Simple is Best

These days, the whole subject of food has become so complicated. The number of choices available is absolutely crazy. I once went to a big supermarket and counted the wide array of canned tomato products. The grand total was 144. There were whole peeled tomatoes. Crushed, pureed, chunky, diced, petite diced, pureed, plum, stewed, sauce, and paste. Tomatoes flavored with Italian herbs, or basil, or fire roasted. Add to this the whole array of organic canned tomato products. All these options made me want to crumble into a heap and pull my hair out.

Then there was the time I went to Safeway to buy a one-pint container of plain Greek yogurt. I estimated the refrigerator case was about 11 feet long. I literally stood there for ten minutes trying to find what I was looking for. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of yogurt, especially now that plant-based is “A Thang”.

We have too much choice and it can lead to paralysis where we have so many choices, we choose nothing at all. We just run out of mental energy and can’t sort it all out. The term “decision fatigue” has been coined to name this syndrome.

Overtime, I’ve dialed back the number of foods I keep in my pantry and believe it or not, this simplicity leads to remarkable creativity and ease around food. There is surprising freedom in limiting the number of options. For example, in the alphabet, there are only 26 letters. Those letters combine to form 171,476 words in the English language according to the Oxford dictionary. For example, I’ve reduced my number of canned tomatoes to just three: whole plum tomatoes, sauce, and paste. With whole plum tomatoes, you can puree them, or cut them up anyway you like. I also like to use tomato powder.  It’s like magic; a tablespoon added to any tomato dish will concentrate the tomato flavor.

My friend made spaghetti with homemade spaghetti sauce and introduced me to a herb and spice blend that streamlined my collection of seasonings. It’s called “Tones Italian Spaghetti Seasoning Blend” (it’s not just for spaghetti). This incredibly versatile seasoning works like magic to add concentrated flavor to any dish, from vegetables, soups, beef, chicken, pork, rice, noodles, you name it. Somehow the flavors swirl around your mouth and the taste bursts. It’s amazing! I’ve tried other brands of Italian seasonings and they just don’t work as well as this one.

By condensing my pantry to items I use the most, and simplifying my cooking, I have avoided the craziness of supermarket decision fatigue. That leaves more energy to think about other things like trying new recipes with friends.