I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Category: Eating

What I Eat For Dinner

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When It’s Just Me

It’s 9:30 at night and I’m just getting home after choral rehearsal. It was a fun rehearsal. (Not all of them are. Some of them drive me to tears of frustration.) The music is beautiful (Durante’s Magnificat). I’m beginning to find my voice and hear the notes and get friendly with some of the other members.

My son is doing homework. My husband is reading in bed. The house is quiet. Even Cooper is hushed. I am alone!

Ahhh. I just love not having to cook dinner for the family on weeknights! I just love eating something simple just for me. I haven’t eaten yet, because I’d rather wait until I get home late and have time for a quiet meal with just me.

Here is what I ate tonight for dinner. It is one of my favorite go-to dinners when it’s just me.

Baked Potato with Broccoli Rabe

I microwave potatoes when I’m in a time crunch, but they are much more delicious when they are baked at 350° F for 75 minutes. The texture is improved and the skin is drier, not steamed. When I don’t have time to bake, I cheat with a 2-step process:

Preheat the oven to 400° F. While the oven is heating, microwave the potato for about 3-4 minutes. When the oven comes to temperature, put the potato in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Or turn off the oven and leave potato in the oven for 2-3 hours while you go do something else. (I go to rehearsal.)

When I come home, the potato is perfectly done. I cut it into bite size chunks and put it into a sauté pan with a moderate amount of olive oil. (Did I mention that this recipe is not low-fat? But if you use olive oil, it is good for you and very satisfying so you won’t eat a lot of other junk.)

I use a medium low heat to lightly sauté the potatoes until they get a little bit crispy brown.

Add some leftover already-cooked broccoli rabe. I make it regularly and always save some just for this purpose. Heat up with the potatoes.

Serves 1 for a quiet late night dinner when it’s just you.

Comfort Food

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Jangled

I’m a little jangled right now. My son started his first day of 11th grade, which I dealt with by feeling overwhelmed with stress on the work front. My daughter leaves tomorrow for her second year of college, which leaves me feeling excited, proud, melancholy, and old. Less stressful than Year 1, but still emotional. I took a too-hard, too-crowded, too-much-rap-music (wtf?) yoga class, which made me angry and tearful: My hip is cranky; who are these people who CAN do this class? Clearly I am getting too old. Maybe I will just sing and knit and get fat. Yowza!

Jangled.

Thursday night, I dreamt that my pet parakeet had a new water dispenser and I realized that she could drown in it if I didn’t watch over her at all times. Do you think I am worried about my children? As our pediatrician counseled us at baby-proofing stage, only half-joking: “Never let them out of your sight.”

Friday night, I dreamt that my hair suddenly was much grayer. I wondered if I should begin to color it, debating between being my authentic self and not wanting to look too old. Do you think I am worried about aging? Who IS that woman in the mirror and what did she do with my 35-year-old self?

When doing some back-to-school errands with my daughter, someone made a strange turn at an intersection. I thought about my son beginning to drive and was overcome with the dangers of driving and the fear of losing them to an accident. Which would be devastating.  Which led me to musing at how wonderful both my children are. Precious, good, honest, empathetic, better than me, better than my husband. How is it possible that these two amazing human beings are my children? Which led me me to tears at a stop light. Praying that they survive the dangers of everyday living.  Overcome with love and gratitude.

Jangled.

Clearly, I am in need of some comfort food. The problem is that traditional comfort foods (Macaroni and Cheese, Oreos and Milk, Pot Roast with Gravy) are too rich. I don’t enjoy these foods. I feel too guilty.  And too full.  For me, comfort food is simple and easy, includes favorite childhood foods, can be eaten in large quantities, and is healthily guilt-free.

When I was a little girl, we had a neighbor with an extensive garden who would let me eat tomatoes warm off the vine. They were perhaps the most delicious food ever. I never tire of good tomatoes but am usually frustrated that they never live up to my memory of those garden tomatoes.  Every summer, my mother would make a simple salad of tomatoes and avocado.  She must be one of the first people who put together a simple composed salad without any lettuce. Who needs lettuce!

The local tomatoes have been pretty good this summer. And, ballerina-eating-trick: you can eat vast quantities of tomatoes without incurring a lot of calories. No need for lettuce, the tomatoes form a delicious base for salads and require minimal dressing. While I don’t eat very much meat any more, I do love chicken and indulge in it occasionally.  This is one of my favorite go-to salads and is what I had for lunch on this day of mixed and jangled emotions.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Yogurt Vinaigrette

  • 1 small grilled chicken breast
  • ½ cup leftover brown rice
  • ½ beefsteak tomato
  • ½ avocado
  • Corn, cut from 1 leftover cob (I always make extra corn on the cob for leftovers)

Dice everything into roughly equal sized small pieces. If you are OCD, like me, you can even make sure that you have the same number of pieces of each ingredient, insuring that each bite has a little bit of everything.

Yogurt Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tablespoons plain greek yogurt (ballerina-eating-trick: Replace some fats with plain greek yogurt. Adds tang and has fewer calories and fat. I use plain greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches.)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

Whisk together and spoon over salad.

1 large salad for lunch – good for jangled nerves, especially if you share the salad with your college-bound daughter.

A Simple Roast Turkey

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Prepared With Complicated Emotions

For those of us with eating issues, Thanksgiving is fraught. I’ve made the long journey from lonely eater, to competitive pie-baking guest, to overwhelmed hostess, to becoming a more loving and thankful person. I have gradually realized that no one wants the turkey with exotic spices; no one wants the healthy version of mashed potatoes; other people want the sweet potatoes with marshmallows even if I don’t. (Surprise, they are now a favorite of mine!) Like the Grinch, I have very slowly realized that it’s not about me, nor the food, nor my ability to control the holiday experience. It’s about everyone being together. And who wants a hostess that is tense and competitive and judgmental? A hostess should be happy and inviting and joyful, like a beloved yoga teacher, making you feel like the most important and most loved person. Yes, I know. Duh. A mundane epiphany. It only took 52 years.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was going to enjoy the holidays. Making my resolve more concrete, I shared my decision out loud with my husband. He characteristically said in his no-nonsense way, “Good! Our kids love the holidays and you should be proud that we’ve created traditions that make them feel loved and happy. Besides, the more you enjoy the holidays, the more they will want to come home for the holidays.” Ah. There it is. The circle of life. As they grow older, I want them to want to come home. Unlike me, I want them to want to visit their parents.

