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Food

I have a lot more to write about my trip than this, but my dinner at Craigie on Main was absolutely the highlight.  I mean, seriously, it was…. just, I can’t even talk about it.  So rather than try, I’m just going to tell you what I ate :)

Amuse Bouche: squid “noodles” that i can only describe as heavenly.

Appetizer: six winter-point oysters on the half shell with a candied lemon mignonette.  At this point I was barely articulate and grinning like a fool.

Entree:  Vermont Pork Three-Ways: Crispy Suckling Confit, Grilled Belly, Spice-Crusted Rib with red beets, crispy red quinoa, pomegranate coulis, and foie gras jus.  I took a horrible picture of it with my phone and put it up on facebook because I was in love with it so much.  Tragically, because of the poor quality of the photo and shrunk down to thumbnail size, it looked like a penis on the plate.  Whatever, it was magnificent.  And I must find a way to replicate that crispy quinoa because it really was more than I’d ever imagined quinoa could be, and I love quinoa.

And then, in the perfect conclusion to the meal….

Dessert: Apricote Frangipane Torte with pistachio crust, grains of paradise, and amaretto ice cream.

The food was superb, the service fantastic, the wine with our meal (recommended by our server) and wine with dessert (a pairing chosen by the chef) perfect, and the company (I went with BFF and FBA) divine.

It was, as a dining experience, my fantasy made real, which I know sounds like hyperbole, but seriously, I can’t say it any other way.  It was perfection.  (Also: we all ordered different things, and I can attest to the fact that FBA had the most perfectly cooked halibut I’ve ever tasted and the hangar steak that BFF ordered was the Platonic ideal of steak.)

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Writing Group Menu

It’s the final writing group meeting of the semester this week…. and I’ve decided on the menu.

City chicken (if you don’t know what this is, it’s cubed pork/veal on a skewer that is then breaded, fried, and baked).  It was quite possibly my absolute favorite thing as a child.  I mean, what’s not to love? Fried pork and veal on a STICK!  I’ve done some research and apparently this dish is a geographic invention of the rust belt from the Great Depression when chicken was expensive.

Cabbage and beet salad with a lemon vinaigrette, which is actually a Lebanese recipe, but is cole-slaw-like and yet I like it better than regular cole slaw.

Home-made cornbread (because I’ve been jonesing for cornbread).

I wish that I could make and consume all of this food right this minute.  However, I must go for a walk (in order to try to compensate for the fried meat on a stick I’ll be eating this week) and then get to campus where I have an afternoon of meetings waiting for me.

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So Roxie posted an update on the “weight loss journey” of her incredible shrinking typist, and this has inspired me to provide an update about my own progress (which is sloooowwww, to be honest) on that score.

I don’t have a lot of deep reflection to offer, really.  I’ve never really had issues with my weight – not in the sense that I’ve ever been “thin” exactly…. I’m just not built for thin-ness.  As a kid, I was always big for my age – not fat, just “big.”  Tall and heavy, as in me at a size x weighs more than another person at the same size.  As my mom was inclined to describe me, I was a “big girl.”  Now, I did not love that description, particularly in high school, and I was inclined to take it as an insult.  But, really, as descriptions go, it is sort of true.  I’m not “slim” and I’m not “slender” – even when I am at my smallest.  My smallest is, at the end of the day, a big, solid size.  I haven’t worn clothing smaller than a size 10 since I was like, I don’t know, 12 years old?  I have broad shoulders, broad hips – even if I weighed less and less, it would be a baggy size 10 for me.  And, seriously, me at a size 10 means my clavicle juts out and I can look kind of sickly.

But so if anything, the way that I got to the Biggest Crazy Ever has something to do with the fact that I actually have long accepted that I would never be “small.”  When you know that “small” is an impossibility, it can actually be pretty easy to expand beyond the limits of “healthy.”  It’s sort of like a high self esteem version of thinking that you’re “too fat” no matter what your size: instead, you always think you look great, and you somehow live in denial that your size keeps increasing.

So anyway, that’s what happened to me.  I just didn’t really realize that I’d crossed the line from “big girl” to “too big girl.” Until I finally did realize it.

