Since getting married, Michael and I have made half-assed and intermittent attempts at prioritizing homemade dinner. But you all remember my inability to say no to opportunity, right? Which means that rather than learning how to cook together, the past six years has seen dinner eaten on train rides home, or on my couch balanced alongside my laptop while I try to multitask eating, working, and spending quality time with my husband. So when APW was asked if we wanted to try a new food service called Blue Apron, which delivers pre-measured fresh chef-created recipe ingredients to your door, I volunteered to be the guinea pig. Really, I just wanted a few weeks of my life to be easier.
I’ve written about my weight gain on this site before. The funny thing about gaining weight, or being chubby, or fat, or plus sized, or whatever you want to call it, is that people always assume your food issues come from a lack of restraint. It must be all those cheeseburgers! Or the pie. In reality nobody knows more about restraint than I do. Thanks to four years of dieting college roommates, I can put together a 1200-calorie per day meal plan with my eyes closed. But dieting in our culture doesn’t put any emphasis on eating to fuel your body, or on listening to what foods make it feel good (on a physical and emotional level), or on building healthy habits just for the sake of doing good things for yourself. It’s a numbers game. So cooking? I just gave up trying to learn. Why bother to get excited about grilled chicken and steamed broccoli?
In my path to embracing and loving this body that I’m in, I discovered intuitive eating and the Healthy At Every Size movement, which puts emphasis on whole body health instead of size, and suddenly all the puzzle pieces came together in a way that made sense for the first time (without leaving me hangry). Now my job is just to feed myself with real food (most of the time, at least, because French Fries are still awesome), the kind that fuels your body, and then pay attention to how it responds. It’s so good, you guys. My body has never felt better, and I even get to eat real butter again.
But freeing as it’s been, putting my revelation into practice within my marriage has been a separate challenge. And this dinner thing still feels like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. There are three of us living in my house, with the responsibility of dinner prep usually falling to either my roommate or me. Which means a lot of pre-shopping conversations about what meal we can cook that we’ll all like, followed by a grocery shopping trip during which we inevitably forget something (my roommate’s philosophy is that if you can’t find something easily at the grocery store, it probably wasn’t that important to begin with). Then Michael will come home and ask what’s for dinner, at which point I exasperatedly shout I DON’T KNOW because if I have to think about it for one more second I might kill someone. Complicating this process is the fact that Michael and Joe are both just trying to not be hungry, while I’m trying to undo twenty-eight years of disordered eating habits and unlock the mythical powers of vegetables. No big deal.
A few weeks ago I set up my Blue Apron account, set my preferences (no chicken, please and thank you), and waited for our first delivery to arrive via FedEx (which was a bonus in and of itself, since I can hardly get a pizza delivered to my house, let alone groceries). Blue Apron assumes you have salt and pepper and oil, but otherwise, they include everything you need to prepare a complete meal, from the soy sauce in our ramen recipe to the butter we needed for our cod and quinoa meal, all with instructions that were written for novices like me. And while my new lease on life means no more calorie counting, I was pleased to see each meal is between 500 and 700 calories, and they are making a conscious effort to support sustainable practices with local farms. Which is a hell of a lot better than the 200-calorie-why-bother frozen diet food of my past.
So far, our dinner prep with Blue Apron has been less about convenience and more about learning. I order seafood at almost every restaurant I go to, but have been too insecure to buy it at the grocery store because I don’t know what the hell to do with it. Or how long it lasts in the fridge. Or what you pair it with. (My first Blue Apron lesson was that we do not like salmon. It upsets our New England sensibilities. But last night’s cod was a huge success.) Just last week, I had first time experiences cooking salmon, couscous, fava beans, ramen (not the kind that comes in bulk from Costco), pea shoots, and risotto. It’s been a far cry from my normal, “How many ways can we make zucchini?” method of cooking.
But perhaps the most important development is that Michael and Joe are in the kitchen right now, cooking tonight’s dinner, without me, as I write this post. Someone just shouted “Is it tender and done?!” Which I’m taking as a good sign.
One of the more challenging aspects of getting married young is having to grow up alongside your partner. It’s really easy to stunt our own growth and settle into the comfortable habits we developed as our teenage and college selves (it’s how we fell in love!). But I plan on being in this marriage for a long time, and I’m finally old enough to realize that this means we can’t be quite as cavalier with our minds and bodies as we used to. And while Michael and I have been working on the big, important, emotional parts of that process, changing our day-to-day habits is a stubborn task. Finding leisure activities that don’t involve movies or video games. Settling on an acceptable bedtime instead of working until three in the morning. Cleaning house out of desire instead of obligation. Eating food that isn’t pizza. Blah, adulthood, blech.
A while back, former-intern-turned-contributor Rachel wrote a post about how to teach a grown-ass adult to do stuff around the house. I remember reading it, and thinking to myself, “Dear God, that’s me!” Right now, with Michael and me, it’s a little like the blind leading the blind. But we’re slowly finding our way out of the dark. Even if it does require a little hand holding.
I think Blue Apron is going to end up being our go-to solution for weeks when we’ll be too busy to grocery shop, or when we want to learn how to cook new things (you can pause and restart your deliveries any time without penalty, and Michael and I are clearly not done learning in the kitchen). In the meantime, 250 APWers will get two free meals when they sign up for their first order with Blue Apron. So, if you’ve been looking for an excuse to learn your way around the kitchen, or are just tired of takeout, go sign up already.
For the rest of you, are your nightly meals a challenge, or do you have some kind of cooking secret/hack I should know about? How are you balancing health, body image, and partnership (especially if you’ve got a partner whose dietary needs are vastly different from your own, like mine)? For those of you who feel a healthy connection between your food and your body, what’s your best wisdom? And seriously, how do you make dinner easy?
This post was sponsored by Blue Apron. The first 250 apw readers to sign up with Blue Apron will receive two free meals on their first Blue Apron order (Click here to redeem.) Thanks Blue Apron for helping make the APW mission possible!