I dug out the recipes, made my shopping list, even found the notes I had made a year ago of missing items and ways to improve the process. I was calm, organized, and ready. And So Excited for my daughter to come home from college for the week.

Then my father called. My 92-year old mother was back in the E.R. The “rehab” center where she was barely surviving the recovery from a broken hip had rushed her there. She was on Coumadin and her blood was too thin. This was it, according to my father. I better prepare to abandon my family and my Thanksgiving to rush to her side to say good-bye. I was, sadly, somewhat immune to his dire predictions. He’s been predicting her demise for the last ten years or so. I went through a laundry list of self-questioning:

  • Was my father’s dramatic pessimism warranted? Maybe. After all, she is 92 and one of these days his dire prediction is going to come true.
  • Did it make sense for me to abandon my family and my Thanksgiving to rush to her side and to help my father? Probably not. It was snowing and the worst travel day of the year.
  • How would I feel if my mother died before I could see her? Deeply sad.

The range of emotions over the next 48 hours was wide and intense.

  • Guilt that I am not near by and don’t want to be more of a caretaker.
  • Anger that my father can still make me feel like a scolded bad girl who must resort to explanations of duty and responsibility to explain why I don’t visit more. (I’m busy, busy, busy!) As opposed to the truth: I am angry at what you did. (Make peace with it, Sally. It’s part of your journey.)
  • Compassion for my father who is so devoted to caring for my mother that he feels shattered at this latest crisis leading to her further deterioration. Compassion for his loneliness and worry about his increasing confusion.
  • Despair that the care options for our aging parents are so medicalized and impersonal, based on aiding survival, not on facilitating love.

48 hours later, on Wednesday, after the hospital treated her for the Coumadin overdose and discovered that she had a UT infection which they were now treating with antibiotics, my mom perked up. About to hop on a train, because my father just that morning had insisted that I really probably should come say good-bye, I spoke to the nurse who said she was doing better. Feeling jerked around but relieved, my father held the phone up to my mother’s ear and she kind of squeaked in greeting. My heart jumped up to my throat and I was overcome with emotion.  Would that happy squeak be the last sound of maternal love I hear from my mother?

I decided that I was going to enjoy Thanksgiving. I do believe you can change your thoughts and make thoughtful decisions about how you are going to react and make conscious choices about what emotion will prevail. More and more, I am choosing joy and laughter. I am still angry, guilty, sad, confused, anxious. I am also loving, capable, funny, generous, thoughtful, and frequently happy. My daughter is home. My mother is alive. I am thankful. So thankful that, at midlife, I feel fully thankful along with all the emotions that come with a poignant sense of gratitude.

(P.S. It’s now Saturday and I am, sadly, on my way to say good-bye to her.)

Simple Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

  • Brine the (≅13 lb) turkey Thursday morning.
    • Dissolve 1½ cups kosher salt, ½ cup dark brown sugar, 1 container orange juice concentrate in a quart of boiling water.
    • Remove neck, giblets and metal truss from the turkey.  Throw away because the giblets make your husband gag.  Rinse and place turkey in a cooler or bucket.
    • Pour brine mixture, 1 gallon of cold water, 1 gallon of ice cubes to submerge turkey. Add chicken broth if turkey is not submerged. Place container out on back porch where it is 40°.
    • Let soak in brine for 5-6 hours.

Go take a yoga class. Marvel at how beautiful the class is and wonder what it is about the teacher that makes her so popular. Perhaps it is because she is the most welcoming hostess, making each person feel special. Let the revelation sink in. Maybe I too can be a joyful yoga teacher, a welcoming hostess.

Back home to make sides, side by side with my daughter. Imagine Thanksgiving someday at her house where I hope to be a gracious and loving and helpful and proud guest.

After a light lunch, it’s time to deal with the brined turkey.

  • Preheat the oven to 500°. Lug the turkey inside and haul it into the kitchen sink. Pat it dry. Do NOT stuff it. Slather it with canola oil. Think about how you feel about eating turkey and honor your hesitation. Give thanks to the poor turkey for giving its life so you can honor a family and cultural tradition. Place the turkey on a rack inside a roasting pan and place it in the very hot oven for 25 minutes. Do not peek. (Alton Brown taught me this.)

Go watch football with your husband and son for 25 minutes. Wonder why this violent sport is so popular. Acknowledge that you find the familiar sound of whistles blowing on the tv in the background to be nostalgic and comforting. Muse about what Janay Palmer is doing today and how her relationship with Ray Rice will evolve when it is announced that he is being reinstated into the NFL.

  • After 25 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven. Watch the smoke! (Gotta clean the oven!) Turn the temperature down to 350°. Cover the breast with a double layer of foil, cutting out a little hole for the button to pop so you can see it. Place the turkey back in the oven. For 2 hours. Do nothing. REALLY. No basting, no checking, no nothing. (Alton Brown taught me this.)
  • After an hour and 45 minutes, begin peeking at the button to see if it’s popped. It should pop at 2 hours. If it doesn’t pop at 2 hours, take it out anyway and use your own thermometer to check the temperature. I swear it’s done. Do not overcook.

While it is resting, finish your sides and consider making gravy. Have someone else carve it. Serve buffet style, because you are done! How simple was that?  Ask everyone to help with the clean-up.

 

Image Credit:  Wild Turkey Cock, Hen and Young by John James Audubon

 

I Don’t Like Bacon Anymore

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Cooper

Actually, I haven’t liked bacon for a long time.  I have fond memories of liking the smell of bacon and I feel like I should like bacon but I don’t.  We use to have bacon for special occasion breakfasts until I realized that I hated the grease cleanup and didn’t really enjoy the taste, so I stopped initiating them.  Sometimes my family acts a bit wistful for these breakfasts, but not convincingly.

