During my first year of graduate school, I often made a dish that I called
rice and X.
Rice and X is characterized mainly by the simplicity of X: more often than not, X is beans,
but it can also be broccolli, tomatoes, peppers, corn, or -- in rare moments of extravagent
indulgence -- tuna fish. When I didn't make rice and X, I often made chili, or just had bread
and fruit; anything, so long as it was simple, didn't require too many ingredients (the
upstairs refrigerator was shared six ways, and cabinet space was similarly limited), and could
either be eaten at once or made into decent leftovers.
For a couple years after that, I regularly shared meals with a friend who was a better cook than I was. I cooked about half the time, but I rarely made Rice and X, since (a) I had much more flexibility in cooking for two, and (b) not everybody likes beans so well as I do. Besides, I was learning other interesting dishes. Even after that came to an end, I was in situations where I could often convince other people to share food. At the apartment in El Cerrito, I often shared food with my flatmate and his girlfriend, and the next door neighbors, and a few other mutual friends; we were all pleased to have the variety, and I think everyone else was pleased to have a forgiving eater for the days when culinary catastrophes struck. And I learned to make a variety of interesting dishes, and I was pleased.
Now I live in Berkeley again. The grocery store is again a bit out of my way, and so I go there less often than I did when I lived in El Cerrito. My flatmate and I have schedules which are fundamentally out of phase with each other, and have different tastes in food anyhow. My workload, which has the same peaks and troughs as anyone else's, is at a local peak, so for a little while, at least, I have not taken more than an hour and a half off in the evening to prepare food, eat, clean up, and do whatever other non-academic tasks seem most urgent. And so I have reverted to form, and am again cooking rice and X.
But rice and X is pretty good. Last night, X was black-and-pinto bean chili, and I thought it was wonderful.