Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nutritious Slothfulness

I cannot think of any more boring vice than sloth.  However, when it comes to the seven deadly sins, this is the one in which I find myself firmly entrenched.  A hardened sinner, and to such little profit.  Lust just seems too strenuous nowadays, although I can and do lust in my heart from time to time.  But pursuit of the objects of my lust – well, it is just too much effort for me with too little likelihood of success.  Imagine if one had to mush from Nome, Alaska to, say, Fairbanks to purchase a lottery ticket, and one can pretty well make a fair equation for  the proportion of effort to reward.

I have never been a huge glutton – unless liking beer a whole lot falls under that heading.  And I let that little sinlet go on my fortieth birthday, if not for good, then at least for the last 28 years.  I do like certain foods, and I do occasionally overeat, but I am more likely to forget to eat until four or five in the afternoon than I am to spend the day eating.  As to avarice – well, I am not really clear on all that falls under that heading.   I am certainly no miser, and if I do say so myself, I occasionally overdo on gifts for others, while being a bit ungenerous in a day to day sense.  On the other hand, I really like having two of everything, and the more expensive and useless the better.  Still, I couldn’t say that avarice is my sin of choice.  I think I have faults in the avarice arena, but I would guess they are more faults of lacking empathy or imagination or – even more likely - laziness, which gets us back to sloth.

Pride is also a bit difficult to get a handle on.  I know I can be all about myself sometimes, and I know that I occasionally – maybe more than occasionally – indulge in what can be termed ‘stubborn pride’.  I am not sure, though, that pride in the seven-deadly-sins sense is the same thing as the quality that is commonly referred to as pride.  It seems that pride in common parlance means too stubborn or too aware of one’s dignity to accept charity.  I don’t see how that can be a sin – it would seem more like a virtue to me.   To tell the truth, I don’t see how one could spend a lifetime with pride as its centerpiece.  I mean, what would one be doing in a day-to-day sense, if one’s central vice were overweening pride?  It would pretty much mean sitting around glorifying oneself, and that seems way more like sloth to me.  Does it mean that one puts oneself above God?  Well, of course, I do have the issue that I think that I am real and that He is imaginary, but then imaginary beings nearly all seem to be better than I am.  There’s Superman, for instance, or King Arthur, or Lassie: all much superior to me.  Even Goldilocks seemed to have a great deal more intellectual curiosity and ‘git-up-and-go’ than I do nowadays.

I am pretty certain that I don’t practice envy to a mortally sinful extent.  My understanding of envy is that it is more than coveting what one’s neighbor has; it also means wishing ill-fortune to the neighbor for having it.  I don’t think that is one of my failings.  I willingly confess to a touch of schadenfreud when someone who seems to me to be particularly undeserving or obnoxious, but gifted with goods or worldly honors, slips on a moral banana peel, but I wouldn’t say that I am envious in a truly hell-worthy sense.  I can’t imagine myself working to bring down someone just because he or she had something that I wish were mine. 

Let’s see: what is left?  Oh (I actually had to Google to find the remaining sin) wrath!  Well, I DO get pissed off.  And the annoying entry in Wikipedia for ‘seven deadly sins’ points out that being ‘capital’ means they are the root sins that lead to all others (‘capital’ refers to the Latin word for ‘head’), and that one can be guilty in either a venial or mortal sense, and still be guilty of a capital sin; this certainly appeals to my old Catholic upbringing where you pretty much found yourself innocent of one sin when you were overly busy committing another.  Well, there goes that.  I guess I am guilt of all of them then.  I don’t know if that is a relief (I am balanced) or cause for further self-recrimination.  Either way, I do believe my really morally disfiguring sin is sloth.

Because I am slothful, while still desirous of being minimally healthy, I have found a number of ways to keep myself fed without raising too much of a sweat in food preparation.  I do like things to taste good, if possible, and to be more healthy than not when it is just as easy either way.  My sole use of sugar, other than the very rare times I try baking a cake (five times in my life by actual count!) is to throw in a tablespoonful or two when I make pasta sauce or chili or anything requiring massive amounts of cooked tomato in order to cut the acidity.  My brother Rob has been going through my supply of sugar much faster than I have done merely by coming to the Breakfast Club on Sundays and using sugar in his coffee, of which he drinks copious amounts. 

