Meal prep March series: food as culture and self-care￼
Food is fun and fueling
Food has always been an integral part of my life and my culture. Food builds relationships; it allows us to connect with people and to have great conversations with them all whilst fueling and nourishing our bodies. As a young African girl, I grew up on foods such as pilau or pilaf: hearty soups made with bone broth, beef fat, and liver. As a result, I was blessed with versatile taste buds. When I moved to mainland China, I was introduced to Chinese cuisine and this expanded my taste buds even more. The reality is that Chinese cuisine is quite different from my own cultural cuisine. When I was living in Hong Kong, my favorite foods were zhajiangmian and egg waffle. Zhajiangmian is essentially fried noodles marinated in black bean sauce. The dish is also known as jajangmyeon in Korean cuisine.
By the time I had moved to Canada, I was getting acquainted with Canadian foods, such as poutine. I still have a very difficult time with it because I do not like cheese or gravy, and I definitely do not like the two mixed together. In my opinion, it’s an acquired taste that I simply do not have. By the time I turned 16, I thought it was time for me to change my lifestyle. I started off as a hardcore vegan and completely transformed my life. I introduced foods such as tofu and tempeh into my life. Tempeh is a type of fermented protein made from soybeans; it originates from Indonesia. As someone who does not eat beef or chicken, I get my protein from sources such as tofu and tempeh. It has a smoky taste to it which gives it a kick, and it’s also quite salty. According to Keri Wiginton on WebMD.com (published July 29, 2021), tempeh lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol, and promotes bone health among other things.
When it comes to health and wellness, my philosophy is that fermented is always better. Kombucha is a fermented drink that I enjoy. It’s tangy, bitter, and sour, but it is still extremely delicious to me. Kimchi is another fermented dish that I eat almost every day due to its health benefits. According to Korin Miller and Nikhita Mahtani at Women’s Health Magazine (published April 2021), kimchi is good for the health of your gut. Kimchi might be considered as spicy to some, but I can handle the spice; it acts as a probiotic in my diet. Some of the ways I love to eat it are as a traditional side dish, or I’ll mix it together with my homemade soups or even in a salad.
It’s important to note that consulting your doctor is ultimately the best way to be health-conscious. I have medication, other supplements, and vitamins that I try not to forget because they’re integral to my physical well-being. I supplement any nutrients that I am unable to receive from a normal diet.
When it comes to meal-prepping, it is important to make a schedule that works for you and try to stick to it whilst simultaneously allowing yourself the occasional treat or cheat day. I like to meal-prep for the coming week on Saturdays. I also do my groceries on Friday or Saturday, depending on my schedule. Cooking is a skill that I have been taught by my parents and it has proven to be important to me throughout my life. I am grateful because it comes easy to me; I don’t believe in following recipes. I know, I know, it’s probably an unpopular opinion. I find recipes to be so confusing and I can’t be bothered to follow instructions. I don’t like keeping track of measurements.
I like to say that my ancestors will let me know when it’s time to stop with the seasoning. I do, however, love writing down and creating my own recipes. They’re not necessarily detailed down to the nitty-gritty, they’re just for me to remember the meals that I make. I want people to understand that in order to be a cook, you will have to make many terrible meals. That’s just part of the process. Eventually it will come naturally to you. Cooking is beneficial for your survival. It ensures that you are taking care of your health by feeding your sacred body. Start with what your favourite meals were growing up, or something that your mother made for you out of her love for you. Groceries can be extremely expensive, which is why I love the URSU Cares Pantry initiative at the University of Regina. Learning how to cook is self-care; it is self-preservation, and that is something I will always preach.
I love to eat whole foods throughout the month, but I like to give myself the time needed to indulge every once in a while.
I keep track of all of the meals I create by posting on a private Instagram account. It is essentially a food journal. The most important thing is to ensure you have a healthy relationship with food. I avoid some social media sites such as TikTok because they can be extremely detrimental and often times showcase and even glamourize eating disorders. Therapy is so crucial in these cases. It’s difficult to understand how to move forward when your health and emotional well-being is in limbo. At the start of the pandemic, I found that I was having a difficult relationship with food. I even ended up gaining weight. For the longest time, my perspective was about figuring out how I can get back to the weight I was when I was starting university. Now, I realize that is all useless. The only thing I can do is focus on moving forward, and focus on my health by being kind to my body. Health is important to me, and it is something I will always focus on whilst maintaining a balance. I refuse to continue to be cruel to my body.
This is the body that has fought to keep me safe, alive, and healthy up until now. I only owe it to myself to treat it with dignity and respect