Figuring out what to eat every day is overwhelming in the best of times. But it was especially so at the start of the pandemic, when restaurants closed, store shelves were bare, and just the thought of going grocery shopping elicited a unique kind of paralyzing dread.
Enter chef Noah Galuten and his wife — the comedian Iliza Shlesinger. Stuck at home, they used their unique talents to help people avoid the panic with a web series called “Don’t Panic Pantry.” It combined Galuten’s kitchen skills and Shleshinger’s comedy. They focused on showing people how to make simple and healthy meals at home using mostly pantry staples. Their pandemic live stream turned into a YouTube show, and now it’s a book called “The Don’t Panic Pantry Cookbook.”
“One of the goals of this book is, and really of my life in general ... is to be able to make food that you're willing to eat. And so stocking the pantry — the big goal with that is to set yourself up to make cooking at home the more convenient option,” Galuten says.
Central to his mission is also simplifying his eating philosophy.
“I want everything I eat to either be something that I'm really excited about or is really good for me. And if it's not one of those two things, it's a waste of my time. It started out for me with a lot of Italian ingredients. My mom is Italian American, so I grew up with a lot of that stuff. So it’s pastas, dried beans, dried lentils, garlic, olive oil, chili flakes, dried oregano.”
He argues that food is personal and can be both nutritious and enjoyable. That starts with small modifications that are sustainable.
“So often, people try to change everything about their life in order to be the person that they think that they want to be. But then you do that for three weeks if you're lucky, and then revert back to the version of yourself you were before, versus if you can modify a little bit.”
He adds, “Find a balance with it. You can eat vegetarian for two weeks and feel really good about yourself and then be in a dive bar in Mississippi at a weird Honky Tonk bar and eat a bacon cheeseburger because it sounds delicious, and not think that you ruined your life.”