In the interests of public service for all the lazy folks out there, I will give a brief résumé of lessons I have learned in having the best possible food for the least possible effort.  To begin with, none of these ideas is of any use if one has to run to the store, or prepare every meal from scratch.  Therefore there are a number of things to keep on hand at all times – things which keep for a goodish length of time.  

These are:

One of those huge bags of frozen chicken parts that one can find at the ‘big box’ stores.  I prefer skinless boneless thighs (I hate skin, and if cooking chicken bone-in is easy, eating it is not.  Let’s look at the big picture here.)  Breasts (in chickens) are too darn bland for me. 

Again from the big box emporia, I like to keep on hand those pork cutlets – you know, those thickly cut slices (nearly an inch thick) that look like pork chops without the bone and come about ten to the package – that is ten meals right there.

A bottle of some kind of marinade.

A BIG bottle or jar of that pre-chopped garlic.

A number of cans of crushed tomatoes, as well as a couple of cans of diced tomatoes.  Pasta sauce or chili are always better with a can of the chunkier cut stuff thrown in.

A bag of onions.

A big bag of frozen peas – you can add a handful of these to anything. 

A big bag of those small pre-peeled ‘baby’ carrots- - these keep forever.

A big bag of broccoli florets, or crowns – these will last two to three weeks, and are worth their weight in gold for the degree of virtue one feels in adding some of them to everything. 

A dozen boiled eggs. 

A bell pepper or two.

Every kind of spice you can imagine.  Spices are god’s way of saying, “Relax: you can cover up everything one way or another."   Although spices lose flavor over time, it is a good idea to slowly work out which ones you commonly use and get those in the larger sizes.  The last thing you ever want is to start something and find you are out of a key spice.   I make sure to have a lot of black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and coriander.  It is good to keep turmeric on hand.  I throw it in most things – not so much for taste, but it is supposed to be amazingly healthy and it also makes things look golden and lovely.   

Also, it is good to keep on hand bottles of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and balsamic vinegar.  The whole point of all these sauces and spices is that you can keep making the same things over and over but have them taste different every time.

Olive oil – the BIG jars of a gallon or so.  Also yellow mustard and mayonnaise

Several jars of pre made pasta sauce.  The trick is to doctor these if you must (here comes that broccoli again!) without going thru the mess of actual ‘from scratch’ preparation.  Pre-made alfredo sauces - even the store brands - are really good - and you can add a bit of the tomato sauce for variety.  Also I keep a pre-made jar of pesto sauce - a spoonful added to almost anything is pretty darn yummy.  OK, don't add it to desserts.  

Lots of pasta.  To cover the health angle, make these whole grain pastas where possible.  For whole grain pasta, you want to get the shapes of pasta that hold the most sauce: rotelli is ideal.  The more sauce the less you taste the difference between the good stuff and the healthy stuff.   The worst pasta for whole grain is the thinner spaghetti forms, especially angel hair.  On the other hand angel hair is the best for the lazy cook, because it cooks in just about three minutes.   One place whole grain spaghetti is superior is in any stir-fry version of chow mein.  I actually prefer whole grain in chow mein type dishes.  If you are a fan of stir fry, one mixed spice that is absolutely wonderful is Emeril Legasse’s Asian Essence

I do not tend to keep hamburger on hand because the taste goes off fairly quickly if you do not use it or freeze it, and if you freeze it, it is a hassle to either pre-form it into patties or usable quantities, or to get it unfrozen quickly when you want it.  Thawing a huge chunk in a microwave also seems to cook the exterior of the stuff – so I have gotten away from keeping hamburger meat on hand.  Anyway beef isn’t all that good for you, although it does have the virtue that, unlike chicken, no matter how bad it seems to have gone ‘off’ it is still pretty safe to eat. 

To make preparation easier, it is always good to keep a shallow pan or bowl with some chicken parts or pork cutlets defrosting in a pool of marinade.  It is nice to throw a tablespoon of chopped garlic into the marinade for extra taste. 

Chicken or pork can be cooked in the oven while you work on your computer – the rule for me is when I can smell it, it is usually done.    

Keep a steamer for vegetables.  Once the water comes to a boil, you can put a bunch of the baby carrots in for 3-4 minutes (set the timer, so you can putter around doing other things.)  Broccoli should not steam more than two minutes.   So you can put the water on to boil, watch TV until it is boiling, then throw the broccoli in, once it boils at the beginning of a TV commercial break and it is steamed before the commercial break is over.  Easy or what?  And you get to miss the commercial without missing the program.   

