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Dealing with Meal Burnout 

September 23, 2021

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Amongst other things, the worldwide pandemic has been a logistical nightmare. We take for granted the importance of the supply chain and how its disruption can cause major problems in business and commerce. Some of us were hit harder than others: if you buy a lot of your produce from local sources, then you may have fared better than most. One way or another though, we’ve all felt the ripples of pandemic economy. That is to say, many of us have had to make do with what we have in our pantry. It might have felt kind of cool for a little while, in a doomsday prepper sort of way, but that survivalist optimism wears off pretty fast. Before long, you’re sick of cooking, and can’t get the motivation you need to even bother making something. If this is sounding bleak, that’s because today we’re discussing a bleak topic in the world of cuisine: meal burnout. It’s real, and it hits hard during times when meal options may be limited. NU Food knows how important food is to our morale, so today we’re covering how to get over the mountain that is meal burnout. 

Burnout usually refers to work-related stress, but it can also apply to things that don’t involve stress at all. You can get burned-out on anything repetitive; think of that show you love, but can’t watch another minute because you already have, beginning to end, five times this year alone. Hopefully this feeling is unfamiliar, because it’s much easier to prevent burnout than it is to cure it! Unfortunately, it can be a tough obstacle to climb regardless, and with little to no precedence in meal burnout advice, many people who do go looking for help end up pounding sand. 

Hellen’s Story 

“I’ll try to muster up the thrill I used to feel after finding bundles of Chinese pink celery at the farmers’ market, or scoring a really excellent jar of jam, and it’s more like a memory of delight than the actual sensation.” says New Yorker staff writer Hellen Rosner, in a rather morose take on pandemic meal burnout titled The Joylessness of Cooking. Besides being a parodical riff on Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking, the title itself is a poignant statement on the sentiment around cuisine in general these days. It’s one that presents a jaded future for food, and it’s spreading to others at an alarming rate. 

 NU Food fans will recognize this somewhat unfortunately named dry good as one of the ingredients of our Queso and the main ingredient in our Nooch Popcorn. The reason for that, and for its immense popularity in certain circles, is that nutritional yeast flakes (or nooch) tastes almost exactly like cheese. This has led many an intrepid vegan to put nooch on just about anything missing a cheesy flavor: popcorn, bagels, macaroni, baked potatoes, pizza, etc. Despite mimicking the flavor of cheese very well, it doesn’t have nearly as much fat and zero cholesterol. The fact that it can be finely ground also makes it very easy to incorporate it into any dish, whether it be in a powder or a sauce. 

Let’s make Hellen Rosner a case-study for the purposes of this article. You can take a look at her full article online, but to keep things simple we’ll provide a short summary. Hellen Rosner is disillusioned with cooking after an abundance of ingredients and far too much time on her hands, time she fills in the kitchen. She goes on to name the final nail in the proverbial coffin as obligation; she feels obligated to make her meals at home due to the pandemic. This feeling of obligation, she says, robs her of any joy there is in what she makes, and has dashed whatever hopes she has of enjoying holiday meal preparation. 

Well, that’s depressing. It gives us an interesting perspective though, mostly because one of her reasons for losing her enthusiasm for cooking is having too many ingredients. She even goes as far as to liken her spice drawer to that of Scrooge McDuck; that is to say, ridiculously expensive. So why is she so jaded? Her own reasoning pins it on a perceived obligation to cook, but we can get closer to the heart of the issue if we take a look at one of her peers at The Toronto Star that has found their peace with meal burnout and has come out the other side with a new appreciation for cooking. 

Karon’s Story 

“The winter months will be hard, but there are some things home cooks can try to reignite a bit of that passion for cooking.” Karon Liu, a food writer and recipe tester at the Toronto Star reflects thoughtfully in his article Experiencing Cooking Fatigue? You’re not Alone.  “For me, I looked to mom.” Karon suffered from the same culinary fatigue as Hellen and Tejal, but he found his love of cooking once again making a traditional dish with his mother. The process was less lonesome, and he found himself enjoying something he’d lost enthusiasm for months ago. Karon also relates the life of one of his work colleagues, who has been struggling with the same problem and has been fighting it by cooking with his wife and infant son. 

The Secret Sauce 

What does this all mean? Well, a few things. Firstly, make cooking your next meal a group activity; preferably involve close friends and family. Get others involved, let them do some of the work for you, and most importantly, have fun with them while you do it! Secondly, don’t make things difficult, and don’t overcomplicate your food. For home cooks especially, cooking is an art, an escape from the humdrum of the busy workday. If you apply extra responsibility to it, then it just turns into more work and loses its luster. If you’re finding the pressure becomes too much, then see if you can’t have somebody else cook for you; the anticipation of receiving something homemade can be just what you need to rekindle your own cooking spirit. Lastly, make what is closest to the heart and your true passion will bloom again. Find that recipe you hold dear and share it with everyone around you. If you spread a little joy this holiday season, then perhaps you can bring some back to a joyless routine. 

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While we dispelled the notion that scarcity was the cause of our meal burnout, that doesn’t mean you need to leave the pantry empty! Fill those gaps with some NU Food products like creamy, savory Queso or sweet, crunchy Churro Popcorn. Let’s not forget the zesty Curry or umami Nooch flavored popcorn either. Whether you’re looking for bold, sweet, or spicy flavors, NU Food has got something to temp you and your family.