After posting many of my near-neurotic meal schedules on Facebook, I was encouraged by friends and acquaintances to not only share the week’s plans re: food, but also to discuss why and how I come up with such plans. For every other entry, I’ll post my numnum calendar on “Exposed Eats with Yejin” for the week and discuss one of the many elements that determines the direction of my menu.
Note: Eventually, as I become more sophisticated as a blogger (good luck with that, Yejin), I can start incorporating recipes into the menu, and maybe even a list of grocery items for the week. Yes? No? Maybe?
As you know by now, a lot of my behaviors are dictated by anxiety, and my methods of planning, cooking and eating are no exception. I have anxiety around unused produce or meat going bad; anxiety that my husband and I won’t enjoy our meal; anxiety that I don’t know what’s coming next. To some, it may appear that my obsession with creating, organizing and arranging these meals is just a symptom of my mind’s ailments-perhaps that is a little bit true. Or a lot bit true. But I would say that the process that I’ve crafted serves as a weirdly beautiful release for my excess disquietude. And the result is usually pretty tasty!
Other elements that go into this process include:
- My mood (yes, like a freak, I can often predict my mood a week in advance)
- Whether we’re having guests
- My feelings about my body
- How much cheese I want to consume any given week (this is real)
- A lot of other stuff
I don’t want to scare my readers away by listing all the crazy things I consider when developing the week’s menu. Plus, I feel like I should leave a little mystery, no? Look at me, being all coy and restrained.
Today, I want to talk about cravings.
So…I was bulimic in high school.
Sorry, readers – I’m sure you weren’t ready for that, but I swear this is relevant. And since I’ve already bummed you out with my last entry, I promise not to go into that sad little piece of my history, today. We’ll leave it for another time.
Once I told my mother about my bulimia, we cried ugly and wonderful tears together, and then she took me to see a nutritionist. My memory, as you know, is crap. So I don’t remember how frequently I saw this person, and whether I felt much better after my sessions were completed. But I do recall learning (and retaining) a very important lesson about cravings: don’t repress them. Embrace a craving, even if it is fatty or sugary or chocolatey or buttery (ugh, that all sounds so good, no?). Because for me, depriving myself of something I wanted was a form of self-inflicted punishment. Girls who aren’t doing well in math don’t deserve a slice of cake. Girls who aren’t toned, skinny, and blonde/brunette haven’t earned the right to eat all that pork belly. Girls who can’t control the most basic elements of their lives shouldn’t get mac n cheese. By learning to lean into my cravings (and doing so in moderation), I slowly began to disassociate the act of eating (or binging or deprivation) with the act of self-loathing. FREEDOOOOM.
Now, I allow my cravings to gently dictate our weekly menu.
This week, I wanted pork. Pork pork pork. So we purchased bacon, pork chops, and sausages, and I came up with the following schedule:
- Farfalle all’amatriciana + salad with romaine hearts, endives, radicchio, and sliced apple
- Sticky honey & soy pork chops + jasmine rice + sauteed bok choy in garlic sauce
- Fusilli with sweet Italian sausage, broccoli, and hot pepper flakes + salad with romaine hearts, endives, radicchio, and sliced apple
- Fried tofu with spicy ginger, garlic and scallion sauce + jasmine rice + gai lan with oyster sauce
- Farfalle alla peperonata + salad with romaine hearts, endives, radicchio, and sliced apple
- Cabbage, cannellini bean & Italian sausage soup
I find pork to be very comforting, and I often want to consume it with equally comforting sides, like mashed potatoes. But because the meat can be heavy, I tried thinking about ways to make the whole meals a bit lighter so I could eat a lot without feeling gross afterwards. I incorporated the bacon into the Farfalle all’amatriciana, and decided it should go with a light and mildly bitter salad to cut the rich and fatty sauce. For the chops, I chose a vaguely Asian marinade for the pork chops so I could have it with rice, which keeps the meal a bit brighter and lighter.
And I thought it would be nice to split the sausages into one pasta dish and a soup to make sure we aren’t consuming too much meat in one week (too much makes me insanely sleepy and inarticulate). I added a tofu dish for good measure. Because that means that I’m healthy, right? Right?
I don’t think that giving into cravings is inherently unhealthy. In fact, I believe healthiness and happiness are both subjective experiences whose boundaries are constantly changing and moving. One of the ways that I keep up with my changing needs and desires is to sometimes give into stuff that I want. Sadly, you won’t find me exclusively eating pork belly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while binge-watching House of Cards and The Wire until the day I die, but I will let myself enjoy that extra cookie, extra slices of bacon, and second servings of mac n cheese. And I do that because I deserve to understand and love myself in a way that feels right, and in a way that tastes delicious.
Coming Up: On Identity Politics, Being a Bad Korean, and a Recipe for Ddak Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Chicken)