I recently bought a package of whole wheat ‘wraps’.  I found that I could cut up one cooked cutlet of the marinaded pork (or some chicken), chop up a handful of broccoli and steam it, mix the two with some mayonnaise, dill, dried mustard or curry powder, and whatever spice seems to be my preference for the day.  And the result was really, REALLY good.  It is all about having stuff on hand, re-thawed and pre-marinaded, getting a feel for spices and mixing the same few things differently over and over.   

If one wishes to use steamed broccoli as a side dish, it is really good with a small spot of yellow mustard dotted here and there amongst the florets.  Then one can put any other sauce over it – or even none. 

This sounds like a blog on gluttony, but believe me, it is all about sloth – once I got in the habit of keeping things on hand, I had to spend no more than half an hour in the kitchen per day – for all the meals I needed.   And that can’t be a bad thing.  


  1. Great post David! I had to google Schadenfreude to find out it meant 'delight in another person's misfortune.' I have to confess that I do get a kick out of someone like charlie s. getting caught with his pants down.
    The cooking tips are very good. I follow them all and keep pretty much everything you mentioned on hand except for the garlic.

  2. Generally olive oil oxidates once it is opened and begins to taste bad if it is not used in a reasonable time period, thus it is better to buy it in small bottles even though that is not the most economical way.

  3. Well, I'll be, you cook like I do, AND you're a pasta nut. If I could die in any food in the world, it would be in a vat of linguini. Just the thought of it at this very moment is sending me into...well, you know. Give me a second to catch my breath.
    Ok, done. You don't know it, but that moment took a good 45 seconds.
    Your thoughts on pride. In my mind, it's not pride per se, because I think of pride exactly like you do. I think it's 'false' pride that's in question. The people that run around openly flaunting or even outwardly speaking the 'I'm better'n you are, I have more than you do..." ad nausem, all false pride. I think that kind of pride gets mixed up with bragging, and braggin' fo'nothin' if I might say.
    God, I'm hungry now.
    Ok, onward to sloth. So be it. You work all your life, you give your life to a company, you never get to do what you want to do for all those years, shoot, it's your turn. Feel like staying in pjs? Do it. Feel like having pie for dinner? Do it. Feel like turning off the phone and ignoring friends? DO NOT DO IT. There's a limit.
    David, dear David, this post was once again into my own realm or being so like you. I get it, seriously. You might not really know that, but I do.
    OH, I want you to look at THIS. You are going to drool! My friend, Lou, the artist, is having a showing in less than 2 weeks and within that showing is an unrehearsed talk between him and his long time best guy friend, Scott (omg, get ready to faint). I just want you to see the photo of Scott, that's all. I am NOT going to miss this.
    After you drool, you can thank me ;)

  4. Have tomatoes, can cook...pasta is my downfall, love the stuff, just about any way you prepare it...and, glad to know a bit of envy won't send me to the hot place unless I konk somebody on the head and run off with their flat screen...enjoyed reading...

  5. Wow, what an interesting blog, it really got me to thinking, where do I fit in with Sin.
    I was having a hard time deciding until I got to your last sin, I too, had forgotten about Wrath.

    And even though it shames me to say, that is my sin. I am not sure why but if someone harms someone I love, in any manner, my wrath is unbearable. People actually speak of it, and not getting on my bad side.

    The funny thing is if people do something to me, I do not really give it a thought, it may hurt, or anger me, but I do not even have a fleeting thought of "getting even" but my family and friends, I will plot for long period of time.

    To me someone said it perfect, "Revenge is a dish best served cold"

    That being said, YOu really through me for a loop with where you took the blog after wrath. LOL Actually I was looking for the comment tab and went back up several times thinking I must have wandered on to another blog.

    I read something on your profile page:

    "I never allow anything I believe today relate in any way to what I will believe tomorrow"

    I really like that, I would like to use it if you do not mind. That statement alone indicates you are open to learning, changing, adapting.

    People who think they know it all or will never change, sadly have stopped being open to learning.

  6. You covered the full spectrum of sins very tidily, David--I commend you, and am glad you were minimally tainted by each. At the end of it all, sloth sound like a pretty darned good thing to me! Me? I tend to think of it as "economy of exertion".

