Not sure if I’ll stick over there or come back here but I thought I’d give it a trial.

Food blogging: brainyfood.tumblr.com

Life blogging: mittenstrings.tumblr.com

I wrote the words below in response to a thread about this article on a forum I frequent.  I hope it strikes a chord for some.  I love food and kind of don’t like working out that much, but I’ve been working hard to figure out a positive for myself when it comes to being active.  I’ve been thinking a lot about food and fitness and reconciling my desire to be healthy with my desire to be me, happy at the size I am.
I have typed up about six responses to this thread and I keep not posting them. It’s so hard for me to talk about this stuff without getting way too personal.

Sometimes, the term ‘fat acceptance’ makes me uncomfortable (bad word but can’t find the right one) in the way that when I’m having a discussion, sometimes I don’t want to call it ‘women’s studies.’ Which is to say: I understand and appreciate where both terms come from, but when I’m debating the issue with someone who wants to get wrapped up in the semantics, I wish it was called ‘gender studies,’ because the concept is more inclusive than the term sometimes reads as, you know? Sometimes I wish ‘body acceptance’ more than ‘fat acceptance’ was the preferred term, because I don’t like that it all comes back to a fat versus thin binary. And I think my feelings about this come from being trapped in the middle.

So much of this needs to be about the food we eat and the way we treat our bodies. We owe it to ourselves to be healthy — to move our bodies, but also to push our bodies, to find out what they can do and where they are powerful and what promise they hold. Exercise isn’t just about weight loss goals. It’s about knowing the limit of your body and pushing just a little further. I don’t necessarily mean that you have to bench 150 or run a marathon. I mean that feeling when you go to an intense yoga class and your back bend goes a little deeper than it did the week before (the first time I saw the back of the room from a back bend was magical), or when you throw an extra 1kg weight on your bar at body pump class just to see what happens. I am by no means evangelical about exercise — many can attest to how difficult it is for me to motivate, and how I never get that feeling of euphoria people talk about. But I owe it to me to push one step further with my body like I do with my friendships, my work, my life. That’s growth.

And we owe those amazing, incredible bodies that can do so much more than we imagine — we owe them good fuel. And we owe ourselves nourishment that feels good and tastes good and is good. Whole, healthy, real foods. Foods made of food. Foods we can recognize all the individual parts of. Foods we make ourselves or that others make for us that are filled with vitamins, nutrients, and love and affection for our bodies and what they can do.

Many of us — not all, everyone is different, but many of us — need to think of food and exercise not as enemies of each other and of ourselves but as pieces of the puzzle that make us who we are. We need to stop using words like “I was bad today” to describe the choices we make. Moral judgements help no one.  We need to think in terms of doing things that feel good in the short and long term. And some days, we will choose Dairy Queen for lunch (I did today!), but maybe that same day we’ll choose to kick ass at a weights class (that was me, too) and fix a fantastically healthy and delicious whole food dinner (lemon dill chicken breasts and grilled veggies, coming up!). And we’ll find a balance for ourselves that respects our bodies — a balance that might not be a size 6 but that lets us run up the stairs without puffing or tie our shoes without sitting down or whatever our goals might be.

Everyone at every size deserves love and respect. On the other hand, every single one of us deserves a body that gets to do more and be more and try more than perhaps we imagined possible. And that body is different for everyone. And it is a body that still deserves love and care and respect.

I am 5’4″ and have been 200 lbs and I am now just under 150 lbs. Realistically, my weight loss is mostly done. My body feels very good here and when I restrict lower than 1350 calories I get too hungry during the day. So this is me and my body. I don’t know where I fit right now — I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been in terms of strength, endurance, ability, and flexibility. And on the days when I remember to be awed and surprised by this body of mine, I have a very good day. Sometimes, though, I let myself forget all the neat things this body can do. When I’m with my husband’s road cycling friends, I sometimes feel very self-conscious about my size (hard core cyclists are skinny dudes!). These days come and go, and just like the balance of the other choices we make, I get to make the choice to remember that every day I am given the opportunity to be good to myself. And that is where real body acceptance comes from. Not just loving ourselves and each other at every size — which is important — but loving ourselves enough to make healthy choices and fuel our bodies to do amazing things.

Inspired by this recipe, I made a really lovely garlic/vegetable soup last night.  We had it with my cheese biscuits that I made up a few weeks ago and it was a really nice, light dinner.  Here’s how the soup went down.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups low sodium veggie broth
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
  • herbs to taste (I used oregano and thyme)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cups veggies (I used grated zucchini, chopped broccoli, and chopped celery)
  • 2 eggs
  • pepper

I brought the broth and garlic up to a boil together, added the olive oil and herbs, and let them roll — covered — for about half an hour.  The broth got super fragrant and lovely.  Then I added the veggies and let them simmer together uncovered for about 15 minutes.  At that point, take the soup off the heat.  In a small bowl, I beat together the two eggs with some freshly ground pepper.  I added a few ladles of the soup to the egg to temper it and beat that together, and then I added that to the soup (it clouds the broth and adds protein!).

