Meet Erica Adler, meal prep extraordinaire and Cheez-it fan
Get the scoop on our upcoming meal prep class
It’s a special week in TNHS world—it’s my three year freelance anniversary. My last day at my non profit job was April 5, 2018, a Thursday, and I started freelancing the following Monday (my calendar from those days is a sight to behold, lots of coffee dates, reminders to send cold emails, and free workouts that Julianne connected me with to stay sane). My first paid article went up a few days later and I’ve never looked back. I wouldn’t be here without you and want to say a wholehearted thank you to everyone who’s read, cooked from, and shared my work.
I could not have made it this far without an incredible network of freelance friends. We answer each others questions, make introductions, and speak candidly about money. We recap the struggles and joys of freelancing/self employment over coffee or wine, in person, or lately, on the phone. One of those friends is Erica Adler, who I met in August, 2018, through a mutual friend. She’s a chef, meal prep expert, and recipe developer extraordinaire. We got coffee at Haven’s Kitchen, talked for hours, and the rest is history. I’ve long admired Erica’s career and am so excited for you to get to know her better and meet her in our upcoming meal prep class on April 18th at 3 PM EST (use code SUNDAY for 10% off). In class we’ll make two main dishes and two sides, plus a baked good for breakfast/dessert. Your ticket includes a packet with all the recipes, a grocery list, tips on storing and repurposing each dish, plus a recording of class if you can’t make it live. Everything is vegetarian with vegan options.
Now, let’s get to know Erica!
Q: How did you get into the food world? I know you started off in a very different industry.
Yes! I worked in healthcare consulting for 5 years before taking the leap into food. That job took a lot out of me, so much so that it sparked an autoimmune flare up. I turned to cooking, at first as a way to help manage symptoms, but I fell in love with spending time in the kitchen in the process. About a year after my symptoms flared, I left my corporate job and started culinary school at The Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan and things took off from there.
Q: You've spent time in a few different kitchens over the past year. What tools and ingredients do you need to cook and feel at home?
If you’d asked me the same question a year ago, I’d have had an inordinately long list of things I thought I absolutely needed. The pandemic has clarified so many things (like—are we wearing actual pants again once things settle down? I don’t think so!), including my own kitchen requirements. Now, I know I can make do with olive oil, vinegar, sea salt, a sharp chef’s knife, a cutting board, and basic pots and pans. But the “nice to have” items include a microplane, a citrus juicer, large bowls, a dutch oven, and mellow miso paste. That said, I’ll be getting back into my own kitchen in the next week and am so excited to have a space to call my own and my own equipment and dish ware again.
Q: Where do you get inspiration for your recipes and cookbooks? I know you lived in Japan and love seeing that influence in your food.
You’re right, my time spent living in Japan absolutely influences my cooking—I tend to favor the flavors and ingredients I fell in love with as a pre-teen in Tokyo. But cultural appropriation in recipe writing is real and I try to keep questions like “does the world really need a new ramen recipe from me, a white lady with little experience making ramen?” in mind as I brainstorm. (The answer is obviously and unequivocally no.) I’m also an avid cookbook collector and love paging through my beloved tomes for inspiration. My most worn books are Every Day is Saturday, Japanese Home Cooking, Small Victories, Cannele et Vanille, and Jubilee.
Q: How has your cooking and approach to food changed during the pandemic?
It followed a trajectory that will probably sound very familiar to a lot of the TNHS readers. I did a lot of project cookery last spring (sourdough starter, brisket for Passover, and homemade pasta—the works) and went through a period of extreme cooking fatigue in the late summer and fall. Now, I’ve reached some equilibrium and my approach looks quite similar to how it did before the pandemic started. One change that feels permanent, though, is a renewed interest in food justice. I’ve been involved with Harlem Grown since before the pandemic, but have also started regularly contributing to my local community fridge and am focused on learning more about mutual aid via food. I’ve loved connecting with my neighbors and neighborhood in this way.
Q: You've written three seasonal ebooks so far. What's your favorite part about cooking seasonally?
I’ve had so much fun writing my In Harmony series! The core thesis of the project is that we’d all do well with a broader understanding of what “health” means when it comes to cooking; of course physical health is important, but cooking should also act as a source of emotional, financial, and environmental/community health. My favorite part about seasonal cooking is that it naturally lends itself to supporting all these facets of healthier living.
Q: What are you looking forward to doing once you're fully vaccinated?
Hugging people! And I am not a hugger. But maybe I will be in the “after times?” I’m also really looking forward to getting back into personal cheffing work. It requires me to be in my clients’ kitchens, so I put it on hold last March. I really miss cooking for people other than my spouse and family members and cannot wait to get back into it.
Q: Your newsletter focuses on kitchen tips. Can you share a MVP tip with the TNHS family?
Absolutely. I’m a sucker for kitchen safety and wrote in depth about stabilizing your cutting board here. But in short, cutting on a board that slips around on the counter is quite dangerous. All it takes to stabilize it is a couple pieces of damp towel or a piece of grippy drawer liner and poof! Potential kitchen disaster averted.
My number one rule about meal prep is that it should be a source of ease in your life. If it’s creating stress in any way, don’t do it! Because a lot of what we see online about it is completely aspirational and not always realistic (look! I meal prepped for the entire week for my family of 10 in under an hour!) I think folx feel a lot of pressure to approach it this way. Just getting breakfast set for the next couple days is just as valid a way to meal prep as anything else.
Q: You recently did a cross country road trip. What's your favorite road trip snack?
I’m gonna have to go with good old fashioned Cheez-its here. And this isn’t a snack, but we stopped for the Popeyes chicken sandwich on our first night of the road trip and loved it so much that we planned the route for our second day so we could get it again. It definitely lives up to the hype.
Q: How can we support you and find more of you?
Woohoo we’ve made it to the plugs portion of the Q&A! I so appreciate your support. You can find my cooking tips-laden newsletter here, follow along with me on Instagram where we have a lot of fun doing food polls on a weekly basis, check out my blog and e-books, sign up for our joint meal prep class (can’t wait!), or inquire about my personal cheffing services here. I think that about covers it. Thank you so much, Abigail!
Thanks so much, Erica! I can’t wait for our class next weekend. Here’s the link one more time :)