Several years ago, I decided to attempt my first marathon. Certainly not the most original idea, as it seems these days running a marathon is on the bucket list for just about every man. Nevertheless, after following a brutal 16-week training schedule, I was confident in my ability to survive the 26.2 mile challenge. That was of course, until I arrived at the starting line. Surveying the crowd, I felt quite out of place in my throwback Saucony shoes, mesh shorts from my high school football glory days, and a T-shirt I purchased on a college spring break trip to the Bahamas. As it was, the rest of my running cohorts were outfitted in the latest and greatest in sports technology. From the all-weather, breathable clothing, to the sports gels and energy bars, to the belts, hats, shoes, and personal hydration systems – I suddenly felt ill-equipped for such an undertaking.
However, after the starting gun fired and as the miles slipped away, I found myself nearing the front of the pack, passing by all those who looked like they just stepped out of an issue of Runner’s World magazine. In the end, it didn’t matter what I wore or how I looked. Sure, some better clothing or shoes might have kept me cooler or made me more comfortable during my race, but I doubt they would have drastically improved my time. Instead, my success was the result of my own training, preparation, and persistence – no other gimmicks included.
In truth, the marathon runners are just a metaphor for what we all encounter in our own lives. Don’t believe me? What about the impeccably dressed, luxury car driving, see-and-be-seen coworker that seems to always be one step ahead? Or perhaps it’s the neighbors next door that appear to have it all – the perfect family, house, car, social life, etc. As it turns out, some of these folks are just like the overzealous runners – they look legit on the surface, but dig a little deeper and you might find some cracks. The coworker may be up to his eyeballs in credit card debt, or the family next door might be on the verge of divorce. In other words, perception is not always reality.
In the cooking world, I encounter the Patrick Bateman or Joneses type each and every day.
The rise of food related programming, celebrity chefs, haute-cuisine, molecular gastronomy, food bloggers, and ‘foodies’ has created a culture that thrives on culinary excess. For example, in some circles it’s no longer acceptable to enjoy a simple Deviled Egg unless it’s been transformed into a BLT Deviled Egg topped with bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Just as that craze catches on someone else ups the ante with a revised version featuring even more exotic ingredients: prosciutto, arugula, and heirloom tomatoes. Of course, both of these creations are delightful, but sometimes it makes me want to say, “Enough is enough!” Just give me a plain ole Deviled Egg, sans the attitude.
At the risk of sounding cynical, I’m in complete support of culinary progress and innovation – I’ll go so far to say that I even take pride in enjoying delicacies, but never to the exclusion of appreciating a minimalist meal. For me, there is something sensible and right about subscribing to a less is more approach in the kitchen – not to mention life in general. Yet, how can I indulge in the delicacies while still asserting that I am a minimalist? Put it this way; when it comes to enjoying a meal, I’m thrilled to eat a Grilled Cowboy Ribeye with Henry Baine Sauce and Pommes Frites. Just don’t take offense if I react to a Bologna Sandwich, Potato Chips, a Moonpie, and a cold PBR with the same satisfaction.
So, what’s my point?
Times are tough these days. The rising cost of fuel and food prices are forcing everyone to cut back — “foodies” included. With that in mind, I’ve decided to provide 5 minimalist meals that can be put together using just 1 pot, 1 pan, and 5 ingredients. I’m sure some might balk at my simple approach, but that’s okay. Remember, just like my running, I don’t write recipes based on the latest and greatest food trends. Rather, I focus my efforts on providing simple, affordable, and realistic recipes for the everyday reader. Besides, at the end of the day, creating a great meal does not depend upon the number of gadgets or list of ingredients used in preparation – rather, there’s only one thing that really matters . . . taste.
A note about 5 ingredient cooking: Don’t be fooled! Most “5 ingredient” recipes are for just one single dish or side, rather than an entire meal. I’ve taken great care to put together complete, balanced meals that are truly made up of just five ingredients. You’ll also find that others write “5 ingredient” recipes that allow “freebies” such as salt, pepper, oils, and vinegars that are not included as part of the full recipe. Not me – with the exception of water, my ingredient list contains all that you will need. Of course, I’ve had to rely on some store-bought shortcuts (seasoned rice, frozen veggies, tomato sauce, stock, etc.) to help accomplish this task. Just keep in mind that the sodium content in most of these ingredients is already so high that your meal should not require any extra seasoning. Get to work!