When out to celebrate my daughter’s birthday at one of our special occasion restaurants, I decided to splurge and ordered the roast chicken with apple wood smoked bacon.  When it arrived, the chicken was overcooked and dry.  Highly unusual.  Just as unusual, I sent it back.  They brought me another and it was just a touch less dry.  The smokey smell of the bacon was overpowering.  I could not enjoy it.  Maybe, maybe it was time.

I’ve been very gradually eating less and less meat for several years now.  Not quite putting a stake in the ground.  Rather, I’ve been tip-toeing toward pragmatic vegetarianism.  Eating less meat as long as it didn’t disturb anyone else’s meal plan.  As is my cautious way, afraid to put myself whole heartedly out there with a strong point of view.  I can argue both sides, affiliating with everyone while offending no one, and not really honoring who I am.  After all, I love a juicy roast chicken or a grilled steak or my husband’s homemade meatballs.  And while trying to feed a family of four with completely different food likes and dislikes, why add another challenging component to getting dinner on the table?  Declaring myself a vegetarian seems both selfish and an act of self-sabotage.  It’s hard enough to deal with dinner for the family every night of the week.  Do I really need another food rule to live by?

When I took the step of getting more serious about yoga, I became aware of one of the first principles of yoga, Ahimsa, which translates to nonviolence.  Many yogi’s are vegetarian and base their decision on this precept, to be kind to all living creatures.  That year I reflected on the ways I inflict harm on myself with my cuticle picking and anxious thoughts.  I started looking people in the eye and smiling more.  I noticed that I felt better and slept better when I ate less meat and so my gradual tapering off of meat began.  I found meatless recipes that made it into the family dinner repertoire.  I brown-bagged my lunch and ate out less frequently or at restaurants that had more vegetarian options.  I lost 15 pounds.

But I didn’t really question the values behind the food chain.  Why shouldn’t we eat meat?  It’s what we humans do.

When we went away for vacation last month, I found myself ridiculously sad to leave our two parakeets behind.  We got our first parakeet, Cooper, for Christmas two years ago to satisfy my son’s desire for a dog.  We felt our lifestyle was not amenable to having a dog and settled on a parakeet instead.  Cooper is attentive, social, sweet and adapted quickly to the family, hanging out with us as much as we let him.  We were still away for much of the day, however, and we worried that he was alone and lonely.  So Ginger joined the family a year later.  She has not acclimated as well, presumably because she has Cooper in a way that he didn’t have another bird to fall back on.  She is more wary and less friendly, with a very distinct personality to whom I’ve also grown very attached, identifying with her wariness.

I grew up with pets.  As an only child, I would fantasize about how wonderful it would be to have a companion and wheedle until my parents would give in.  Fish, a turtle, gerbils.  Then there were the more significant and long-lived pets:  George the guinea-pig who would oink excitedly when he heard the refrigerator door open, hopeful that some lettuce was coming his way.  Buddy the parakeet for whom I played a recording of me saying “Hi Buddy!” for hours, hopeful that he would someday say “Hi Buddy!” back.  He never did.  And Pansy the poodle, who became my mother’s dog, not mine, because she was the one who fed her and spent time with her.  When George and Buddy died, I felt enormous guilt.  After the initial infatuation, the drudgery of having a pet set in and there was only so much bonding I was able to do with a guinea pig and a parakeet as a young girl. 

With Cooper, and Ginger, there was some sense of wanting to alleviate my guilt.  Could I take better care of them than I did of Buddy?  I watched them.  I looked them in the eye, trying to understand their moods, imagine what they might be feeling, trying to create a nice life for them, as much as a caged suburban life can be for a wild creature, even if bred for caged suburban life.

Why is it okay to eat chicken and not parakeet?  Why is it okay to eat pig and not dog?  Why is it okay to eat cow and not cat?  After looking in Cooper’s eyes and feeling his heartbeat and his complete trust, I don’t think I can eat animals any more.  Truly, he has a soul.  But what about squishing bugs and eating fish, delicious fish?  Where does one draw the line?

After reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, where the man and the boy are the good people in search of other good people while avoiding being killed and eaten by the marauding gangs of bad people, I wondered, if my life depended on it, what would I do?

I am increasingly uncomfortable with considering myself and other humans as better than other animals and entitled to eat them.  I am increasingly uncomfortable with keeping quiet about what I believe to be right for me.

“Spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits”

Shrinking Women, by Lily Myers – a Mother’s Perspective

A young and pretty, seemingly gentle and polite, college-aged woman steps up to the microphone.   She is slender, wearing a dress.  She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.  Preparing herself to take up space and say what few dare to say.  I listen, transfixed, as the words calmly, rhythmically, insistently pour out from her.  This brilliantly crafted slam poem, Shrinking Women by Lily Myers, captures women’s conflicted relationship with food (and men) and the role that our mothers (and fathers) play in passing down attitudes and behavior towards food.  We are, like her mother, “… a fugitive / stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.  / Deciding how many bites is too many / How much space she deserves to occupy.”

Our obsession with thoughts of food takes up space in our brain that could be used to greater purpose, or at least another purpose.  Like the important details she missed in a school meeting when wondering whether or not she could have another slice of pizza, I too have sat in important business meetings and focused more on the plate of gooey, rich, delicious brownies in the center of the conference table than on what is being said or what I could be saying.  (Is the brownie worth the calories?  How many calories is it anyway?  If I eat only half a sandwich, then I can have half a brownie.)  Have we women missed chances for greatness because we were too busy wondering what, if anything, we could eat?

My obsession with thoughts of food has receded as I’ve gotten older and become less interested in quantities of food, more uncomfortable when I overeat, and a master at orchestrating my disciplined repertoire of regular meals while accommodating the rest of my family’s appetites.  It was different when I was younger, regularly swinging between eating a lot of “bad” food and then punishing my over-indulgence with an abstemious diet and a lot of exercise.

When I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter, 18 years ago, I vowed to raise a girl with a healthy relationship to food and a proud enjoyment of her body.  I fear I have failed.  In my desire to model “normal” food behavior, here is what I fear I have taught my daughter instead.

