Hi. My name is Esther, and I like ugly food.
And I am here to tell you – you can love ugly food too!
Social media and cookbooks love to show us photos of delicious recipes, created and plated with care. They are stunning, and they look delicious! The perfectly chopped veggies, neatly plated toppings, drizzle of sauce, and garnish make these plates of food look incredible and make our mouths water!
But unfortunately, when I prepare food, it looks nothing like the cookbook image. Ever. It tastes incredible! But the visual…let’s just call it lack-luster (or ugly).
And I’m here to tell you – that is okay!
If you’re wondering, “What is ugly food?” Let’s start with a visual representation.
Here is an example of a beautiful, photo-worthy, bowl of Broccoli and Tofu:
And here is my version of a bowl of Asian Veggies:
It’s not the most beautiful bowl of food you have seen ‘eh? It kind of looks like a bowl of mush, but it was so delicious!
Just Make It Tasty
When we eat, we use ALL of our senses: The smell – the look – the taste – the feel – the crunch. But preparing a meal that meets and delights all of these senses can be a lot, especially if you had a long day at work, took the kids to play-dates, ran errands, and it’s getting late. Who has time for a meal that delights all the senses?
When I first changed my diet to start eliminating animal products, I found a few cookbooks featuring plant-based recipes and started preparing veggie-based meals. It was a wonderful way to learn to cook. I learned which spices blend well together, became familiar with measurements, & how to cook things like seitan, tempeh, and tofu (things I had never used before going veggie). I became much more comfortable in the kitchen than I ever was before. It was great! My husband loved it. My friends loved it. And I felt incredible.
But I quickly became tired of preparing a full recipe every night. The goal with “ugly food” is to take what you already know about food, and use it to prepare a quick, healthy meal, that makes you happy – even if it isn’t “social media worthy.”
Food is nourishment – and not always style. Ugly food is my interpretation of combining the ingredients I love into one dish and enjoying it. It’s not always pretty, but it always tastes good!
Your Go-To “Ugly Food”
Do you have a list of grains you love? Maybe you tend to eat more brown rice, lentil pasta, or quinoa. If you have a favorite grain, this is a great place to start for your go-to ugly food. Now, let’s pile more of your favorite things on top of it.
Most of us tend to buy the same five or six veggies every week. In my house, it’s zucchini, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. I like to pick three or four of these veggies to add to my ugly bowl.
Then just cook your veggies using your favorite method. For me, it’s a quick saute on the stove-top, where I add a few of my favorite seasonings.
Do you love garlic? Add garlic! Do you love onion powder? Add it! Cayenne? Chilli Powder? Basil? Get to know your palette and learn which spices you love. You could also try using a combination you saw in a recipe book or the seasonings for your favorite meal. Don’t worry if seems like a strange combo. As long as it tastes good, that’s all that matters.
Don’t forget the protein source! Beans, tofu, tempeh, and lentils are my go-to’s. Use whatever you like the best.
Making Ugly Food
Here’s a picture of the prep for my Monday morning breakfast. Why these ingredients? They are the things that were left in my fridge from the weekend. In true “ugly food fashion” I also don’t know how to properly chop my food so that it’s uniform in size – but that’s fine because we aren’t going for looks here!
Cooking the veggies…it’s starting to get ugly in here!
Now, I think everything needs sauce because I love sauce! Hot sauce, BBQ sauce, hummus, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce – the list goes on! It doesn’t matter how I seasoned my veggies and protein, once I combine all the ingredients, I always add a sauce (I just love sauce, did I mention that?). I added a bit of teriyaki sauce to the breakfast I made on Monday.
And that’s it! Combine your favorite things and enjoy!
Forget the recipe book. Leave behind the camera and share-worthy meals. Eat what you love. Eat what makes you happy. Eat what makes you feel good. Nourish your body and it will nourish your soul.
Learning to prepare stunning meals is a skill that I do not have. And if you’re without this skill, too, it doesn’t matter! You can still be a great cook, just maybe not on Instagram!
What ‘ugly food’ will you make this week?