Name: Kate Spencer
Location:Los Angeles, CA
Who eats together? 4 (two kids, my husband, and myself).
Avoidances? None, we are open to everything, although I do hate celery.
Kate Spencer is a writer and the co-host of Forever35, a cult-favorite podcast all about how we take care of ourselves. She’s also the author of the beautiful book The Dead Moms Club: A Memoir about Death, Grief, and Surviving the Mother of All Losses. She lives in Los Angeles with her two daughters (ages 6 and 8) and her husband. Here, Kate talks about growing up in her grandparents’ gardens, how she’s tackling her disordered eating history, and her favorite buys from Costco.
You’re an author, podcast host, and mom. That’s a lot! Walk me through what a day in the life looks like right now.
In the morning I set my coffee timer to go off at 6 a.m. Knowing that coffee is taken care of in the morning really helps me get my day going. And then we do breakfast. I’m trying to get my kids to feed themselves right now, so they’ll do some cereal and some fruit. Overnight oats are another big breakfast thing in our house. I usually eat a little bit later — I’ll make myself eggs and cheese and a wrap with spinach. Or today I made banana bread from Smitten Kitchen. It’s my go-to — it’s very good.
What about lunch and dinner?
Lunch is usually something I’ve prepped in advance or leftovers. Or if I’m working on the podcast, we order takeout from like Sweetgreen, or Tender Greens, or something with the name “green” in it, apparently.
I meal plan for dinner every weekend. Or I try to. I’m not always super successful — but it helps me to stay on top of things. I try to rely on stuff I prepare ahead of time, or I use the Instant Pot or the Crock-Pot, because I can’t prepare a feast for my family at the end of the day. I’m tired, my kids are tired, we’re hungry, and we have homework to do.
- Biggest challenge in eating? Finding fast and easy meals that also satisfy two occasionally picky kids and two tired adults.
- Percentage of meals you cook at home every week? We go out to dinner about once a week. Maybe a breakfast or lunch out. I occasionally order food in when I’m working with my podcast partner. I try to bulk prep my lunches, and I plan mostdinners.
- 5 things on your grocery list every week? Raspberries, apples, sparkling water, eggs, cereal (currently LIFE, my kid’s #1 pick).
- Where do you shop, primarily? Costco and Whole Foods.
- What’s the last food thing you splurged on? Truffle salt. It’s so good and lasted a while, but the price was absurd.
- Top 3 default dinners? Turkey enchiladasfrom America’s Test Kitchen, Damn Delicious’ creamy beef and shells, sheet pan salmon.
- Favorite thing to eat while watching TV? My kids’ Easter (or Halloween, or Valentine’s Day) candy.
- Default kids’ snack: Apples and peanut butter.
- Favorite kitchen tool? This spatula from IKEA is a legend; I own three.
- Who does the dishes in your home? My husband. I hate doing the dishes!
What’s in your Crock-Pot tonight?
I’m trying Mississippi roast, which I feel like I’ve read about for 50 years and I’ve never made and it just seems so easy. It’s like five ingredients: roast, a packet of ranch dressing, a packet of au jus gravy mix, some butter, and pepperoncini peppers.
You’ve talked a lot on Forever35 about your struggles with food. How are things going?
I’m really working on healing years of disordered eating and a dependency on diet culture to dictate how I eat. I’m really trying to break that cycle for myself so I don’t pass it on to my family. I’m doing the work so I can be a happier person. I’m workingwith a therapist, working with a health-at-every-size nutritionist who focuses on intuitive eating, and I’ve been reading a book on intuitive eating. It’s really just been about finding pleasure and joy in food again and exposing myself to people who practice that.
And who do you think exemplifies that for you?
Samin Nosrat. I watched her show and got her book and then we ended up interviewing her on the podcast. Immediately from the first episode of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix you could just feel the absolute exuberance and joy that learning about food, smelling food, touching food, talking about food brings her. That was very infectious for me.
I also f*cking love Patricia Wells and her cookbook Trattoria. Ialso love Alison Roman, and Katie Parla, and of course Ina Garten. I also recently bought some cookbooks because they reminded me of my mom. She used to make chicken Marbella from The Silver Palate Cookbook for Christmas eve. And I also got Jane Brody’s Good Food Cookbook: Living the High-Carbohydrate Way, which obviously no one would makea cookbook with that theme now, but it’s really beautiful andhas excellent recipes.My favorite brown rice and lentil soup is from that book.