  1. Bye, I’m going to yoga now!  = Thin and fit is good.  Prioritize eating healthy food and exercising over other activities and even people.
  2. How do I look? = Looking good is important in order for people to think well of you, even if you have to shop beyond your means.
  3. Breakfast is ready!  = Don’t skip meals, especially not breakfast.  But don’t eat too much!  Control your appetite!
  4. Quinoa and chick peas for lunch.  = Be self-deprecating about your healthy food choices, relegating them to breakfast and lunch while enabling men and others to make fun of you while they opt for larger portions, red meat, and, of course, dessert.
  5. I’ll just have a bite of yours.  =  Dessert is forbidden.  Control your appetite!
  6. I prefer 85%.  = Hide your chocolate so you can enjoy it in private without revealing that you do love and desire deliciousness after all and are not always in control.

No wonder my daughter long ago declared that breakfast made her nauseous and irregular meals have become her norm.  Like Lily, she has been taught accommodation.  Tired of my judgement, but too obedient to rebel, she also swings between respectful mimicry and impatient hatred, as she explores just how much space she is entitled to take up.

I hope that she cherry-picks what she has inherited from my food habits, taking what is constructive and enjoyable while discarding what is destructive about my obsessive control over nutrition and portion sizes as she finds her own way.

And that she never apologizes for asking a question…or for taking up space.

Here is the full text of the poem.  I encourage you to watch the video of her powerful performance.

Shrinking Women

By Lily Myers

Credit:  Button Poetry

Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that

she drinks out of a measuring glass.

She says she doesn’t deprive herself,

but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.

In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her

plate.

I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.

I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.

Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s

proportional.

As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.

She wanes while my father waxes.  His stomach has grown round with

wine, late nights, oysters, poetry.  A new girlfriend who was overweight as a

teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”

It was the same with his parents;

as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red

round cheeks, round stomach

and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking

making space for the entrance of men into their lives

not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

I have been taught accommodation.

My brother never thinks before he speaks.

I have been taught to filter.

“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” He asks, laughing, as I eat

the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.

I want to say: we come from difference, Jonas,

you have been taught to grow out

I have been taught to grow in

you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each

thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every

other week from shouting so much

I learned to absorb

I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself

I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for

oysters

And I never meant to replicate her, but

spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their

habits.

That’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.

We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next

How to knit

weaving silence in between the threads

which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,

skin itching,

picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of

crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to

kitchen to bedroom again.

nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive

stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.

Deciding how many bites is too many

How much space she deserves to occupy.

Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,

And I don’t want to do either anymore

but the burden of this house has followed me across the country

I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with

the word “sorry”.

I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the

entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza

a circular obsession I never wanted but

inheritance is accidental

still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.

“Enjoy the Food!”

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Secret Eating

When I got engaged to my husband, 20 years ago, perhaps my biggest worry was how I was going to keep my eating weirdness a secret.  I recall that I also had more typical concerns, like:  are we still going to be in love 20 years later?  (Yes, but it takes work to navigate the differences as we have matured into our older, more distinct selves.)  Funny, the eating concern is vivid and fresh, like it was yesterday.

Food was and is a big part of our relationship.  In the beginning, dates and weekends together revolved around either eating out at a new restaurant or eating in by picking a recipe and planning a meal to cook together.  We were both very active and thoroughly enjoyed eating a lot to offset all the physical activity.  Cocooned in our relationship, we developed a repertoire of delicious meals together.  Before our engagement, we spent the weekdays apart, where I happily could revert to eating alone my secret meals.

I would eat alone, secretly, so I could indulge my desire for gorging.  I learned to gorge on food that has few calories so I could eat a lot of it without gaining weight.  A classic strategy for a ballerina.  Some of my favorite foods for gorging, because they can be consumed in large quantities with little adornment except for some olive oil & vinegar or plain yogurt, include:  Shredded Wheat, Oatmeal, Quinoa, Lentils, Baked Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Escarole, Broccoli Rabe, and FRUIT.  Staggering quantities of fruit.  So sweet and refreshing, I still eat a lot of fruit every day.  Now I am better able to manage portion sizes and enjoy what I eat mindfully.  Back then, I would make the meal last by reading while I ate and not letting myself take another bite until I finished a paragraph.  There is so much food I did not savor because I was reading and so many books I did not retain because I was eating.  Both the eating and the reading were stalling devices – I was avoiding dealing with whatever anxiety I did not want to face at the time.  Avoiding human contact and conflict, avoiding taking risks to put myself out there in the world to claim who I really was instead of who I thought I should be.  Or who I thought they wanted me to be.  Anyone other than me.

In those happy years of early marriage and those busy years of raising young children, I did not have time to be so anxious and did not miss being lonely.  My husband accepted and ignored or laughed at my food oddities.  I adapted my rules, strategies, and preferences to our life together, eking out some secret eating time when he had his tennis nights.  But when the weight gain of mid-life settled in and the anxieties of mid-life settled in, I found myself pulling out my bag of tricks.  But this time, my kids were watching.  Desperate to model healthy food choices to my son who would prefer to eat macaroni and cheese exclusively; desperate to model “normal” eating behavior to my daughter who regularly lounges in front of the tv, eating alone;  I became obsessive with healthy food choices and regular meals with minimal snacking.  I lost my 20 pounds but am not convinced there isn’t collateral damage.  I can no longer control when and what my children eat.  Perhaps I never did.

When I found out I was pregnant with a girl, 18 years ago, perhaps my biggest worry was how to raise a girl without an eating disorder.  I vowed to raise a daughter with a happy sense of her self and her body and a healthy approach to eating that included enjoyment of food.  I recall that I also had more typical concerns, like:  will she be healthy?  Will she be happy?  Will I be a good mother?   (She is healthy.  I hope she is happy.  And, good or bad, I certainly am the mother I was meant to be.)  Funny, the eating disorder concern is vivid and fresh, like it was yesterday.

As girls, it makes complete sense to me why we eat alone.  There is too much pressure to eat socially.  Like Scarlett O’Hara, we have to eat a private meal before (or after) the public meal.  We are so laced into our form-fitting party attire and so expected to eat properly, pretending we don’t need or enjoy the sensual pleasure of eating to satiety.