    Your suggestions for the well-stocked larder sound about right, but you forgot to include one large-sized bag of chocolate chips, a block of Velveeta (which can be melted onto anything--including that broccoli you mentioned), and a honkin' big jar of peanut butter (that's survival food in the Midwest).

    Oh, then there's a bag of dark brown sugar, a jar of honey, and a box of Bisquick.'d probably need a couple jars of nice fruit preserves and, of course, RAMEN NOODLES!!! (If the Donner party had had one case of ramen noodle mixes, well, things might've gone better for them.)

    Come to think of it, your neck of the woods could really get snowed-in big-time...those noodles might just save your life...or your neighbor's.

    Thank you for another great essay! Steve is downstairs, most likely wondering what the heck I've been laughing at again (can't wait to tell him). The cool thing is, you aklways manage to make me smile, but you inspire me to think, too...

    ...and that can’t be a bad thing, either.

  7. My spice cabinet also includes Cajun spices. Must be a regional thang. I use a lot of chili powder and Mexican seasonings. Lotsa Tex-Mex at my house. And lotsa Tex-Italian. Ha! I've been using the whole wheat pasta but, while I know I'm doing the healthier option, it just ain't the same as some good ol' semolina pasta. *sigh* Today, though, I'm having colcannon. Yer mama ever make that? It's a good ol' Irish recipe. I add carrots to mine, though, and I don't mash the potatoes. Yummy. Hats off to mi grandfither...

  8. @Beth – Isn’t Schadenfreude a great word? I have reached the age where I have had to listen to so many accounts of celebrity addictions and the consequences thereof that I can’t get up much interest in Sheen’s issues. I cannot even sit through his current sitcom which is all leering and slime. I like a good dirty joke, but the implied and smarmy stuff is both boring and disgusting – it is a direct descendent of Three’s Company herein each week someone overheard an ‘innocent’ conversation which sounded lewd to the auditor and high-jinks resulted – which were neither very high nor remotely jinky enough I reserve my Schadenfreude for the falls of self-righteous politicians, businessmen and especially the clergy who pontificate against sex (especially gay sex)and greed and who inevitably get caught screwing leather-clad drug dealers or selling their votes to the opposition .
    @Laoch – I actually put convenience above flavor every time – but thanks for the tip.
    @JennyD – A vat of pasta – yes – should pasta ever come in any size smaller than a vat? I got interested in the seven deadly sins and did further reading and pride seems to be the DESIRE to be better than another, which moves it into a more mundane (and harder to avoid) plane. Sloth is not the comfortable indolence which you describe – which I would love – but rather joyless listlessness. Not so attractive, but far more often my case than I could wish. One of the modern problems is that there seems to be a ‘cute’ version of many sins which, if accurate, wouldn’t really be sins at all. Relaxing in pj’s with a book is not sloth, alas. Nice-looking man indeed, thanks for the thought; however if you do a quick résumé of those who have held my heart thus far, you will see a type emerge somewhat different from this man.
    @Patricia – Actually WANTING to do the running off with the flat screen (with or without konking) should get you to the hot place. Still, you could always cook some pasta there – why waste the heat?
    Blogger gets all snippy if my responses are long, so I will publish these first few and start another response to the rest of you commenters.

