Dinner this evening was the veganest vegan thing that I ever did vegan. (I eat vegan sometimes; the cleanliness of the food is favored by my GI over just about any other kind of cuisine.)
Soba noodles with farmer’s market grape tomatoes, avocado, seed and sprout blend, cilantro, a sesame/nori seasoning blend, and a quickly made dressing of shoyu, mirin, rice vinegar, sunflower oil, and lemon juice.
I’d give this meal a ZW grade of C, probably. Soba, dressing ingredients, and seasoning blend all came packaged. (The seed and sprout blend also came in a plastic baggie, but I might be able to coax that vendor into letting me bring my own container for it.)
Those are things I kinda refuse to give up, though. They allow me to cook foods that I never get sick of (and food waste is a much bigger problem for me and my finicky stomach), and they last for practically forever if purchased in large amounts. For instance, I could buy a gallon of soy sauce in a metal can if I wanted, and that would last me for probably going on two years. Soba noodles, unfortunately, don’t come in such large quantities: the most I can buy is a 3lb bag. The seasoning, which a small plastic container, lasts me over a year and is pretty indispensable for making tasty food on the cheap. (In my college days, I had countless lunches that were made of nothing but small sheets of nori wrapped around balls of seasoned white rice.) Sunflower oil can easily be found in a glass bottle, and I use it as a cheaper alternative to olive oil when flavor and quality aren’t an issue; I also don’t generally cook with it. Mirin is also easy to find in larger quantities and/or in glass bottles.
The soba noodles, though. They made me realize that I’ve always had a tendency to have in my possession a multitude of different kinds of dry pasta (this seems to be the way most folks are?), and that they’ll sit, half-opened, cluttering up one of my kitchen cabinets. And that’s just really not necessary at all. Does anyone really need both angel hair pasta and spaghetti? Granted, that’s not really my dilemma; the question I should be asking myself is whether I need both the rice ramen and the wheat ramen. Or maybe I don’t need ramen at all! You ever think of that, self?
I tried my hand at making a pot of tonkatsu ramen last year, actually. It was, hands down, the most labor-intensive cooking spree I’d ever embarked on. The broth alone was about a dozen ingredients, the braising liquid for the pork and boiled eggs was another dozen. I scrubbed pork bones so the broth wouldn’t brown. It was two days of labor, about $75 in ingredients, and the end result was mediocre. I decided from then on that I’d leave the ramen-making to the ramen-ka, the pros. Never again would I order ramen from a restaurant and look at that $8 bowl of soup the same way. Maybe this is a good time to remember that little adventure of mine: I don’t need to make ramen at home. If I respect the dish that much, then I’ll have no problem saving it for special occasions when I can pay someone else to make it for me, and much better than I ever could.
I can stop buying ramen noodles.
But I like pasta and noodles! And I can’t get them in bulk around here.
I guess the only thing to do, then, is to take a deep breath and do the adult thing: pick out a couple varieties and stick with them. Well, I guess the ramen is officially out, now. And my relationship with Korean-style noodles can safely be put to rest. But what about Italian pasta? What variety can I not live without? I’m not huge on the noodle sort, so it’ll either be penne or gemelli, since they’re versatile and go well with chunks of stuff with little sauce, which is generally how I prepare my pasta.
So I’m leaving myself with two. Soba noodles and penne or gemelli.
That’s it, I’m done with the other stuff until I can buy it in bulk.