There is too much pressure to eat what everyone else is eating.  Either too much or too little.  What if it doesn’t taste good?  What if it does taste good, so good I can’t stop eating it?  No, better to sit quietly with a vat of fruit, filling up on something healthy and tasty that won’t make me fat.

There is too much pressure to make food choices that are what “normal” people would choose to eat.  The homemade pasta with short ribs sounds delicious, but I am afraid of the calories and am cutting back on meat.  I’d really rather have the vegan farro with grilled vegetables.  Does that make me weird, someone to look askance at?

When the meal arrives, it is unseemly to devour the entire plate load of food.  “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly eat another bite” is what the good girls say, covering their plate with a napkin or mushing the food so that it is no longer appetizing or (my personal tactic) simply dividing it in half mentally and using their tremendous self-discipline to stop.  I don’t believe the thin celebrities who brag that they eat burgers and fries without guilt.  They go to the gym to work it off – or worse if they are bulimic.  They pay a price for their bodies.

Our children watch us, learn from us, imitate us, reject us.  When all is said and done, they take parts of us even as they separate and evolve into their own selves.  I am regularly terrified that some characteristic of me that I can’t stand lives on in my children.  Cuticle picking, secret eating, and all sorts of obsessive-compulsive and perfectionistic anxiety.  But they are not me.  They did not have my parents, my life.  They are loved, I think they know they are loved, and they have different life experiences and coping skills to grow into emotionally strong and honest adults.  Still, I can’t help but have a frisson of terror when I see myself mirrored whenever they exhibit anxious behavior traits.

When my brother-in-law urged me to “enjoy the food!” on a recent trip to New Orleans, I laughed.  He had no idea what a complicated feat that would be for me.  (Or did he?)  Balancing my fear of getting fat with my desire to eat, it used to be easy to lose track of what really tastes good and what really satisfies my body.  Now, though, with years of eating behind me and an increasing yogic sense of awareness of my body, I am more able to choose what I really want to eat and to enjoy it.  Nothing beats a delicious bowl of fruit.  Now, though, I prefer to share it.

My name is Sally and I weigh 123.4 pounds.

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Addicted to the Scale?

I weigh myself on Monday mornings.  I am the first person up.  I tip-toe into the bathroom.  (I still move like a dancer.)  I turn on the shower so that the water gets really hot.  (I love getting lost in the shower with hot water surrounding me.)  I pee. (It’s important that all possible fluids be eliminated.)  I strip naked.  (It’s important to not be weighed down by any clothing…my threadbare pajamas must weigh at least a pound!)  I pull out the scale from its somewhat unobtrusive and hidden location.  (I don’t want my daughter to get the scale addiction.)  I step on it.  I hold my breath.  The digital numbers flicker back and forth before settling into this week’s verdict.  Aha!  Under 125 pounds.  My current magic boundary.  I weigh as little as I’ve weighed since I was married 19 years ago.  I feel ridiculously proud and virtuous about this dubious achievement.  What a way to kick off the week.

My mother’s scale was in their walk-in closet – a small, dark, private room that always fascinated me.  My mother’s clothes on one side and my father’s clothes on the other side.  Hidden treasure boxes of old jewelry, old photos and other mementos on the shelving high up.  This was where the Christmas presents were stashed away.  She was not particularly modest.  Dressing, undressing, bathing with doors open.  I liked to sneak in when no one was there.  Trying on her clothes.  Trying on her shoes.  Curious about her bras and under-garments.  Examining the old jewelry, wondering if any of it fit me.  Wondering about what I would be like when these grown up womanly items did fit me.  She weighed herself every morning, naked.  I did too.

At 10, I already weighed over 100 pounds and was “pleasantly plump.”  (My father’s words.  He used the same phrase for the Rubenesque nudes in the art he loved so much.)  He loved ice cream and we had it every night.  Usually Baskin & Robbins French Vanilla.  Or Peppermint – my favorite flavor.  He carefully measured out a precise serving.  No over indulgence allowed.  Or we had 2 cookies, usually Oreos or Fig Newtons.  My mother had none.

In Paris, during our one truly extravagant family vacation before high school, my father and I sampled chocolate mousse at every restaurant.  That trip was where I developed my taste for intensely dark chocolate and strong coffee.  In Florence, the men wouldn’t stop touching me.  It was an early taste, at 13, of sexually aggressive unwanted male attention to my “pleasantly plump” curves.

Entering high school where boys and girls began to do more than eye each other with curiosity from afar, I became sure that “pleasantly plump” was not what I wanted to be.  Ambivalent about my curves and their impact on men and confused that “Pleasantly plump” became “Better not eat that, you’ll get fat,” I found myself in the mirror-lined ballet studio.  In a leotard.   About 15 pounds heavier than the ethereal tall, thin, breastless ballerinas I began to admire.  Having reached puberty at 11 with a mesomorph’s solid and strong body, there was no way I was going to transform into an ectomorph.  But I could try.  And so I did.  I upped my weekly dance class to twice, 3x, 4x, every day except Sunday.  When that wasn’t enough, I started taking two classes daily.  I learned the calorie counts of every food item and began to mete out allowable calories obsessively.  About 1,500 calories.  (For someone dancing 4 hours a day, 1,500 calories was starvation.)  Starving yourself is impossible to sustain.  So I would swing in the other direction and binge on large quantities of food.  Alone.  In secret.  I couldn’t eat normally in public.  Terrified of getting fat.  Terrified to be thought of as beautiful and desirable.  When I binged, I felt bad.  Guilty.  Ashamed.  Embarrassed.  Fat.  I had to punish myself.  So I would run.  Take another dance class.  Eat even less the next day.  I tried the-vomiting-thing a few times.  It really disturbed me on so many levels.  It was gross.  And I didn’t want to admit I had a problem.  Avoiding vomiting helped me remain in denial that I had an eating disorder.  Maybe other ballerinas did it, but not me.  Instead I figured out how to keep my eating swings tightly controlled in my disciplined way.

