A new social media trend is promoting dangerous dieting practices and is now facing widespread criticism for encouraging eating disorders. Megan Jane de Paulo saves the day with a delicious, healthy recipe that's super simple to cook.
AT SOME POINT a few months ago, a woman posted a TikTok of her snack dinner and called it "Girl Dinner", unwittingly triggering a trend of posting snack plates all over social media, creating the Girl Dinner movement.
Snacks for dinner is not new. Sometimes you are just tired or not hungry and have a few nibbles. But until this last northern hemisphere summer, it wasn't a thing worthy of plastering all over your social media.
Now that it's a thing, it comes under scrutiny. On the one side, we have the idea that it's self-care to have Girl Dinner and that it's fine to just tap out on cooking sometimes, especially during hot weather. It gives you permission as a woman - or rather, "girl" - to be imperfect, to not meet the norms, to not adopt the traditional cooking and nurturing roles.
I didn't know we needed permission to do that. I do it on occasion. My mother did it. Some nights, even my grandmother just nibbled some cheese and crackers and took some pickles and cocktail onions from the never-emptying jars in the fridge. We didn't need to give it a name.
With the positive comes the negative. From plates resembling charcuterie platters for one, it soon evolved to plates with three crackers and a couple of blocks of cheese, to a few chips, to cubes of ice. Girl Dinner became "Thinspo" (thin inspiration) dinner. The wave of these plates went from saying it's okay that your self-care is feeding yourself something convenient and comforting to displays of disordered eating.
As with social media-related trends in the past focusing on the thigh gap and the printer paper waist measuring, Girl Dinner has taken the place of banned hashtags on TikTok and Instagram such as #thinspo or #thinspiration, and exposing waves of younger people to a distorted view of healthy eating. Despite attempts at eliminating hashtags and deleting accounts promoting disordered eating and dangerous dieting practices, much negative messaging still gets through to the majority younger audience.
Feminism or starvation? Am I tackling gender norms by eating cheese and crackers, or on a dangerous dieting path?
I'm neither. I absolutely do not believe that cooking a meal means you are buying into antiquated social structures. I admit I judge both women and men who tell me proudly that they can't cook - it should be a gender-neutral life skill to provide nutrition for yourself. It's self-care to prepare yourself a delicious plate of food, just as much as sometimes resorting to comfort or snacks.
Perhaps, curiously, Girl Dinner has not taken off here in Australia to the same degree and I believe there is a simple reason for this - we are in winter, while this trend has risen and gone into decline up north, during an intensely warm summer.
Nobody in a drafty rented St Kilda apartment is going to be nibbling on a few snacks and proudly posting it all over social media. We need our protective layer of fat against the freezing cold winds that wind their way through the city. And it's not just the southern cities, there's evidence that even in Cairns this year people were wearing jumpers and closed shoes.
We naturally eat less during hot weather; our bodies adjust to avoid heat-generating activities such as digesting food. We don't need extra energy to keep our bodies warm.
Eating spicy food when it's hot triggers the cooling processes of the body. That's why it's no surprise that the spiciest dishes come from some of the warmest locations.
That's why this recipe is summer slacker perfection. I call it simply "Dinner".
Thai red curry salmon
This is a quick cook with not much effort. The flavour pay-off is huge, though.
Unlike many curries which benefit greatly from a long marinade or slow cooking process, this one is pretty much whack ingredients in one pan, cook a bit, done.
If cooking rice sounds like too much, stock up on a couple of packs of microwaveable rice types next time you get groceries. It's a better option than not eating well or relying on delivery to have them in the pantry.
This recipe doesn't need exact measurements, you can eyeball and taste it as you go.
I don't add sugar to mine since I find coconut milk pretty sweet. You can balance it out with lime juice if you like.
Don't skip on the fish sauce - in this kind of cookery, it takes the place of salt and pepper seasoning.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a couple of days in an air-tight container.
Swap out salmon and fish sauce for firm tofu and vegan fish sauce to make this vegan.
- 500 grams salmon fillets - skin on, preferably
- 40 grams Thai Red Curry Paste
- 4 ml fish sauce
- 20 ml peanut oil
- 400 ml coconut milk (one can)
- 5 ml lime juice
- 120 grams fresh baby spinach (frozen spinach is also fine)
- 8 grams fresh Thai basil
- 8 grams fresh coriander
- 2 fresh long red chillies (optional)
- 10 grams palm sugar (or brown sugar, optional)
- fresh lime (to serve, optional)
- fry pan
- wooden spoon
- fish turner/spatula
- digital scales
- measuring cylinders
Take salmon out of the fridge at least half an hour before serving.
Remove from packaging and pat dry with paper towels. (This helps with crisping up the salmon first).
Place fry pan over medium heat. Add peanut oil.
Place the salmon skin side down on the pan, cook until skin starts to become crispy, turn over with fish turner to slightly brown all sides.
Remove fish from pan.
Add curry paste and fry in the leftover oil and salmon juices.
Add coconut milk. Mix.
Add fish sauce.
After a few minutes, the coconut milk should start simmering, the salmon should be cooked through and the spinach wilted.
Taste the sauce, adjust with more fish sauce, lime juice or some sugar.
Remove from heat. Serve on rice with fresh herbs scattered over, a wedge of fresh lime and sliced fresh red chillies.