Food

It is easy to be annoyed by the need to eat, which generally takes more effort than other human physiological needs. But it can also be a source of joy, and as with many other areas, trying to avoid learning about it leads to poor and/or overpriced results. I'm consuming food fairly regularly, so decided to write down some notes on it too.

Dietary guidelines

There are healthy diet guidelines issued by WHO and some governments, which seem sensible: they recommend to consume a lot of fruits and vegetables (at least 400 grams per day), some cereal, meat (proteins; including fish and eggs), and dairy. They also recommend to reduce sugar, salt, and butter consumption. If you mix together and heat up sugar, salt, and butter, you get toffee or similar confections (depending on temperature and other minor parameters). Saturated fat and alcohol are also recommended to avoid, and physical activity is recommended by some of those (despite not being directly related to food).

Humans evolved to survive on available food in bad conditions, so it's not a big deal if proportions are imperfect: eating edible foods you're not sick of should keep you alive. Trying to balance them and not completely ignoring some of the food groups should be pretty healthy.

Apparently it's still unclear how useful dietary supplements (multivitamins and others) are, assuming a relatively healthy and diverse diet.

Motivation and time

There's a bunch of hacks one may attempt to reduce bothering with food (meal replacements, eating out, relying on others to cook in general), but the results seem similar to people avoiding bothering with computers: reluctance to put a bit of time and effort into learning leads to poor results and continuous frustration, while after learning the basics it's rather fun to tinker. For increased inspiration and motivation, there is plenty of cooking videos available online. It does take some time though.

Kitchen setup

A nice kitchen setup and handy utensils are important for happy cooking. One of the important aspects (as with most of other manual labour) is lighting: there should be both ambient and task lighting (see, for instance, the "How To Light A Kitchen" article, the "How to Measure LED Kitchen Lighting, Ideas, Design Practices" video), using good (bright, non-flickering, preferably long-lasting) LEDs. Cheap LEDs by lesser-known manufacturers usually end up costing more because of their low lifespans, while being dim and flickering. Philips ones are okay and commonly available, and there are benchmarks around.

Discovery

There's plenty of ways to discover new dishes, including Wikipedia's articles on regional cuisines (e.g., Italian cuisine, American cuisine), websites with recipes, cooking shows, and just mentions during conversations, in books, and in movies. I found it useful to not dismiss dishes based on distaste for local versions of those, since they can be very different.

Along with dishes themselves, meal structures are interesting to learn and experiment with: see outline of meals and Italian meal structure, for instance. And there's usually plenty to learn about each ingredient individually (which helps to pick more suitable for a given dish or otherwise better ones); as with many other things, Wikipedia is a good starting point, and then one can proceed to reading past online discussions and/or trying and discussing them online.

Discovering that odd local foods and beverages you have never liked are not consumed anywhere else, and one can live without them, is another nice possibility.

Some websites and databases with recipes: Supercook (handy recipe search based on available ingredients), SimplyRecipes.

Some quick and easy snacks

Virtually no cooking

The following dishes don't require any heating, or even much of cutting, and are mostly about putting things together (or just eating them whole):

Minimal cooking

The following dishes are comparable in complexity to brewing tea/coffee/cocoa, requiring just a few components, little action, and not much of attention:

Many of these can be used as bases to build upon: leftovers and fruits/vegetables can be added into soups (including pre-mixed ones), on top of frozen pizzas and lasagnas, into scrambled eggs, and into other dishes. Relishes are easy to add to some of those.

Peeling fruits and vegetables

While a lot of fruits and vegetables should be consumed, and many of the fresh ones have a rather short shelf life, an additional difficulty for me is that I have rather unpleasant reaction to biting some of their skins (goosebumps and brief toothache), so peeling is needed. Some also peel them simply because they don't like the skins, and in some cases those aren't quite edible.

Blanching (putting food into boiling water, and optionally into cold water afterwards) sometimes makes skins easy to peel; works with tomatoes and peaches.

A process for pepper peeling is somewhat similar to blanching: it's easier to peel after a few minutes in an oven (or a grill) and about 15 minutes in an airtight container (which is supposed to produce moisture under its skin).

A vegetable peeler is handy for carrots and cucumbers. A bit less handy (but quite suitable) for potatoes. One can use it for pepper too, but for bell pepper it works better to cut it before peeling, so that there's no concave bits inaccessible to the peeler.

Pretty much everything can be peeled with a knife, possibly leaving a bit more waste and/or taking a bit longer than with the alternatives.