You mentioned you’re getting into intuitive eating. Whatdoes that mean?
Currently what it means to me is rejecting diet culture, and unlearning the layers of restrictions and rules I’ve placed on myself and food for the past three decades of my life. It is forming relationships with food and my body that are nourishing, loving, and joyful. It is seeing food as a partner and a friend, and not the enemy or something to be feared or battled.
Why does this appeal to me? Because I am TIRED, quite honestly. Hating myself, hating my body, and living in fear of food is exhausting, and I don’t want to do it anymore. We all have way better sh*t to do with our time. Mary Oliver didn’t ask “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” for me to answer: “Shame spiraled because I ate white rice instead of cauliflower rice.” But it’s all way easier said than done. I am working on it.
What’s the last recipe you made that brought you joy?
One of the most joyful cooking experiences I’ve had in the last six months is when I made Samin Nosrat’s focaccia bread. It is so great.Samin made it feel accessible, andit was such a pleasurable experience. It was very satisfying to rub the olive oil in the bread.
I want to hear about your kids. How did they change the way you eat?
Well, it just made it a lot more annoying. For one, it’s expensive to feed a family. My family in the past two days has already gone through two huge Costco-sized things of raspberries. We eat a lot. And so financially, you have to kind of rethink how you do things.
There’s also this culture of shame around kids not eating everything. Like, you failed them and didn’t expose them to different kinds of foods. And really what I’ve realized is that my kids are developing their own tastes. Being picky is their way of having power as individuals. So that means I’ve had to think about recipes that can be layered. For example, if I’m making spaghetti and meatballs, one of my daughters does not like tomato sauce, but I know if she eats the meatballs and some plain pasta with butter and cheese, and my other kid likes tomato sauce. It’s about mixing and matching the food.
You’ve talked about how you want to shield your daughters from your eating issues. How have you done that?
It’s part of our culture — we exist in a patriarchal structure that perpetuates diets, so like many things, I can’t protect my kids from it. But my hope is to give them feelings of confidence and pleasure and also an understanding of where food comes from, and also letthem develop as eaters.
Mary Oliver didn’t ask “what will you do with your one wild and precious life” for me to answer: “shame spiraled because I ate white rice instead of cauliflower rice.”
Tell me about your grandparents and their magical gardens.
I had two sets of grandparents and they were very different. One was in a really rural part of New Hampshire, and the other pair lived in a suburban, lower-middle class Italian community outside of New Haven, Connecticut. Both of them had massive vegetable and herb gardens — just massive. At both of theirhomes, we would eat the food that they grew as a part of our meals. It’s inspiring. And it wasn’tperformative — it was practical for them.
You’ve talked about meal planning being important for you to feel grounded. What’s your strategy?
I make a meal plan every week because it helps me with grocery shopping and it helps me have a sense for what we’re eating. Just this week I got even more obsessive about it and printed all the recipes out and hole-punched them all and put them in little sleeves in a binder. It helps having all the recipes for the week right in the kitchen instead of having to look them up on my phone. So I’m making an exception to my printing paper rule and going for it.
But, you know, sometimes I can’t get things together and will just eat crackers for dinner.
Anyone who listens to Forever35 knows you have a thingfor Costco. What are your favoritebuys?
The olive oil is so good there. Also, the rotisserie chicken. I don’t believe they are organic, but they are so good and so cheap, they can’t be beat. Costco has amazing cheese products — I buy really nice cheddar and Kerrygold butter from Costco and it’s affordable. They also have great organic produce, and my kids eatso many freaking raspberries so it’s great.
Also, they also have really good mashed potatoes in their freezer section from Reser Main Street. Everyone I feed them to loves them and thinks they’re homemade.
What’s in your snack rotation right now?
Trader Joe’s truffle marcona almonds. Trader Joe’s has a great affordable nut situation.I love a chip and salsa situation. I love a sliced pepper. Oh wait, here’s a really good snack that I like: dried dates dipped in tahini and flaked salt.
Right? It’s so good. I often need a quick hit of sweetness after a meal, and this scratches everything.
Thanks so much, Kate! Follow Kate on Instagram, and subscribe to her podcast (seriously, it’s so good), and buy her beautiful book.
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