Over the course of that year, I became incredibly strong and incredibly thin.  I liked being thin.  I liked hitting weight-loss goal after goal.  Clothes looked good on me.  I liked the breastless version of myself that I saw in the ballet studio mirrors.  I liked being hungry.  It made me feel alert and better than the other girls.  I could resist food.  (Except when I couldn’t.  But I kept that to myself, hidden.)  My weight got down to about 100 pounds.  My parents never said anything.  Did they not notice that their pleasantly plump daughter was now breastless and bony?  It was dear, honest Emily, with the scale dipping to 98 pounds, who exclaimed, with true alarm, that she could see my ribs!  I liked that my ribs were showing, but it jarred me enough to reconsider this aesthetic when she expressed such alarm.  100 pounds became my magic boundary.  The low boundary.  If I didn’t drop below 100 pounds and I didn’t make myself throw up, then I didn’t have an eating disorder.  I carefully put on a few pounds.

By the end of high school I was a healthier weight and had given up ballet.  Off I went to college where I easily gained the Freshman 15.  And hated myself for it.  To punish myself, I returned to ballet and 100 pounds.  It felt good to be in control and thin again!  But I was so unhappy.  Through therapy and time, I learned how much food I could eat and how much exercise I needed to maintain a more normal weight.  Love and my marriage helped.  I was busy and happy.  I was so busy and so happy that I threw away my scale.  Hooray!  I was done with eating issues.  Besides, I wanted to set a good example for my daughter.  I so wanted to have a healthy relationship with food and to model normal eating behavior for her.  But she knows me.  I measure everything.  I don’t allow myself dessert except for maybe a yogurt or some very dark chocolate.  I control my portions so carefully that I can neither tolerate sharing my food (it’s my allowance of food not yours) nor do I have room for any serendipitous treat offered to me (I ate my allowance already).  I can’t just stop when I’m full.  Because I don’t know when I’m full.  I’m too obsessed with weighing what is the right thing to eat; what is the right amount to eat.  I am too busy thinking to feel.

There was an easier time with my eating during courtship and early marriage where we ate out, we cooked in, we enjoyed food together.   And then my 40’s happened.  What isn’t discussed about disordered eating (to my knowledge) is that it COMES BACK!  Just when you think you’ve got the eating thing figured out, its ugliness reemerges when you’re looking at middle age staring back at you in the mirror.   If I could just lose 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 15 pounds, I will look younger, feel better, sleep more soundly, defy death.  When my age creeped over 40 and my weight creeped over 140, I went into action.  Back to the ballet studio, I bought a scale.  I got thin and strong again.

Of course it is different as a more experienced adult.  I don’t swing between extremes the way I used to.  A calmer yoga practice has replaced an obsessive pursuit of ballet.  I don’t punish myself.  I do enjoy food.  But my enjoyment of food remains controlled.  The anxiety hovers under the surface.  Intellectually, I know five pounds doesn’t make a difference in who I am.  Intellectually, I know maintaining that magic boundary on the scales is not what makes me happy.  Now I can laugh at how ridiculous it all is, while acknowledging its presence.  It’s part of who I am.  Stepping naked onto the scale every Monday morning, I am aware that I let the scale’s verdict influence my self-esteem.  Stepping naked onto the scale every Monday morning, I remind myself to breathe, to be grateful for my strong body, to enjoy my chocolate, and to not let the scale’s verdict influence my self-esteem.

Eating for One

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More Meatless (Part 2)

When my husband decided to take our son skiing for 3 days over Spring Break, my first thought was “I can eat whatever I want!”

I immediately decided to go vegetarian for the time and planned out my meals.  But why?  Because all the other health-oriented middle-aged women are going veg?  I didn’t want it to be just because it is trendy.  On reflection, here are the reasons why eating less meat is right for me:

  1. I feel better, physically, especially with no red meat.  When I eat steak (which I love), my stomach gurgles and I can’t sleep.  I feel lighter and more alert when I eat less meat.
  2. I feel better, mentally, as a global citizen.  A vegetarian diet uses fewer resources than a meat-eating diet.  It just seems the responsible way to eat.
  3. I feel better, emotionally, as a living being.  When I look in an animal’s eyes, I see another soul.  I don’t like to think I am killing other beings.
  4. I feel better, spiritually, as a yogini.  Ahimsa – do no harm – is the first moral restraint of yoga philosophy.

As an obedient rule-follower and laden with eating baggage, do I really need more food rules to live by?  Probably not.  Which is one of the reasons why I have not gone down the vegetarian path more vigorously.   Besides, it would mean rocking the boat on the family dinner front.  Rocking the boat is not something I do.  As I’ve quietly but forcefully acknowledged and embraced who I am, I’ve begun to assert who I am with more confidence.  Part of that assertion occurs around food and consciously choosing what I want to eat.  Not being embarrassed by the way I eat.  Perhaps I am not the one with the eating disorder after all?  Perhaps nothing is wrong with me and I have something to teach others?

My husband and I fell in love over food.  Cooking for each other, cooking with each other, sampling restaurants.  It was fun!  In those early months, merging as one – as couples do in the initial phase of a relationship, we ate the same foods.  As we built our marriage and our family life, a central component has been and continues to be cooking and eating together.  We plan meals, choose recipes, share the cooking and share the eating.  Family dinners are a significant and valued part of our family life together.  About 10 years ago (around 40), I gradually shifted to a more insistently healthy diet.  I had gained the “normal” weight that a 40+ woman puts on after marriage, two children, a sedentary full time job and a lot of pasta and red wine.  I changed my choices for breakfast and lunch but pretty much kept dinner with the family.  Then I eliminated dessert and cut back on wine and switched to whole wheat pasta, whole grain everything.  And lost more than the 15 pounds I had gained over the years.  And felt better.  And slept better.  What does it mean to eat differently than my husband?  He cooks for delicious nourishment.  I cook for healthy nourishment.  Can our diets co-exist?  I tend to compromise more than he does.  After all, doesn’t Ahimsa also apply to appreciating and enjoying his delicious food offerings without my food and eating hang-ups mucking it all up?  The question hovers.

Alone for three days, I sighed with relief and eager anticipation.  Here is what I enjoyed eating.