But so anyway, in some respects that’s good, as I’m not terribly concerned about impossible standards of beauty in American culture, or whatever.  It also means that I’ve never really been a dieter, and what attempts I’ve made historically to “diet” generally weren’t really “diets” at all, or not ones that I ever followed with any sort of true commitment.  In contrast to Moose, I am not a “good” dieter.  I refuse to be regimented.  When in doubt, I will always have that glass of wine; I will always have that pasta with cream sauce.  I am of the carpe diem school of food consumption, and I was very clear about the fact that if I really intended to take off the extra weight that I’d need to work with that tendency as opposed to pretending that I was a different person from the one that I am.

[Aside: This is not unlike the fact that I think I've finally come to terms with the fact that I will never be a different scholar from the one that I am.  I look longingly at those people who "write first" every single day; I admire those people who grade five papers a day and finish with the stack by Friday.  That said, I'm just not that person.  And I've found that accepting how I work ends with me accomplishing a heck of a lot more than trying to fit myself into a mold that isn't "me".]

The return from sabbatical, combined with the winter doldrums, combined with getting strep throat in February, well, it has meant that my weight loss has slowed considerably.  In this three months that Moose has lost 27 pounds, and my friend J. who also started the WW in January has lost like 35 pounds, I’ve lost…. wait for it…. in the neighborhood of 8 to 10 pounds.  It’s not exactly a plateau, because I do continue to lose VERY VERY small amounts per week, but to call it a plateau would mean that I was really working the program to the best of my ability.  And I’m not.  I’m just doing my best to maintain, to remain conscious of what I’m eating, even if it means that I’m conscious of not remaining totally on track.

That said, I wore two skirts this week that I haven’t been able to wear since 2006, and I fit into one of my suits that I haven’t been able to wear since 2006 (and, actually, the pants of that suit I couldn’t even wear in 2006 without spanks, so I’m actually smaller than I was the last time I wore that suit).  Which means that even though I don’t feel like I’m making progress because the progress is so slow, I’m actually making progress.

Now, do I hope to speed things up again when the semester comes to an end?  Yes.  Do I plan to be more focused on the plan once classes are through?  Totally.  Do I still hope to go down a size or two?  Sure.  But I don’t feel like there’s a time-line on getting to a smaller size.  I think it’s ok if it takes a little longer as long as I’m moving in the right direction.  I think it’s ok if it takes a little longer as long as once I get where I’m headed I can maintain it, and I don’t think, given my personality, I would be able to maintain a more regimented approach.

So I’m not an incredible shrinking Crazy.  Instead, I’m more like a slowly but surely contracting Crazy, a Crazy whom people don’t really encounter as having lost weight, but whom people are encountering as looking nice, whom people are complimenting on her clothes or hair or skin.  And I’m feeling good about how I look, and I haven’t consciously felt that in a long time.  I feel like I’m taking care of myself.

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I decided this week that I was going to attempt cooking fried rice, which I’ve never cooked before, mostly motivated by my desire for Chinese food and my desire not to eat a gajillion points in order to have Chinese food.  And it’s Chinese New Year starting today, and well, yeah.  Anyway.  So I’d cooked boneless pork chops a couple of days ago, and the idea was that I would transform them into pork fried rice yesterday.  But then I looked at a bunch of recipes, and the one caution in all of them is that you must use COLD rice, OR THE WORLD WILL COME TO A STICKY STICKY END, and so I cooked the rice yesterday but couldn’t make the dish.  And then I’m not sure when I’ll get home tonight, and tomorrow night I’m going out to dinner, and so that meant that I needed to chef up the fried rice this morning.

My question is this: Why doesn’t everybody make their own fried rice? Because 1) it’s easy, 2) it’s delicious, and 3) it’s the perfect way to transform leftovers.  And did I mention that it’s delicious?  And when you make it yourself you can make it spicier and more delicious?  And it’s not gross, as fried rice can sometimes be?

Yes, I ate fried rice for breakfast.  What?  It’s Chinese New Year, dammit, and I can do what I want to! And it was delicious and only 6 points per cup! (Of course, I had two cups, so there’s that, but I have a long teaching day ahead of me!  And then knitting!  I won’t have another meal for like 12 hours!)

Ok, I must go and get on with my day.  As it is I think I’m going to be running late and unprepared for all the things I need to do today.  Sigh.

Oh.  But one last thing.  You know what’s nice?  To look at your phone as you’re drinking your first sip of coffee and to find a text message declaring your awesomeness.  Compliments + Fried Rice = Excellent Start to the Day.

