Fat.

Photo by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash

Fat. I’ve fought it almost my entire life. I didn’t start out as an, ahem, larger lady. When I was born prematurely, I weighed in at a scant 3lbs, 13oz. Almost 4lbs, y’all! I’m not sure exactly when my battle of the bulge started, but it was at some point in childhood.

My twin sister and I were teased in elementary school by the neighborhood bully, who referred to us mockingly as “Jelly and Belly.” I tried to beat her up but quickly learned I’m a lover not a fighter. My sister ended up with broken glasses, and the bully’s mom slammed the door in my dad’s face when he demanded an explanation, and apology. It would be the first of many times I noticed the looks of disdain, the judgment in the eyes of my peers. When I was growing up, you had to be pretty and thin to be popular. I hear school hasn’t changed much in that regard, which is too damn bad. As an adult, the most influential people in my life have rarely been pretty and thin.

Ten years ago, my son was born. My sweet, miraculous baby was the best surprise I’ve ever had. My husband and I had already written off parenthood, for a variety of reasons. He’d promised me a great vacation every year and a little yappy dog I could put clothes on, and I grieved some but put on my game face and rallied. I’d always wanted to be a mother. When the universe played a trick hand, we were thrilled and terrified. I immediately scaled back on my exercise program, which at the time included an early morning boot camp as well as run/walking. I didn’t want anything to jeopardize the pregnancy.

After my son was born, I felt like I had to prove that I still had it. So I hit the trail and trained for a half marathon. I had several longer mileage races under my belt, and a triathlon, so it was important to me that I could do another half marathon post-baby. It was the worst race ever, but I made it through. After that I saw my weight yo yo up and down as nine years quietly passed.

My father had a series of health crises in 2017, and by the end of that year had still not entirely bounced back. My dad has always been tough as nails, the work from sun up to sun down kind of man. He wouldn’t quit until the job was done. He had survived esophageal cancer, and had excellent health until January of 2017. He’d powered through emergent cardiac bypass surgery, a mild stroke, and a surgery to fix a clogged carotid artery, but he just wasn’t regaining his strength. And that’s when we found out about the lung tumor. Last year was rough. Worse than rough, it was heartbreaking and exhausting.

At the start of 2018 we were facing the news that my father had terminal cancer, and the treatments would perhaps prolong his life a year, maybe more, maybe not. What followed was a series of horrendous seizures from brain mets, a less successful than expected radiation therapy, and a single day of chemo. Dad gathered my mother and I close and asked us what we wanted him to do. “Fight,” we said. Fight! But we also wanted him to enjoy his remaining time. It’s a no win situation, when you have to make that kind of decision.

Ultimately, Dad decided he was done with doctors, and treatments, and would only take meds to treat the worst symptoms. He entered hospice, at home, fairly early in the game. He made his own decisions. He made a plan. We listened. We offered our opinions. We cried, but we did it all together. In the end, Dad chose his path, and we honored it. My father maintained his strength even in his dying. Thirty-three days before he took his final breath he was out on his little ranch, clearing up a tree that had come down in a summer storm. Hospice patients don’t usually wield chainsaws, but my father had never been one to conform to society’s standards. He was one tough man.

My mother and I became caretakers, and I learned how important it is to maintain a medication log. When you’re sleep deprived, you don’t want to risk giving a dose of the wrong med, or worse, forgetting to give one. I humbled myself in the face of my father’s humiliation when I had to help him on to and off of his potty chair, and with his clothes, when there was no one else around. He was the epitome of modest, and having me there to help with toileting was the worst embarrassment for him. For me, it was all done in love.

I leaned on my family, and my friends, and my love of carbs to get through the last months of my father’s life. He was slipping away, and I was frantically trying to memorize every.last.second.

When my father passed, a few days after his last meal (a few bites of smoked brisket, a cup of coffee and a taste of banana pudding), I was numb. I’d already spent half the year comfort eating to fill the ache in my soul. I would spend the rest of the year eating to fill the numbness, to try to find some joy, to fill the void left after losing him. I packed on the pounds.

At the end of 2018, I felt awful both physically and emotionally. I was finally clear of the fog of grief, but I had let myself eat my way into a very unhealthy situation. It was time for some tough love. I stepped on the scale.

I have never weighed as much in my life as I do now. I wasn’t even this heavy when I was pregnant. What a rude awakening! I’d battled the grief, and the havoc it wreaked on my memory, my immune system, my mental state, and now I was looking at myself and realizing what I’d let grief do to my physical state. My blood pressure is up, and I’m fighting to lower my blood sugar below the “pre-diabetic” range. I’m fighting fat, again. AGAIN.