Day 1

Breakfast:  Shredded Wheat and Bran (64 mini-squares, yes – still counting!) topped with 1 Banana and Vanilla Soy Milk; Grapefruit Juice; Black coffee

Snack:  Siggi’s Yogurt (thick, tart, not sweet, high in protein) and lots of water throughout the day

Lunch:  Peanut Butter & Apricot Jelly on whole wheat bread; Mango;  Iced Venti Half Caf Non-Fat Latte from the ubiquitous Starbucks

Dinner:

I sautéed shitake mushrooms in olive oil and mixed them with farro (a barley-like grain, chewy and flavorful)

Salad of cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado with some olive oil and white wine vinegar

Chardonnay (only 3 ounces…more disrupts my sleep and gives me a headache)

Sweet Riot 85% dark chocolate, 6 squares

Day 2

Breakfast:  Vanilla yogurt (1 cup) with ½ cup Müesli (Familia, no-added-sugar) and blueberries; Grapefruit Juice;  Black Coffee

Lunch:  Hummus and Feta on whole wheat bread;  Sliced apple;  English Breakfast tea

Snack:  1 banana;  lots of Water

Dinner

My favorite Escarole and Beans

Chardonnay (3 ounces again)

Dark Chocolate (another 6 squares of Sweet Riot 85%)

Day 3

All Bran cereal (2/3 cup) mixed with Early Bird Granola (1/3 cup) topped with blueberries; Grapefruit Juice;  Black Coffee

Snack:  Emmi Swiss Yogurt (creamy and sweet, as delicious as a dessert); lots of water

Lunch:  Whole Wheat cinnamon raisin toast topped with almond butter;  Sliced Pineapple;  English Breakfast Tea

Dinner

Aha!  My first test.  I had a date with my sister-in-law.  She’s always trying to lose weight (even though she is not heavy) and we were happily fantasizing about grilled brussels sprouts.  I had told her I was eating vegetarian while her brother/my husband was away.  My husband texted me that he would be home in time for dinner.  We switched restaurants to one that was larger and could accommodate all four of us.  What to eat?  I opted for the fish special (roasted Sea Bass in a sherry wine sauce – which was too sweet) and I substituted broccoli rabe for the risotto side.  It was good, but not great.  The problem with restaurant meals is that they cook with too much fat and too much salt.  I missed my healthy dinners.  And was so thirsty from the salt!

Okay, it’s Day 4 and how to continue?  Breakfast and lunch are easy.  I will have a whole wheat bagel with goat cheese for breakfast and a salad of quinoa and black beans for lunch.  For dinner, my daughter returns from Spain today and we are going to make one of her favorite family dinners:  Grilled steak tacos.  These tacos are delicious!  We grill steak, sauté corn and red pepper and red onion, top with guacamole and salsa, and roll it all up in one’s tortilla of choice (corn, plain, whole wheat).  I have been gradually eating mine with less and less steak and will continue to do so tonight.  A little bit of steak, probably 1-2 ounces.  And tomorrow, I will cook for my daughter.  She has been interested in eating more like me, so I will make our favorite Sunday morning oatmeal and our favorite Sunday lunchtime lentil soup.  For dinner, I am fantasizing about my husband’s grilled salmon – the very first thing he cooked for me 20 years ago when I fell in love with him.  I think we will be able to work out our eating differences – with love, respect and some compromise.

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Lentil Soup

  • 4 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 cup of celery and carrots, chopped fine
  • 1 cup of Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • 2/3 cup of lentils (French Green)
  • 2 Tablespoons barley
  • Thyme, salt and pepper
  • 4 cups of liquid (Water or Vegetable Broth or Chicken Broth)  (I prefer Chicken Broth.  I am not a good vegetarian.  Water is too bland.  Vegetable Broth tastes weird.  Too sweet.  Sigh.)

Saute garlic, celery and carrots, potatoes in olive oil – for 10 minutes until lightly browned.

Add liquid, lentils, barley, seasoning.  Simmer for about an hour.

Serves 4 – 6.

Lunch in the New Year?

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Measuring Austerity

The Christmas tree is down.  I am sad.  My kids are sad.  It was a wonderful holiday this year, filled with love.  And now it is January.  Perhaps the best part of January is that my husband’s birthday is this month.  Not only do we have a family occasion to celebrate, but I can feel the days getting longer when his birthday arrives.

But the other truth is:  The Christmas tree is down – I am relieved.  SO relieved to be in the bracingly harsh disciplined January regimen!  No more free-wheeling nonschedule with access to an abundance of food and time on my hands to do nothing.  God forbid I should sit on the couch and watch tv and eat more than my austere allowable allotment of a 120-calorie treat of some kind (2 cookies or a yogurt).  January is the time for exercising more and eating less and feeling smugly virtuous with that twinge of hunger gnawing at me, telling me I am losing the holiday weight.  (Not that I allowed myself to gain any holiday weight.)

I am not proud to feel so proud and smug.

When Dr. Oz (Dr. Oz!  Am I a cliche?  50 year old woman blogs and cites Dr. Oz!) revealed (in the print edition of October 12 Prevention magazine – yes the print edition.  The full article is not online.  It has been bastardized into a slide show to generate more page views for ad selling metrics.  Long live print.) that one of his tactics for reducing stress and keeping slim was to eat the same breakfast every day, I smiled with recognition.  He’s one of us!  A neurotic disciplined ocd control freak.  Well, it does simplify life to have a specific repertoire of meals with a specific balance of calories, taste, and nutrition at your finger-tips.  I rotate between about 4 breakfasts and 4 lunches.  I truly feel unmoored when meals are too unscheduled.  While my methods may not be glamorous, they do work.

When I first conceived of writing about eating, I imagined myself writing an instructive self-help diet book.  As I reflected on my future as the next (wildly celebrated!) diet book guru, I couldn’t help but wonder at the irony.  Self help about dieting from someone with an eating disorder is absurd!  But hey, if you want to lose weight in., advice from a former ballerina should do the trick.