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So, last night I was just too tired to do all the things, and I spent a good amount of time beating myself up, being filled with shame and remorse about my wasted weekend, etc.  Anyway, I woke up this morning at 5:30, and while I’m not totally caught up, I am all prepped for today, and I’m on track to have all the things up on Bb that need to be put up before I teach.  In other words, maybe I should not spend time beating myself up and shaming myself, because everything that absolutely needs to get done always finds a way to be done in the end.

And, actually, that makes me think of Spanish Prof’s comment to my update yesterday: “The day that I can convince myself that exercise is as important as “professional” work, I will be another person.”  You know, I think that’s about right.  I think that something fundamental shifted in who I am during sabbatical, something that makes it clear to me now that it’s completely legitimate to prioritize things that are Not Work.  Not that I didn’t do work yesterday – I surely did – but it was ok for me to have something for me on the list, too, something that came before some of the work things.  (Actually, I’d had two things: working out, and also making a delicious spiced carrot soup, for which I’d give you the recipe except for you know I suck at that because I make things up as I go along and don’t really measure stuff, but basically it was homemade chicken broth, onion, garlic, a red chili (one of the big ones that isn’t super hot), 2 lbs. of carrots, cumin, nutmeg, and some maple syrup; oh, and salt and pepper, obviously, and then to finish it some lemon juice and some plain greek yogurt.)  I’d been afraid about all my progress being ruined when the semester began, and I guess it’s nice to see some proof that this hasn’t happened, even if it does mean I’m behind with work stuff and it’s only week 2.

But here’s something that occurs to me, too: everybody falls behind, whether they work constantly or not.  I mean, it’s not like I was all on top of everything when I was 30 lbs. heavier.  I was just as behind.  So why not do something positive for myself while being behind?  Indeed.

So anyway, today will be a hardcore teaching day, and then Naomi arrives in town so I won’t accomplish anything tonight.  Tomorrow the plan is that I’ll work out, get into the office no later than 2, get prep done for tomorrow night and for Tuesday, and then, after teaching, get drinks with Naomi.  And then Thursday… well, I’ll caffeinate myself until I can function and then I’ll slog through the day, including a committee meeting I already don’t want to attend.  Good times.

Ok, I should get ready to take myself to campus so that I can continue with what has already been a fairly productive day.

 

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Menu

So I have finalized my plans for Christmas dinner, and all I can say is that I’m seriously considering moving it up to Christmas Eve dinner because I want to eat it NOW.

Apparently, I’m going to be all fancy and actually do courses (I’m hoping that having a salad course and a soup course will mean that I don’t eat 28,000 calories), though that does seem counter-intuitive since it means that I will have the opportunity to eat more things….  Anyway.  The menu.

We will begin with spinach salad, followed by the most delicious butternut squash soup ever (which I made today and immediately froze so that I would not be tempted to eat it for every meal for the next two days, which would ruin my whole “soup course” plan).

Our main course will include pot roast, creamy polenta, roasted brussels sprouts and steamed asparagus.

And for dessert, pear crisp.

How can I wait until Saturday?  Just how?

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So, if I do say so myself, my party last night was fantastic.  Everybody seemed to have an excellent time, and what’s better, I had an excellent time.

I’ve never been a person to throw parties.  I’m a person to go to parties, or I’m a person to go to a bar instead of throwing a party, but parties?  Not something I’ve ever had much desire to undertake.  Now, one reason for this is that I’ve been to a lot of crappy parties.  And the only thing worse than going to a crappy party is throwing a crappy party.  Another reason is that I never really had a living space that was appropriate for parties, if that makes any sense.  Now, I know people who’ve thrown parties in spaces like the ones I’ve lived in, so it’s not about size or type… It’s just my living spaces haven’t felt very party-like to me.

My house, though, appears to have been designed for parties.  It just felt right to have all the people.  And, it turns out, I’m sort of a natural hostess I think.  I was totally relaxed with having all the people in my house, and I didn’t feel anxious about anything at all once they’d arrived.  I had done a really good job of planning ahead, so for the most part I was just able to attend the party, although it did feel a little intense trying to make sure I got to talk to everyone and make sure that everyone was having a good time.  One thing that worked very well was that I had all of the different food and drink set up so that people were forced to move from one place to another throughout the party – they really couldn’t just stay in one spot.  Which meant that people really were mixing and mingling, much in the way of the Jingle Bell Rock.

So anyway, I think that I’m going to do a party in December every year.  It got me into the holiday spirit, and I really liked doing it.  And, now that I have done it once, it will get easier and easier to do the more times I do it!  (So, for example, I’d make only about half as much food the next time, though it’s not really a big deal that I made as much as I did, given the fact that nearly all of it is stuff I can use in other ways and freeze and stuff.)

