Living simple is complicated

After returning from a weekend trip away, the cupboard is bare. I always make a point before traveling of using up any fresh ingredients that might spoil while I’m away. But this was a rather whirlwind trip, and it didn’t occur to me that (1) it wasn’t really long enough for everything to spoil, and (2) there was no time before returning to work to go to the store and replenish the bounty.

As a result, the past few days have been really-creative-meal wise. Determined to eat at home and not order food (having eaten in restaurants for the entire weekend), I was nearly brought to tears standing in the kitchen at 11:30pm on a Tuesday night mashing pinto beans by hand into refried beans (for which I have no salsa or chips) with a red sauce made from frozen tomatoes and a slightly past-peak summer squash on the stove, and a mystery casserole in the oven.

Tears of joy, or tears of pain?
Yes.

It feels pretty good to take a pantry of nothing and freezer of next to nothing and make four full days of food out of it. It is envigorating to make things from scratch; if I have one goal in life it’s to make as many things from scratch as possible. And, I feel as though I could definitely survive an atomic bomb or the apocalypse given my uncanny ability to create a variety of meals from dried beans, rice, chicken, frozen tomatoes and slightly off squash.

On the other hand, no one should be mashing beans after 9pm on a school night.

When people lived in a time where everything was made from scratch they had the whole day to mash beans, churn butter, bake bread, whatever. I, on the other hand, am required to spend eight hours of the day with my butt in a chair and have few precious moments between, say, 8 and 11pm to try and “live simply”. I’m not saying I work harder; butt-in-chair is not hard, it’s just extremely time consuming.

So what, then, is the point? Why do I do this to myself when I could, with a lot less effort and a roughly equal amount of money, eat a TV dinner every night? It almost feels like in this day and age, living “simply” is less simple than living a technological, busy-body, microwaved life. Why does everyone say “I’m so busy,” or “I don’t have any time” when we spend SO much time sitting on our butts?

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Lauren

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance writer and editor, focused on dance and cultural criticism in Chicago and across the Midwest. Lauren is the dance critic for the Chicago Tribune, editor of See Chicago Dance, and founder/editor of Art Intercepts, with bylines in Chicago Magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Media publications, among others. Holding degrees in dance and kinesiology, Lauren is an instructor of dance and exercise science at Loyola University Chicago.

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