Brown-bagging lunch works better when you have more than one “course” so you feel like your getting a fully satisfying eating experience.  I always have a main course, followed by a measured allotment of dark bitterdark chocolate, and a large quantity of fresh fruit.  The chocolate is decadent and you don’t need much to feel like you’re having a treat (and it’s healthy).  The quantity of fruit is sweet, refreshing, takes time to eat, fills you up, and feels like dessert.  To drink, I eliminated soda (diet) several years ago and switched to homemade unsweetened ice tea.  My skin has improved texture and looks younger.  Amazing.

I estimate that by brown-bagging my lunch, I have saved well over $1,200 and easily lost 4 pounds annually.

While  you are experimenting with brown-bagging it at lunchtime (please use reusable bags), I plan to activate one of my new year’s resolutions:  to be more sociable and go out with a friend at least once a week.

Hummus and Feta Sandwich (a simplified version originally from Bon Appetit)

Hummus

  • 1 14.5 ounce can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tablespoons tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Blend together in food processor to make hummus – keeps for 2 weeks.

Sandwich

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (I like Vermont Bread Company organic whole wheat.  The slices are not too big which means the sandwich is a normal portion size, not super-sized.  Also, there is not too much sugar.  Many of the more commercial brands add quite a bit of sugar to their whole wheat bread, so that people like my 13 year old son will like whole wheat bread.)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons hummus, spread across both slices
  • 2 ounces Feta

Turkey, Cheddar, and Avocado Sandwich

  • 1 slice of Mestemacher Natural 3 Grain Bread (this bread is tangy-sour), cut in half
  • Spread bread with plain greek yogurt (I use greek yogurt with everything.  It has protein and no fat.  It is tangy-sour, adding more flavor than mayonnaise, and is thicker and more spreadable than regular yogurt.)
  • Add 2-3 slices of turkey.
  • 1.5 ounces of Cheddar (My favorite is 7 year aged Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar – super sharp.)
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced

Peanut Butter and Jelly

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 3 Tablespoons natural chunky peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Simon-Fischer apricot butter

Almond Butter on Raisin Bread

  • 2 slices whole wheat raisin bread (Vermont Bread Company)
  • 3 Tablespoons almond butter

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup prepared black bean salad (I cheat.  My local stores all have decent versions.)

Good as is, or enhance with some chopped radicchio and crumbled feta

Sweet Potato with Greek Yogurt

This is one of my favorite easy, quick meals and is very satisfying.  I microwave a large sweet potato for about 6-7 minutes.  It cooks more evenly if it is not to thick.  Spread the potato with a hefty portion of plain greek yogurt.

Ice Tea

  • Boil 1 quart of water
  • Steep 1 English Breakfast tea bag and 1 Green tea bag for 3 minutes
  • Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Bring with brown bag lunch in a thermos.

Dessert

6 squares of Sweetriot Pure 85% Dark Chocolate  (It is very bitter, with strong and complex flavor.  My husband stole one of my squares and looked at me aghast, feeling betrayed.  I tried not to mind that he stole it, but generally wound up feeling triumphant that he will not steal from me any time soon.  So ungenerous.)

Meat

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More Meatless

I love meat.  Juicy, rare, marbled steak is a favorite of mine.  Roast chicken, with the skin on, is another.  But when I hit my 40’s, a variety of disconcerting changes occurred.  15 pounds creeped on.  (The Perimenopausal 15?)  When I ate steak, my stomach complained, gurgling for hours and keeping me up at night.  Speaking of sleep, I couldn’t sleep any more.  Every night around 2 am, I woke up to go to the bathroom (beyond tedious) and then was UP for hours.  One (of many) tactics I employed to lose weight was to eat less meat.  While everyone else was having 3-4 meatballs with their spaghetti, I cut back to 1 meatball with my whole wheat spaghetti.  When going out, I split a steak entrée with my daughter.  Now I forego the steak entrée altogether, opting for fish or a vegetarian option.  My stomach stopped gurgling, I slept better, and the 15 pounds (and more) crept off.

Also around this time, I dove deeper into yoga and yoga philosophy. I studied the Yama’s and the Niyama’s, yoga’s ethical guidelines, the most famous of which is Ahimsa or non-harming.  This “Do/Don’t” is an overarching belief that one should live with love and compassion for all beings and not behave in any way that harms another being.  It is generally cited as the reason for yoga practitioners to adopt a vegetarian diet.

As this virtuous circle expanded:  I ate less meat, I did more yoga, I felt better and slept better, I loved more and stressed less, I ate less meat and did more yoga.  I became a big fan of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman.  Both write with great conviction and adopt a pragmatic approach to eating less meat.  Pollan’s simple advice is to “Eat Food.  Not Too Much.  Mostly Plants.”  Bittman’s approach to eat vegan during the day and loosen the rules at dinner works for me, allowing for more flexibility with my family and our dinners together.

Because, you see, my family does not share my intense über desire to eat healthily and to eat as a responsible world citizen.  It becomes very challenging to eat nurturing meals together when family members have different ideas about what they want to put into their bodies.  We tend to compromise which works fairly well, but it does mean a lot of double cooking and other juggling and shopping for me, the one who is more determined to not just eat something because it’s easy or tastes good.  (My husband, the weekend Italian chef, cooks food that tastes very good.)

Eating less meat makes me feel better.  The health benefits are compelling.  The environmental benefits are compelling.  I made this soup/stew over the holiday break and the whole family enjoyed it (well, not my picky son).  It just got better and thicker as each day passed, a delicious virtuous circle. Turn it into more of a meal by serving over barley, brown rice, or quinoi.

Butternut Squash Soup/Stew

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups of butternut squash, cut into even-sized ¾” cubes
  • 1 large baking potato, cut into even-sized ¾” cubes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans
  • 1 14 ½ oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh thyme or fresh sage
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (or more, to taste) – adds brightness

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place squash and potato on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and roast in oven for about 35 minutes.

Saute onion and garlic in ¼ cup of olive oil until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add stock and bring to a gentle boil.  Add squash, potatoes, beans, tomatoes.  Simmer until squash and potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.  Puree half the soup in a food processor until consistency as at desired thickness.  Add thyme or sage.  Stir in lemon juice.

Serves 6, gets thicker and tastier with time

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