I also think that I’m going to do a party once a year in the nice weather, when I can invite more people and use the outdoor spaces of my deck and porch a bit more, which would mean that I can invite more people than just my colleagues.

Anyway, so yes.  That is the tale of my party.  It began around 7, ended around midnight, and it was really, really fun.  That said, today I’ve been useless – having a party is exhausting!

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What don’t I wanna do?  Lots of things.  I don’t want to talk about (or think about) politics.  I don’t want to do some straightening up around the house.  I don’t want to write.  I don’t want to work on the thousands of things that I really have to work on.

I did, apparently though, want to make homemade applesauce, which, if you’ve never done it, can I just say, why don’t people always make their own applesauce? It takes no time at all, it’s ridiculously simple, and it is so much yummier than the kind you buy at the store, which, as far as I know, is the only kind I ever had before today, the store-bought kind. I mean, I understand why we don’t make some things from scratch in our home kitchens.  For example, I don’t make any bread that requires yeast.  Now, I’m sure that such bread would be delicious if I made it, but the idea of yeast grosses me out, much in the way that gelatin grosses me out.  And also, it’s time-consuming.  So I’m content to buy my bread.  And I even understand why people buy chicken broth/stock at the store, even though it tastes like salty water as opposed to delicious, because making stock is time-consuming and kind of gross if you think about it for too long.  Now, I make my own stock, because that’s the sort of thing that makes me happy, but again, I understand why people might choose not to.  Or, another example: mayonnaise.  There’s the gross factor of the eggs plus making it requires some technique.  Sure, homemade mayonnaise is divine compared with Hellman”s, but for most people, not realistic to make on a regular basis.

The thing that’s ridiculous about applesauce, though, is that all you have to do is cook some apples.  I peeled mine, but you don’t even have to do that if you don’t want to.  So why did people at some point decide that applesauce is a processed food?  That you have to buy at the store?

So anyway, I have to stop procrastinating now and try to accomplish some scholarly things with my day, even though I’m really not in the mood.

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The third meeting of my writing group is Thursday, and I think I’ve decided on the menu.  Now, for the first meeting of the writing group I did spinach dip with pumpernickel bread and veggies for dipping and then Ciabatta bread pizza.  I thought it was a little too bready, but it turns out everyone was very impressed.  And then last time I did hummus with veggies for dipping and then YUMMY meatballs.  So, I have a bit to live up to with this third meeting.  I like the veggies and dip to start and then something slightly more substantial to be served after a bit, so I’m sticking with that.  I’ve decided that this week I’m going to do a blue cheese and pecan dip with veggies and fruit to start and then potato pancakes and kielbasa.  I think it’s going to be awesome.

As you see, I’m being a bit controlling about the food.  One of the group members keeps wanting to contribute food, which I allow, but seriously?  I sort of want to not allow it.  I mean, I realize that’s not very gracious of me, but deep in my heart I don’t want other people to have any say when it comes to the food.  I think focusing on the food makes it easier for me to do the writing group because let me tell you, this whole “sharing my writing” thing is not natural for me.  I don’t really like it.  I mean, I think it’s good for me, but it’s… not comfortable.

And that has nothing to do with the people in my group, who are totally great, or even with the fact that I am not confident about my writing, because, quite frankly, I’m probably overconfident about my writing.  The truth is that I’m actually sort of a jerk.  But this week we’re going to talk about something of mine for the first time, and I don’t know.  On the one hand I picked something that is sort of a throwaway for me, which I think is probably not the right spirit in which to approach the whole “sharing one’s writing” thing.  Probably sharing something that you think is sort of stupid is not the thing one should be doing.  But I guess that I’m insecure a little, and I don’t want to share a “real” thing until after I get a sense of how people are going to be with something stupid.  FB claims that this is my fear of commitment and deep-seated douchiness coming out, and he may not be wrong about that, as much as I hate it when he’s right about those sorts of things.  But yes, I am sort of going through the motions with the whole sharing my writing thing, and it’s kind of dishonest.  And so I think I’m overcompensating by focusing on the food.

So I should probably go to the grocery store, but maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.  Or later.  Hmm.

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Cooking for One

Have I ever talked about this before on the blog?  I don’t know.  Anyway, “Cooking for One” is the cooking show in my head.  Probably I should be pitching it to the Food Network rather than blabbing about it on the internet, but whatever – I think it’s a sure bet that the Food Network would never pick up the show as I’ve conceived it.  But more about that in a bit.

