Monday, June 25, 2007

The history of lazy vegan cooking

This is a repost from my original website about how I got started with "lazy vegan" cooking. :-) Thought it might be useful to those who hate to cook but would like to stay away from convenience foods as much as possible. It's cheap to eat this way, too; I spend about $40 a month for my grocery bill, up from about $30 before the gas price hikes, and there's no special shopping involved.


Last week and again this week, I dragged out my two big crockpots, assembled my ingredients, checked to make sure I had a sufficient supply of clean, portion-sized freezer containers, and set the crockpots to burbling in the kitchen with entrees of chili, split pea soup, lentil soup, and refried beans, two entrees at a time. I did it with a minimum of mess and effort, hands moving surely and almost automatically through the processes of chopping, measuring, rinsing, and boiling; when the crockpots were ready to simmer away unattended, I set the temperature just right, and didn’t have a single, boiled-over mess to clean up. When the entrees were done after several hours, I unplugged, cooled, portioned, and froze just as automatically, and tossed the crockpots (dishwasher-safe, natch) into the dishwasher for a good scrub later. Not much effort.

It wasn’t always that easy. I tried my hand at cooking for the first time when I was twenty, alone in my studio apartment; I’d been a vegetarian for two years at that point, but living in college dorms for those two years had allowed me to avoid cooking because I ate in the dining halls.

The first dish I tried was split pea soup. I carefully measured the peas and water, chopped the celery, onions, carrots, and potatoes, and plopped the whole thing on top of my tiny stove in a big dutch oven. “Stir occasionally,” the package read. Okay, probably once an hour, I thought. Easy.

I came back an hour later to find green slime dripping off of the top of the stove, onto the floor, and oozing under the refrigerator. I sloshed through the mess frantically, lifting the pot’s lid to see if anything remained in it. Oh, not too bad. Add some water and stir, we’re back in business. A little scorched? No problem, a little salt will cover that up just fine.

I had horribly scorched, crunchy, too-salty split pea slime for dinner that night in my garishly green-smeared, foot-printed kitchen. No one could have decently called what I choked down soup. But it was my first attempt at real cooking, and boy, was I proud of it.

I discovered one thing that day, though. I hated cooking. With a passion. And I really didn’t want to go to the trouble of getting any better at it. Cleaning up was even more work. So I supplemented occasional, grudging sessions of (slowly improving) bread- and chili-making with a subsistence on canned baked beans and veggie soups, microwaved potatoes, fruit, veggies, and soy protein shakes. I’d have loved to do whole-foods from-scratch cooking and more consistent bread-making the way the folks in Vegetarian Times magazine did, but those people sounded like they enjoyed cooking. I didn’t, and that wasn’t going to change anytime soon.

Then one year I got a small crockpot as a Christmas gift. Huh. This thing cooks soups and stews without needing to be watched? I didn’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. Pretty soon I was having hot homemade meals without a lot of effort. Bread-making was still a chore, and I didn’t want to buy expensive whole-grain bread or settle for white bread, so I mostly did without.

Then in 1995, after I’d been freelancing for about a year, I bought a bread machine on sale. Oh, joy. Whole-grain, hot, fresh bread without the work. And since then, these two machines – crockpot and bread machine – have kept me well-fed on completely whole-foods cooking, for about $40 a month in groceries and supplies.

And that’s it. It’s taken lots of time, practice, and trial and error, but I no longer think of cooking as such a chore. I still dislike it, but it’s easy enough now that I consider it a minor nuisance. Not too bad. :-)


  1. I need to forward this post to my friend. She hates cooking, too :)

  2. Please do. I loathe it. :-) But I still get by. :-)

  3. Kim:
    You are amazing in so many ways and your writings are fun to read and I can relate... but I do like to cook-- with up to 6 ppl here at times (and 6 cats) it is the cleaning up part I seriously despise!!

    The garishly green pea soup splattered floor was very visually descriptive...LOL...

    I am definitely enjoying your posts!!
    Peggy from ARC....

  4. Aww, thanks, Peg! Wish I could "borrow" some of your enthusuasm for cooking sometimes! :-)