Why #mealprep is one big crock
IF you've ever fallen down the rabbit hole that is social media, there's every chance you've come across posts about meal preparation.
And if you haven't had the pleasure yet, you'll know them when you eventually do see them.
They're the ones where some lunatic has proudly announced they've cooked up 832 batches of food, chucked them in the freezer and have subsequently released themselves from the shackles of the kitchen for the next few months.
There are photos of tables full of Tupperware, heaving under the weight of many meals destined for the deep freeze, alongside posts that usually proclaim the time, cost and calorie saving virtues of #mealprep, along with the trials of being #busy and the relief that comes with knowing exactly what you'll be eating for the next three months (#menuplans).
For the obsessives among us, I'm sure there's some kind of satisfaction that comes from posting pics of symmetrically spaced out containers with perfectly portioned meals.
But for others, this practice is a culinary nightmare, the posts evidence of a joyless existence with the same food on rotation until kingdom come.
And honestly, this #mealprep fad is nothing new. I'm pretty sure in another lifetime - you know, the time before social media - it was called "cooking a giant batch of spag bol and freezing some for later". Or in the heady days of the '80s, it was stocking up on Lean Cuisine so you could come straight home from aerobics and give your brand new microwave a whirl.
But this current variation of the trend begs other questions about our relationship with food. How has it become so tarnished that the best solution is to prepare huge batches of it in advance, completely ignoring seasonality, and dare I say it, spontaneity? What if you decide you don't fancy a cadaverous serve of deep freeze dinner reanimated by a microwave, and would like a cheese toastie instead? How does a finely tuned #menuplan deal with that?
Sure, Australians have a problem with food waste, and meal preparation is one way of making sure you use what you buy. A recent report has revealed we throw out $76 million worth of food a week. That's a lot of mouldy carrots.
But the solution is not cryogenic meals. It's actually something that's completely at odds with social media: home economics.
Making the subject mandatory in high school curriculum would be a start. Education about food and cooking would be an incredible weapon against obesity, food waste and our relationship with food in general. It could even help with the shortage of chefs in the otherwise booming hospitality industry. In Queensland the value of the subject has been recognised and it's undergoing a revamp, and will become Food and Nutrition in 2019.
There would be no need to make eleventy billion meals in advance if we all grew up being taught our way around a kitchen and how to shop and cook with the seasons. It's a basic foundation which saves money and develops a deeper connection with ingredients, so we know where our food comes from and when it's in season.
And when the cupboard's bare knowing how to whip up quick meals with minimal ingredients is a skill that will serve for a lifetime. One of the best examples of a meal designed to be made from what's lying around in the pantry is spaghetti alla puttanesca.
Forget for a second that it roughly translates to spaghetti of the whore - a random, rare positive cultural reference to a prostitute - with just a handful of ingredients it's a delicious, relatively healthy dish that takes about 15 minutes to make.
And when it comes to dinner, I'll take spontaneous lady-of-the-night spaghetti over the supposed virtues of #mealprep any day.
Victoria Hannaford is a RendezView writer and producer.