juice, egg, bagel
On his track “Fast” from the album Death Race for Love, the late, Chicago-born emo-rap artist Juice WRLD delivers the following lyric: “I’ve been living fast, fast, fast, fast.” Like Juice, I, too, have been living fast (fast, fast, fast).
Over the past month or so, I have enjoyed a gratuitous amount of leisure activity. I’ve crested volcanoes, imbibed fancy beverages in fancy places, and participated in healthy levels of tomfoolery, much of which would make for excellent content fodder but cannot be shared online until I reach a protective level of wealth or status.
I’ve been thoroughly doused by a free-flowing spigot of experience, and the privilege of that is not lost on me. That’s why I’m disappointed to admit that I’ve neglected to truly process (and thus, truly appreciate) the vast majority of it.
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.
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.
journal of a runner
Last night, I mapped out my marathon training plan. For the next eight weeks, the Nike Run Club app will track my movement around the Imasaka-cho neighborhood of Kanoya City, starting from my water-stained apartment building and looping around the FamilyMart, the Air Force base, the daikon farms, the cool-damp forest trail, and the stretches of sidewalk that smell like burning garbage on bad days, petrol otherwise, and delightful cherry blossom for two weeks out the 52 that make up a year. The weather will change from a light chill to oppressive summer humidity. My long runs will increase from ten miles to 20. I will casually run a half-marathon distance practically every weekend, which (if accomplished) will do insane things to my ego. I will run four times a week, aspirationally, and at least three times a week as a minimally acceptable floor. My knees will hurt, my hands will swell, and my AirPods will, with frustrating regularity, disconnect during what would otherwise be the best bit of a run. I will enjoy the jumble of sounds that is my running playlist: female empowerment rap juxtaposed with the latest news from AFC Wimbledon and planet Mars, RadioLab episodes, the wisdom of the exalted Nike Global Head Coach Bennett, and the best/worst of 2010's pop. I will continue to manifest and check for abs despite doing absolutely nothing in service of that fantasy. I will run and run and run, and at the end of one of those runs, I’ll find myself on the other side of a marathon finish line. Hopefully.
elegy for san francisco
My first memories of San Francisco are contained within Union Square. My aunt, the one with no children, allowed me to accompany her on shopping sprees around the City. We would start at Gump’s, where she’d ask for my 9-year-old opinion on plateware, and end our excursions at the Westfield Shopping Center food court. My picks were always the same - Loving Hut for vegan Chinese food, then cream puffs from Beard Papa’s, which I’d have for breakfast the next day. I would tear off a piece of the choux, scoop the custard into a soup spoon, eat the hollowed shell, then slowly savor the filling as if it was a pudding. It was particularly tasty with a side of cantaloupe.
All food courts are the same. A child bangs on the table. Parents rest their shopping bags on the chairs next to them or sling them over the back. Someone in a suit scrolls on their phone and shovels food into their mouth with the other hand, not looking at what they’re eating. Custodians spray the tables, wipe them down with white cloths. I try to smile at them, but sometimes I let them pass like ghosts. It makes me sad when they are old, already hunched, but still cleaning because they need the money. When I see them, I have the melancholic sense that all my joys come at the cost of someone else’s hard work.
It’s the metropolitan, I think. It creates this system.
Athletic is not a word that I would use to describe myself, but it is a word that I am trying to make room for. There are many things that I would hasten to predict I am bad at: most sports, lifting heavy objects, fighting anyone who is not a child under the age of 8. However, I want to confirm those things for myself, not take them as fact because they were assumed of me in teenagehood. I don’t mind being weak or uncoordinated, but I do mind having self-limiting beliefs that prevent me from pursuing anything and everything that piques my interest.
This morning, a new friend told me they would have guessed that I was a soccer player in high school. When assessed against my constructed story of self, I found that amusing, but apparently, it’s a very reasonable supposition otherwise. What the world believes is true for us is often more generous than the self-dialogue we offer ourselves. Strangers don’t know the ways in which we categorized and pigeonholed ourselves. They see us as we are, without insight into the conclusions we’ve reached over a lifetime of navigating a social existence that relies on hierarchy and grouping for order.
Up until recently, I had very little faith in Britney as a runner, but I had heaps of faith in a fairly typical 22-year-old girl’s body. Fortunately, I am (inhabit?) both - and the latter undeniably so. (The former is predicated on the faulty, piecemeal collage that is identity development, so I acknowledge that there’s room for debate on what it actually means.) Four months ago, when I considered whether or not I should try to run seriously for the first time since freshman year of high school, I took an objective approach. I saw no reason why a person with an able body and stable health condition should not or could not be a runner. So, as I am fortunate to have both, I made an attempt. The attempt grew into a habit. The habit grew into a hobby. I’m hoping that soon, it will grow into a part of who I am.
When people tell me that they are not runners or that they couldn’t possibly run a certain distance, I know they are lying. I know this because my lived experience and a vast body of science attest that the human body, with its expansive gluteal muscles and nuchal ligament, is uniquely capable of forward motion on two legs.
However, it’s rude to accuse someone of lying, so I usually settle for, “You could totally do it if you wanted to!” I think that is true for most things in life - that we could totally do it if we wanted to. Maybe the trick is allowing ourselves to want the things we want, not merely the things that we believe are within our capacity.
Doubt and denial are powerful defenses because they preclude us from even trying. After all, why go for it if we’ve already decided that we’ll never succeed?
But imagine a stranger meeting you for the first time. Amazing you, with all your promise and verve. I tend to think pretty highly of the human species, but even a cynic would concede that any given person is capable of something worthwhile. What is your something? The thing that seems far-fetched at the moment, but that is perfectly within the realms of believability? Don’t be afraid to name it, even if putting it out into the world means that you’re obligated to give it an honest effort.
My thing is running a marathon. I think that you think that I can do it. I agree with you.