For the first 34 years of my life, I always ate three meals a day. I never thought much about it—the routine was satisfying, it fit easily into my life, and eating three meals a day is just what Americans generally do. By the end of last summer, though, those decades of habit had begun to erode. The time-blindness of working from home and having no social plans left me with no real reason to plod over to my refrigerator at any specific hour of the day. To cope, I did what many Americans have done over the past year: I quasi-purposefully fumbled around for a new routine, and eventually I came up with some weird but workable results—and with Big Meal.
Big Meal is exactly what it sounds like: a meal that is large. It’s also untethered from linear time. Big Meal is not breakfast, lunch, or dinner—social constructs that no longer exist as such in my home—although it could theoretically occur at the traditional time for any of them. Big Meal comes when you’re ready to have it, which is a moment that only you can identify. For me, this is typically in the late afternoon, but sometimes it’s at breakfast. Generally, Big Meal happens once a day.
In the dieting (excuse me, biohacking) trend known as intermittent fasting, people compress their calories into a limited window of hours. But that’s not what Big Meal is at all. It’s not a diet. I snack whenever I feel like it—Triscuits with slices of pepper jack, leftover hummus from the Turkish takeout place that sometimes provides Big Meal, a glob of smooth peanut butter on a spoon. The phrase started as a joke about my inability to explain to a friend why I was making risotto in the middle of the afternoon, or why I didn’t have an answer to “What’s for dinner?” at 6 p.m. beyond “Uh, well, I ate a giant burrito at 11 a.m. and grazed all afternoon, so I think I’m done for the day.” Now I simply say, “It’s time for Big Meal,” or “I already had Big Meal.”