It turned out really nicely and the best part is that I think all the garlic totally knocked out my cold.  Hurray!

push by sapphire

Indeed, I still haven’t seen Precious.  But this morning, in less than three hours, I devoured Push by Sapphire, the novel that the film is based on.

And yeah, I get why this is such a powerful phenomenon now.

What a remarkable novel.  It’s the kind of novel that takes you into the depths of human suffering and misery — pushing you into places you aren’t sure you are capable of survive — while simultaneously reminding you of the joy and power and potential of human beings.  “Push” is literally the command the wise teacher gives protagonist Precious: when you’re too tired to write, when you’re too sad to read, when you’re too downtrodden to work, you much push through, push past, and push forward.  “Push” moves from being what Precious hears as she labours through the birth of her father’s children to being the mantra that helps her believe in a better possible life.

Sapphire’s characterization of Precious is so full and life-like, and the pace of the novel is almost breathless.  I understand all the concerns that have been raised about the use of dialect in the novel, but for me it helped to make Precious real and her own person, rather than a construction — it made her life real, both the horrors and the triumphs.  The novel is painful to read in parts, but it’s also gloriously uplifting.  The journey Precious takes is tragic, but it’s also incredibly brave.  Her strength and her ability to seek help make her singularly fascinating.  You can’t help but cheer for Precious.

… and I’m still not really clear on why.

the queen's fool

I’ve noticed this in a few of Gregory’s novels — this sort of subtle (and in this novel, not-so-subtle) rewriting of the heroic, strong Elizabeth I into some kind of common whore caricature of society’s worst fears of a woman in charge.  I wish I knew why Gregory insists on doing this.  At first I thought she was trying to balance the historical record somewhat in order to reverse some of the demonization of Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart.  In this goal, Gregory succeeds — the Marys are always sympathetic characters in her books, pushed aside, abused, and maligned by Elizabeth I, who always comes across as cut from her father’s cloth.  In the end, I think Gregory’s dislike of both Harry Tudor and Anne Boleyn lead to her construction of Elizabeth I.  There’s no redemption possible for Elizabeth given her lineage — she is destined to be as evil as her parents, at least in Gregory’s novels.

On the one hand, I understand — the Marys are historically maligned (not wholly without cause), and there is a level at which I admire Gregory’s desire to resurrect them.  I’m not sure why that has to happen at the cost of Elizabeth, however.  Instead of doing something complicated and interesting that demonstrates the power of the patriarchy, Gregory falls into her own saint/whore dichotomy in her construction of these women.  Elizabeth plays for power, certainly, but does she do so for any other reason than her own limited options within the sphere of her birth?  And is Mary’s devotion to fail!husband Philip really something honourable?

The protagonist of this story is neither of these women; this time, Gregory writes not from the perspective of a Royal but a commoner, Hannah Verde, a Jewish immigrant from Spain who lost her mother in the Inquisition and now lives in England as Christian Hannah Green.  Hannah can read and write, and also possesses the gift of second sight.  She is begged to the court as a Holy Fool — while betrothed to the frankly insufferable Daniel (d’Israeli) Carpenter — and such begins her life of intrigue.  Hannah comes of age in the world of the court, unable to decide whether she wants to live as a courtly woman, pass for a man and lead an independent life, or dissolve into the bounds of wifely duty.

This is one of Gregory’s slowest novels, and I had a hard time getting through it.  I ultimately wasn’t that interested in Hannah and was turned off by the construction of Elizabeth as a literal whore.  I think this isn’t one of Gregory’s stronger novels — I’m looking forward instead to reading her new book about the Plantagenets.  I think she’s done all she can do with the Tudors and it just isn’t interesting anymore.

No picture today as my camera is out of juice and I am super lazy.

I wanted a new muffin recipe to try — I’ve done apple and banana fairly recently, so I thought it was time to try a blueberry recipe.  I also needed it to use buttermilk because, well, I have buttermilk and that stuff needs to be used up pronto.  I found this recipe and made a few tweaks.  They turned out to be delicious.  But I think next time I would use frozen blueberries rolled in flour.  I used fresh blueberries and they are freaking gigantic, so the berry-to-muffin ratio is a little off.  Although you do get these awesome pockets of blueberry jam-like bursts.  Freaking great.

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup blueberries

Grease muffin tins and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine oats and buttermilk.  Set aside.

Mix together dry ingredients.  Set aside.

Add vanilla, egg, and oil to the oats/buttermilk combo.

Fold in the dry ingredients.

Fold in the blueberries.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes.  Yield is approximately one dozen muffins.

… and the most common search term that brings people here is “leek.”

Interesting.