Anyway.  As I’ve spent the morning cooking, I’ve been thinking a lot about “Cooking for One” – partly because I was cooking, but also partly because a friend of mine is in the midst of an awful breakup and she’d asked people on Facebook to talk about the great things about living alone.  In response, the first thing I thought of that is great about living alone is not having to cook for another person.  By that I don’t actually mean the chore of cooking, as if it’s 1952 and the lady of the house has dinner on the table at 6 o’clock on the dot.  What I mean more is about having another person’s tastes, preferences, and dislikes shape one’s cooking.

When I lived with my ex, I was constantly limited in the kitchen by his ideas about food (what I’d call pickiness but what he’d probably call “preferences”).  He wasn’t a person who was conventionally picky – he’d eat lots of different things, but only prepared in very particular ways.  The representative example I can give you is that he would eat onions, but only if they were chopped so fine that they were basically minced.  No dicing, no slicing, only tiny, tiny miniscule onions.  So while on the one hand I think it was during that relationship that I probably became a good cook, I didn’t really enjoy cooking until that relationship was over.

So, really, I get the most joy from cooking when I’m only cooking for myself, and primarily when I’m cooking without any recipes.  That is contrary to common narratives that are associated with food and cooking, which usually insist on the joys of cooking for other people – of the way that food brings people together, of the way that food allows us to show love, blah blah blah.  Now, I’m not saying that food and cooking can’t do those things.  They surely can.  But they can also drive a wedge between otherwise reasonable people.  Because everybody has their own particular food things.

BFF cannot abide the skin of a chicken.

High School Best Friend is anti-sandwich.

A. also is not a huge fan of the sandwich, but her loathing of pickles knows no bounds.  She also despises condiments.

FB once described to me his perception of the texture of a raw tomato as the texture of an abortion.  (Which, eeewwww.)

So yes, it’s true, on the one hand food is something that we all share, but as any little kid can tell you, sharing sometimes sucks.  And sharing, when it comes to food, means that you  have to take everybody who will eat the food’s tastes into account.  Which, personally, I tend to resent.  Because I feel like people should have to eat what I think is good or they should make their own damned food.

This is where “Cooking for One” is glorious: instead of me trying to bully people with my cooking, I can just cook freely and happily and creatively, without any stress.  Since I’ll eat pretty much anything, I can play to my heart’s content.  I’m not going to get mad at myself for making something I don’t like, nor will I demand myself to cook things that I don’t feel like eating.  When you cook for yourself, there are no compromises and there is no pressure.  It is, truly, better than cooking for other people in a lot of ways.

Now, this is why the food network would never air such a show, however.  Because they are very invested in the belief that food is about bringing people together.  And so, even those cooking shows that are not all about cooking for one’s husband/family are all about entertaining.  The sense that you get is that if you’re not cooking for other people you don’t deserve to cook and eat lovely food.  No, if you’re not cooking for other people, then you should just be eating lean cuisines or something.  Also, the food network is very invested in presenting cooking as a social activity.  They really like it when their stars bring kids into the kitchen with them, or have other cooking friends or family come by for a “cooking together” sort of thing.  You know what I have to say to that?  Get the hell out of my kitchen.  I like cooking alone.  In fact, I like cooking in complete silence.  No radio, no tv, no conversation (I won’t even cook while talking on the phone) – no distractions.  I have no interest in sharing the experience of cooking.  Hell, I’ve been known to kick my cats out of the kitchen if they’re hanging around and they don’t even talk.

But so, clearly, “Cooking for One” would never be put on television, because it would be a show where the person would come on, would say what they’d be making and talk a little bit about it, and then cook in total silence with subtitles.  Except for when it would be a “late night and drunk” episode, at which time the “Cooking for One” host would chef up something like cheese microwaved in a tortilla with some sriracha while cursing up a storm, and I’m not sure we’d call that a “recipe” or “teaching the audience something” so much as we’d call it “munchies.”

So I’ve got some soup simmering away on the stove, soup that I made with no recipe and who knows whether it will be as awesome as I imagine, but I suppose we shall see.   I’ll say this, though: it smells really good, and between that and how quiet it is in my house and how the sunshine is streaming through my windows, everything is very cozy and wonderful on this autumn Saturday.

Edited to Add

I would just like to note for the record that my invented soup is delicious.

 

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