  9. @OneGirl – It is not surprising if sin is your sin of choice, so to speak. I am not sure why, but there seems to be a general idea that people who react as you do – that is, wrath on behalf of others rather than one’s self – is somewhat benign. I think that in fact, wrath on one’s own behalf is more honest and also far healthier. I suspect that most people who get angry over injustice to others, over politics or religion or kids these days are merely misplacing deeply held and unacknowledged anger on one’s own behalf that on fears to examine – either because it is ‘sinful’ or because it is hard to admit one can be so angry at loved ones. I think this is a dangerous situation because unacknowledged (i. e. anger one isn’t aware he feels) can only feed on itself because it is never addressed. So people end up picketing funerals or shooting Congresspersons or blowing up buildings – or often just killing themselves. Feel free to use the quote any time. I am sure many people have said something similar; I probably read something like it somewhere myself.
    @Marge – As I said to JennyD – the cute version of sins are not why they are sins. Not bothering to get out of your pj’s is not a sin, not bothering to have a life, and not enjoying it are. In short if you actually enjoy not doing something, it is not sloth. What seems to be the real meaning of the term is giving in to depression. Not good and not fun. And I am indeed guilty. As to your additions to my list, I think these are right for your cupboard, but I am not all that into chocolate chips (I like them, but it is easier not to have sweets around than to moderate my inake when they are) and Velveeta is kind of nasty (I do keep a block of nibbling cheese and often buy a wedge of brie with some bagels when I happen to be out shopping). I don’t bake much – as I said 5 cakes in my whole life and these tend to be made when I actually DO feel like taking trouble. Which is rarely. I eat hardly any preseves (I end up throwing out moldy jars of it when I get them) and although I like peanut butter OK, I hardly every eat it. I do have brown sugar, but I really can’t stand honey. Like evaporated milk or cream of mushroom soup – one drop and that is all I can taste.
    @MizAngie – I love Tex-Mex but I usually buy it ready made and hot. I don’t like foods too hot (in the spicy sense) because then I can’t taste anything else. I keep all kinds of spices, I only mentioned the ones I use almost daily . I use semolina pasta when I feel like it – spaghetti especially - but actually the whole wheat tastes great to me in most cases. As I said, use the shapes that hold the sauce – and also whole wheat noodles actually taste better in chow mein or stir frying, in my opinion. Never heard of colcannon – I wonder if I call it something else?

  10. @OneGirl - oops, I meant 'if wrath is your sin of choice'.

  11. I had a minute to just sit and breathe, and then I didnt' know what to do with it. I decided to come back over here and read for a bit. David. You wrote something in a reply to OneGirl that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was about people getting angry over injustices to others rather than to themselves. I might faint. I never thought of it that way. I am one of those that stand up for others in a heartbeat and I can rally like the best of them. Sometimes I even get a real bent out of shape feeling if I happen to be the target. But stand up and yell about it? Not usually...and now I can see why and believe me, my eyes not only opened but almost popped out of my head. Dead on right. It never even dawned on me "why" I'm so prone to be first in line to stand up for a cause or a person, but you can bet I'm first in line. Whew. What an eye-opener. I thank you for that. A new wrinkle in my brain that actually counts.

  12. Oh....and just pass me a whole jalapeno pepper, please. Make it a whole jar full. I'm heading to Miz Angie's :D

  13. @JennyD - Thanks for the ego-boost. I have actually thought a lot about feelings and I am convinced there are 'real' ones and distorted one - these latter are when the actual feeling is not acceptable or doesn't make sense. For instance anger is real, but guilt is a distorted sense - perhaps I am angry at, or feel hatred for my Mom but I can't because I love her and that is wrong, so I'll take it out through the fear exit and end up with guilt. Rage, as opposed to anger, is, I think, a distorted or false emotion which is why it is dangerous, unproductive and hard to address or deal with. But that is just me. Have a pepper...

    P.S. - You mean people READ these comment responses???

  14. But...we need our 300 lb guys. They're offensive and defensive linemen! Duh.

  15. ...and Angie, if I keep going with this vat of linguini, I might be able to join the team by next week.
    And to David: Yes, we read.

  16. @MizAngie - I agree there are few things more offensive than 300-pound fatboys. I understand breeding and feeding to achieve certain ends but usually, as with chickens and turkeys bred for the big breasts or eggs, we kill them when they are no longer useful. One of the main reasons I find team sports uninteresting is that in most cases players have to be bred to freakish proportions - so it is not like watching real people achieve anything. For the same reason I find James Bond-type films boring - this character has nothing in common with real people. I used to think baseball was an exception (and therefore kind of admirable, because these were average guys (physically) who worked to achieve, but now that I find it is drugs, not people, making the plays, I have lost interest in that, too.

    @JennyD - Who knew?

  17. It's interesting (to me, anyways) that you list bell peppers as being a necessity to have on hand, because I share that same thought every single time I go to the grocery store.

    I say, "oooh, self, you should get a couple green or yellow bell peppers. There's tons of things you can use those for!"

    And three weeks later, those peppers inevitably have mold on them...

  18. @Shaky Jake - I actually do usually eat them, although I HAVE had the totting experience also. One problem is that nearly anything I cook doesn't need a whole one. I put them in chili, spaghetti sauce, salads, stir-fry. I just feel like they go with garlic and onions when I cook anything with those. And I include them because they DO last two weeks at least...