food in your face.
But today, I made this joke:
And people said “Hells, yes. I would buy that.”
It’s good to have company.
All the same, I thought I might spare you the embarrassment of having it on your bookshelf by reducing this concept down to a blog.
Rachel’s Rules of Cooking:
For Millennials Who Gives No Fucks
Rule #1: If it makes you sick, don’t eat it.
This is, as I have regrettably discovered in my adulthood, a very good rule. If you feel sick a lot, you might be ingesting something that is causing that or making it worse. So be your own lab rat. (Not your own doctor. You still need one of those.) If you learn that gluten, dairy, corn, soy, spice, red meat, or an all-popcorn diet is making you feel bad, stop eating that thing. If someone tells you that you’re wrong, that you don’t know your own body, that x-intolerance “isn’t real” or “is extremely rare,” smack them with your lunch and move on. If not eating a thing makes you feel healthier, then don’t eat that thing. The end.
You will note that this rule says nothing about food that makes you “fat.” That’s because there is no rule defining a “fat” person, how “fat” a person is allowed to be, or at what point “fat” becomes “unhealthy.” Conflating the two is a concept driven by gross objectification and commodification of bodies. Eat what makes you healthy and happy.
Rule #2: Not all food has to be complicated.
You know what makes a great dinner? Pan-seared chicken with a flavor-thing on it. I’m sorry, were you looking for the rest of the recipe? That’s it. A piece of chicken. Salt. Maybe that lemon-pepper combo shaker thing they sell at most grocery stores.
I hear the objection that it isn’t “balanced” because it has no vegetables, but that’s okay. Tomorrow, I’ll have a bowl of corn with butter and salt. And then people can complain that there’s no meat in it.
There is nothing wrong with eating one thing at a time when you’re hungry. This habit of having a meat and a vegetable and a load of side-starch is just that: a habit. You don’t have to keep it up every day. It’s not manners, or prayer, or anything particularly important. It’s just food.
Rule #3: Make peace with rules 1 & 2, then eat whatever. It’s okay.
If you’re anything like me, just the thought of planning a week’s meals, shopping to that list, and preparing all the things is exhausting. I sometimes suspect that this laborious approach to food was invented to keep housewives drained of energy so they wouldn’t get ideas about equality and voting and such.
Don’t buy the idea that you must grocery shop with a complicated plan. Get some peaches because you like peaches, throw a bunch of store-brand staples in your cart, and go home. If you really want to cook something complicated, do that, as long as it’s fun, but don’t take it as a mandate. It’s an impossible standard.
You are still an adult if you eat microwaved meals. You are still an adult if you drink Soylent and keep some fruit around for variety. You are still an adult if every lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Even if you skip the sandwich part and just go straight at the jars armed with a spoon.
So eat whatever. It’s okay.