The Semi-Adventures of a Nomadic Mathematician Rotating Header Image

Almost Successful Strategies to Avoid Cooking

Child slavery, butchering of baby seals, the incompatibility of the general theory of relativity and quantum physics: these are dreadful things we all heard of, but we prefer not to know more. Cooking belongs to the same category.

I hate cooking with a passion. I hate cooking so much I even hate looking at other people cooking. In restaurants where the kitchen is visible through a glass wall, I will sit in a way to save myself from the anguish of looking at the chefs. Talk to me about recipes and ingredients, and you will soon have a raging pseudo-scientist in your close vicinity.

Plastic vegetables on display in Kyoto

Things you should not talk about.

Cooking is an error-prone, complicated process with a stochastic output, which is also extremely time consuming. I, on the other hand, love things that are idiot-proof and simple, that lead to a deterministic output, and which are not time consuming. This is where my hatred for cooking stems from.

Cooking goes terribly wrong when I do attempt it. When I lived in the Dominican Republic, I had this swell idea of learning to cook beans, instead of foraging on the canned variety. I got a large bag of beans and soaked them in water overnight. By the next morning the beans grew magnitudes in size. There was no reference to exponential growth on the label, and no warning for using logarithmisizing containers either. Nobody would ever associate the word `bulk’ with my build: due to this, I had always been intimidated by volume, whether it came to girls, security personnel, or beans. And these beans were gigantic. Hours passed by, I was cooking the intimidating giant beans forever. I successfully cooked my jeans on the very same stove, but the wicked mutant beans never cooked. I was eating half-cooked giant beans for six days, three times a day. Never again. This was one more reason why I devised strategies to avoid cooking as much as possible.

The most obvious solution is to go raw vegan. There is no cooking by definition. I did my research, I spent days on understanding what a balanced raw vegan diet consisted of. At the end of the research, I concluded that raw vegans were an annoying lot who kept yapping about health, feverish animal love, and also about a god or some similar intangible entity.

Ignoring the nonsense, I proceeded with the experiment, and managed to get all the things I needed. This was not the easiest thing to do in Bangkok, where `not stir-fried’ meant `not edible’. Things were not going well.  No matter how many raw nuts, bananas, leafy vegetables, sprouts, and avocados I stuffed into myself, I never had energy, and at some point I began hallucinating. I was losing strength by the day, I started dragging my feet around day ten. The experiment lasted for two and a half weeks when I deemed the continuation life-threatening. Abandoning the experiment, I hauled myself to a food stall to get white rice and fried tofu. Cooked food – Peter 1:0.

Food stalls in Silom

The street food heaven of Bangkok: impossible to resist.

Outsourcing cooking is the next best option. One of the most wonderful things about Asia is that you never have to walk far to find street food. Vegan options can be sparse, and even if they have something, it is usually hyper-refined white rice or fried noodles, plus some fried foliage dripping in palm oil and doused with a sugary sauce. Since the health aspect of food is secondary, I am happy to delve into my 20,000 kcal lunch, as long as I do not have to wait for it, and it does not cost more than two dollars. Add garlic to ensure good breath.

Vegan dessert in Kyoto

Advantages of outsourcing cooking in Japan: your food looks too good to eat.

Problems begin when I set up camp outside Asia, or when food resources are far. In such situations, damage control is the keyword. If you cannot avoid cooking, minimize the effort and the time wasted. Over years of refinement I simplified the procedure, and I observe the following guidelines:

  1. Get stuff that does not need cooking. Canned beans and lentils constitute 90% of my diet. Opening a can of beans takes two seconds. If the can does not have a built-in opener, you are legally allowed to impale the entire family of the manufacturer.
  2. Get a side dish that cooks fast: always go for quinoa or couscous. Cooking quinoa and couscous takes five minutes, cooking rice takes twelve, wild rice takes twenty. Potatoes remain inedible irrespective of cooking time, and also need a heap of work to peel the bastards.
  3. Include green-coloured items. Iron is absorbed less efficiently in absence of animal fat, so you must overload it. Fry spinach or any other green junk. Chopping the vegetation should not take more than two minutes, frying another five.
  4. Add more protein for masculine perfection: scoop tofu on top of your concoction. It is another few seconds.
  5. Add heaps of chillies, Tabasco, wasabi, or horseradish. Evil plant material might spoil before you cook. If you suppress the taste, you no longer have to worry about shelf life.

If you do it right, the whole process takes about ten minutes, including washing the dishes. Never heat the beans or the tofu: the trick is that you mix the hot side dish with the cold beans, so you do not have to wait for the damn food to cool. Drink up a cup of unsweetened soy milk, pop in a pill of B12, munch an apple, and you are done. From preparation to brushing your teeth, you should not take more than twenty-two minutes. That is about as good as damage control gets.

Arrangement of traditional Saharan food items

Full meal in Western Sahara: canned chickpeas, a baguette, camel milk, and the obligatory Coke Zero.

Obtaining the ingredients can be problematic. The weakest point is getting quinoa or couscous. Some countries are notorious for not having these — the leaders should be assigned to the Axis of Evil. Korea does not sell canned beans or lentils; a genuine mystery. The price of soy milk also varies widely with absolutely no correspondence to economic factors or logistic difficulties. For instance, in China, tofu is the cheapest in the world, but soy milk is more expensive than in Barbados. Solution: get a blender at the price of three litres of soy milk, mix tofu with the industrial spill that China calls tap water, and make your own soy milk. Simple. Waste no time, effort or money on food.

4 Comments

  1. Kathleen says:

    Hahaha. Great post. But what a shame, you’re missing all the pleasure that comes from cooking a really great dish. What satisfaction is there in opening a can of beans? Am gonna buy you a recipe book! 😛

    1. Peter Peter says:

      Trust me, there is great satisfaction in opening a can of beans: it already means that there is a self-opener, and my access to plant proteins shall not be delayed.

      1. Kathleen says:

        Well, when you put it that way… I’m gonna go buy a 12 pack and open them all! Happy times! 😀

  2. […] Or, I could do as Peter does…. […]