Though my preferred experience of life is when it washes over me like a fine mist, life unfortunately cares very little about my preferences. Recently, it has been settling on my tongue like the aftertaste of an ill-timed nap, or the enduring alliaceousness of a particularly garlicky curry.
Put simply, I am having what is colloquially known as “a hard time”.
There’s something lightly, mischievously taboo about having an extravagantly nice drink: the strawberry lemonade slush at the patio restaurant, the $7 flavored latte on a busy city morning, the overpriced but well-packaged experimental drink that you finally let yourself buy because hey, isn’t that the reason why you’re working so hard in the first place?
Sitting on a bench overlooking the Yanagawa canals, willow trees swaying in the humid evening breeze, a friend asked me, “What are you passionate about?”
Normally, I’d regurgitate a rehearsed answer along the lines of alleviating human suffering, or experiencing and building community, or Dane DeHaan in the 2013 film Kill Your Darlings. But an off-hand thought entered my mind and stuck -- I am passionate about enjoying beverages.
Once a week, in the name of meal prep, I fill almost every container I own with brightly-colored, neatly-arranged, ready-to-go foods. I do this primarily for healthy, productive reasons: to nourish my body, to make efficient use of my time, to keep my spending in check. I do this secondarily so I can post a pretty flat lay on Twitter and impress three to four strangers.
Meal prep, in its broadest definition, is any active planning and preparation of food to eat in the future. This can be chopping fruits and vegetables ahead of time, cooking a massive quantity of food to freeze for later consumption, or making whole meals ahead of schedule. In this blog, I focus on the particular style of meal prep that I practice: preparing several individually-portioned meals in advance.
Among first-time meal preppers, the biggest mistake in approach is misunderstanding what meal prep entails. Learning how to meal prep is not simply learning how to make one week’s worth of food in a single go. It’s learning how to make one week’s worth of food in a single go every single week, in perpetuity, and actually eating it. This is a very different challenge.
Ultimately, meal prep is an exercise in forecasting. What will you, four days from now, desire to eat? What will you -- given the constraints of time, the temptations of the modern world, and the unforeseeable circumstances of life -- realistically prepare and consume?
As expected, meal prep will give you essential kitchen skills and easy access to high-vibrational domestic bliss. Both are a pleasure to possess. But more valuably, it will teach you how to apply self-knowledge to follow through on your decisions.
If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for life. If you give someone a one-week meal prep plan, they will eat well for a week. If you teach someone how to meal prep, they will eat well for life.
As such, this blog post is not a step-by-step guide on how to make a specific menu of meals. If you want that, I can make you a custom plan, complete with a store-specific grocery shopping list, for a very reasonable price. But that would be selling you a product, and I want you to learn a skill.
This blog post is a series of helpful framings and advice to help you tackle meal prep in a wise, minimally onerous way. Section 1 presents the three dimensions of “good” meal prep -- healthy, yummy, varied -- and includes exercises to help you achieve all three. Section 2 provides handy tips to apply at different stages of the meal prep process, all the way from planning to plating. Rather than repeating common-sense advice, I tried to include original information and insights wherever possible. Section 3 acknowledges that meal prep can be hard, offers strategies to make it easier, and concludes with tough love about how you should do it anyway. Section 4 is a breakdown of my meal prep routine, complete with my actual thought process, to give you a more concrete idea of what meal prep looks like. Section 5 answers questions I didn’t address in the main text. Section 6 provides some reasons why one might want to meal prep, as well as details my own motivations. Overall, the blog aims to lessen the struggles associated with meal prep and to guide you towards a stress-free, individually-tailored, and maximally beneficial meal prep practice.
Before we begin, take a second to remember that you have spent a lifetime living and eating. You know what your life is like. You know what you like to eat. You know what you don’t like to eat. You know yourself. All of these qualities make you exceptionally capable of meal prepping, and meal prepping well.
a poem a day
This week, I stepped into The Arena, an addressless destination for creative freedom. I entered hoping to find the accountability and grit to grind towards an exceptionally praiseworthy and shareable piece of writing, but stepped away with something even better: the permission to have fun.
I recently purchased the URL and website hosting for this blog, pleasantly and humbly surprised by how many of you read it. As the primary source of proof that I do actually have thoughts, posting here brings me a great deal of joy and satisfaction. It also intimidates me.
Over time, I have come to expect a certain level of writing from myself -- some personal blend of apologetic pretension, mild quip, and weary but resolute optimism. (Perhaps you have come to expect something similar too.) At my best, it comes easily; I am naturally annoying and prone to oversharing, and also believe in you very much. Other times, attempting to write in this particular style of “good” feels so insurmountable that I simply opt to write nothing instead. This seems like a bad system: either continually one-up myself or stop trying altogether. It's just that I respect you so much, dear anonymous reader, and want to deliver you The Best Possible Content.
But ultimately, I know that I am incapable of producing dazzling truths and hot takes endlessly. I can only offer you what I have, and sometimes it will be of middling quality. Kind person that you are, I think you will allow me this trespass, especially if I assure you that I had a nice time doing it.
Here's to finding the zest and sucking the marrow, to playing, to spending a little time everyday just making something. Here are seven poems, one for each day of the week.
i'm thinking of visiting home
Mom and I wake up at 8 am. Her, naturally. Me, by alarm. There’s a chill in the air, a fresh and promising one. I put on a sweater. I look at myself in the bathroom mirror and practice my smile. I look older, it scares me, I keep looking. Mom lets me comb through her jewelry box. Shiny things from Dad, Grandma, exes. I pick out small silver hoops. She tells me they look nice on me. Dainty.
Downstairs, Dad is watching TV - the news. This just in, a murder, a burglary, five fantastic new Bay Area cookbooks. Skipper sleeps beside him, tuckered from his morning walk. We’re going shopping soon, I announce. Nordstrom’s. I ask Dad if he wants to come, even though I already know the answer. Not me, he says, scooping Skipper into his lap. He wags the dog’s paw up and down in a goodbye motion. Have fun. Use the VISA Card for points.
These days, I spend all my free time being manic on the internet. I’m scribbling notes on machine learning, I’m pretending that lovingkindness meditation is changing my life, I’m discovering hellishly esoteric Twitter accounts that thrive on the false interpretation of buzzwords for comedy, then letting said Twitter accounts make me feel hopelessly unlearned, out-of-touch, and excluded. It is great fun for my synapses and terrible news for my self-esteem.
On the advice of Sasha Chapin, the author of my favorite Substack newsletter, I am also trying to reconcile with the parts of myself that I detest through a process called shadow work. If you run in spiritual circles, you are likely familiar with this practice. Simply, it involves confronting and making peace with your “shadow self”, the hidden parts of you that cause discomfort and inspire icky feelings. To do this, Sasha recommends a book by Carolyn Elliott called Existential Kink, an offbeat self-help guide that theorizes that many of the painful circumstances we find ourselves in are self-generated. Though we claim that we don’t want to be in difficult situations, we unconsciously act in ways that keep old patterns of behavior alive and functional even when they cause us suffering. By bringing those patterns into conscious awareness - or even better, loving awareness - we begin to reclaim agency over our feelings, allowing us to derive pleasure from unpleasant sensations, or recognize the illogic of our actions and change them. In sexier language, we can cum to our problems until they are no longer problems.