And we’re back! I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. I spent the bulk of mine cocooned on my parents’ couch in Michigan. We played some games, we opened some presents and we watched a lot of TV, as we are wont to do. A lot of that TV was Food Network or FN-related, and when it started, it freaked me out: What would my folks say? Would they give me the side-eye and ask how many of the things we saw I had made? Would my sister go into a “how could anyone ever eat meat/cheese/butter SO GROSS” tizzy before patting her own tiny stomach in a self-satisfied way? Would my mom immediately suggest we go on a walk?
Clearly, I have a lot of complicated feelings about food. Much fewer than I did when I was younger. Food has always been a challenge for me. I think that’s why I like baking, especially for other people. There’s therapeutic value in measuring, and mixing, and tasting and giving a treat to someone who will really appreciate it. It takes your head, and your appetite, out of the game. For a long time, it wasn’t about the preparation for me, it was the aftermath: Why did I feel/look the way I did? I think a lot of that has to do with my family. My parents are crazy-supportive people. The kind of parents most kids dream of having. But I absolutely regret the first time (and I don’t remember when this was) I ever opened my mouth and said the words “I’m fat.”
You see, supportive parents want to push, push, push their baby birds to do the very best they can, to achieve the most. They never compared me to my sister, who’s a good six inches taller than me, rail-thin and vegan (except once, when my dad plucked a banana from my hand as I was about to bite, and handed it off to her, saying, “You don’t need this. She does.”). I’m grateful for that, since I spent a lot of my young adulthood doing just that. My folks, like all good parents, just wanted us to be our best selves, and be as happy as we can be. So a self-criticism like “I’m fat” was a recipe for encouraging exercise (my mom got me to join Curves with her when I was in high school), discouraging snacking, and a whole slew of food issues I wish I had never brought onto myself. Eating at my parents’ house, especially, has been fraught with nerves, the likes of which have previously:
- sent me into “secret eating” mode, in which includes but is not limited to sneaking Christmas cookies after parents have gone to sleep, hiding food in my room, and once, at age eight or so, getting caught standing on the kitchen counter with a flashlight and my stuffed Lamb, mawing down Willy Wonka Heartbreakers at an alarming rate.
- made me hyper-vigilant of portion sizes, so I only put two bites of kielbasa, a smidgen of kapusta, a dollop of potatoes, etc., on my plate, going for some sort of “oh, this is all I need” food martyrdom, only to be hungry again an hour or two later.
- driven me to many, many visits to my grandparents’ houses, where I get a pile of junk food and a comment from my Grandma Woho “you must have lost weight!,” no matter how much I’ve gained.
- on more than one occasion, spurred an IBS attack, the likes of which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (Nicole R. from second grade, who stole my friend Julia’s Squiggle-Wiggle Pen).
My parents have never called me fat; I need to make that very clear. And I haven’t called myself fat in years, although I think if we are going for an accurate description, I am obese by BMI standards (which are, of course, bullshit) and curvy/full-figured/round by many other people’s. I’ve been called a fat bitch by people I know, and by strangers on the bus and on the street. By my own standards and descriptions, I am awesome. That is what I am.
It’s taken a lot of time, and effort, and self-actualization to figure out my relationship with food and my body. It took a “you can’t tell me what to eat anymore” conversation, and several instances in which I felt like I needed to somehow “prove” that I’m healthy. “Look, I can run a mile! See how well I do in my yoga class? Still not diabetic!” But really, who do I need to prove my health to? Myself, and my doctor – and maybe not even that guy!
What I know now is this: I can run a mile. I do just fine in yoga, but not so well in Budokon classes. My blood pressure, heart rate and A1C are all pretty awesome – no major diseases in sight. I love to cook, and I love to eat, and I’ve learned what feels nourishing vs. what will satisfy only emotionally, and what benefits and pitfalls last with each thing I eat. I’ve learned that caffeine triggers my IBS, but so does stress, and that ordering three well drinks will make me sick for days, but one or two Makers Marks will warm me, and that’s it. I’ve learned that sometimes, I really DO need a cheeseburger from McDonald’s, and I’ve learned to not feel guilty about enjoying it. Food is fuel, yes. But it is not inherently good or bad. It is just food.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying: It sure was nice to watch the Food Network with my family and not feel anything other than pleasure about being home. My mom and I even decided we wanted to make one of the recipes we saw. Here’s my adaptation.
Lindsey’s take on Giada’s Forbidden Rice
3 1/2 C salted water
2 C forbidden rice (Trader Joe’s didn’t have any when I went, so I went with brown jasmine rice. You do you!)
One big chunk of ginger, peeled and diced
Cook the rice with the ginger in it. Yum.
When that’s done, saute with some oil:
A whole bunch of sugar snap peas, cut into 1-inch pieces (try to get the threads out of these guys if you can)
2 peaches, sliced (it is fine to use four peach halves from a jar, as far as I’m concerned)
Saute the peas for a couple of minutes, then throw the peaches in. After a couple of minutes (you want them to retain their shape), put those on top of the rice, which you have cleverly put in a bowl while the peas were sauteing, of course.
For the dressing, you’ll need:
1/4 C rice vinegar
1/4 C grapeseed oil
3 TBSP honey
1 TBSP soy sauce (but don’t kid yourself, you’ll probably add more)
Stir those together and pour over the rice. Eat warm or room temp. I put mine in the fridge, then warmed it up and ate it with some toasted peanuts. Delicious.
Happy new year, team. I hope that in 2012, any resolutions you made about food were to enjoy it, be healthy and not make yourself crazy.