I’m making changes in small steps, because I’m afraid if I change too much at once, I’ll self-sabotage. I’m planning out my weekday breakfasts and lunches, as that is when I’m most likely to break down and get a cheeseburger if I don’t have a quick meal at the ready. I’m slowly moving back into an exercise routine. It’s disappointing that at one time I could easily do a 4-5 mile walk on a whim, but walking two miles is a challenge today. I’m doing meals plans for dinner, and making sure it’s a meal that can come together quickly, when I’m hangry, and my family is driving me insane, the dog is begging for treats, the cat wants to be fed, and there’s Girl Scout cookies in the freezer and just one won’t hurt and why not have a glass of wine….and OMG just stop and breathe, and make that healthier choice of the dinner I planned. Y’all get me, right?

My journey has started. I’m hopeful that it will never end, only level up. I want to be a healthy woman, wife, mom, dog mom, cat mom, rat mom (yes, we have two, don’t ask). I want to walk more than 2 miles without aching. I want to look moderately decent in a swimsuit in Jamaica in May. I want to cross a finish line again (but I’m done with half marathons, so it’ll be a 5 or 10K). I want to regain my sense of self, of wholeness.

I want to not stop until the job is done, like Dad.

Harold Stanley Marley 1934-2018
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Home Slice Pizza’s Federal Government Employee Appreciation Week

Image courtesy of Home Slice Pizza

As if Austinites need a reason to love Home Slice more, the NY-style pizza company announced today that all locations are offering a free slice and a soda to any federal government employee (must show government-issued ID). The shutdown might be over but our federal employees are still playing catch up with pay. With the President not ruling out another shutdown, it’s great to see restaurants like Home Slice throwin’ a little love around.

The free slice & soda is offered between the hours of 11am and 5pm, and runs today through Friday. Home Slice Pizza and More Home Slice are located at 1415 and 1421 S. Congress Ave., and Home Slice Pizza North Loop is at 501 E. 53rd St., by North Loop.

Categories: Austin, Giveaway, Italian, Local | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Taking a bite out of Envy apples #CookingwithEnvy

This post is sponsored by Envy Apples.  All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

There is almost nothing better than the satisfying crunch and sweet juiciness of the perfect apple. There’s also almost nothing worse than a mealy apple with faded flavor. Well, let me tell you, I’ve found the perfect apple. Envy apples are a cross between Braeburn, known for its balanced sweetness, and Royal Gala, which has a milder essence. It’s a big claim, but I stand by it. Try some for yourself. I’m confident you’ll agree. #BiteAndBelieve

They’re consistently crisp, and for those of you who love to have slices of apple on your charcuterie tray or in your child’s lunchbox, these apples have a naturally higher citric acid content that slows down the browning you get with other apples. No need to sprinkle apple quarters or slices with lemon juice to keep them pretty! These apples will go hours without discoloring. I’m happy to share that Envy apples are non-GMO, grown naturally in New Zealand and in the U.S., in Washington state.

Envy Apples invited me to attend a Central Market Cooking School class on using apples in a wide variety of meals, from breakfast to dessert. First, if you’ve never taken a class at Central Market, you’re missing out. They do demonstrations as well as hands on classes, and both are big fun if you’re into cooking. The chef instructor normally pairs wine with each course (water and tea are available), so you get a bit of advice on what varietals taste best with your meal. I love that the chef will tell you which ingredients are available in the store, and offer substitutions for certain, harder to find items.

One of the perks of Central Market cooking classes is that they always provide a set of the recipes so that you can duplicate your meal at home. I have the delicious fennel and apple salad pictured above on my menu this week. It comes together swiftly, and is a pleasing mix of flavors.

It’s soup weather right now, and a bowl of butternut squash and Envy apple soup is one of the most tasty and comforting lunch or dinner offerings. The recipe calls for 4lbs of raw butternut squash, pretty much two whole squash. Please don’t try to chop up that hard-as-concrete raw squash. Do yourself a favor and buy the ready to cook squash cubes. There’s no reason you should risk losing a finger in a tragic kitchen accident while hacking away at a butternut squash.

In class, we topped our soup with pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds). I’m planning to drizzle a little creme fraiche on this soup when I make it at home, then scatter a little diced raw Envy apples on for a crunchy contrast to the creamy soup. Like most cooks, I usually tweak recipes to make it my own. I’ll probably add a little garlic to this savory soup, because garlic. I could never become a vampire and throw over my love for the stinking rose.

This recipe, adapted from Chowhound, can easily be halved if you want to make a smaller amount. I suggest serving it with slices of buttered, toasted French bread, to mop up every bit of this flavorful winter soup. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think of Envy apples, and this recipe.

Butternut Squash & Envy Apple Soup with Sage

Ingredients                                                                                                                     

  • 4 lbs whole butternut squash (about 2 medium, halved lengthwise and seeds removed)
  • 2 Tb. unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
  • 1 medium Envy apple (about 8oz.)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 2 1/2 c. low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 c. water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish

Heat the oven to 425° F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place squash pieces cut side up on the baking sheet. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and brush all of it over the tops and insides of the squash halves. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until knife tender, 50 minutes to an hour. (Note: if you are using pre-cubed, seeded, peeled squash, spray the foil with a little cooking spray to avoid sticking. You’ll want to check the squash periodically, as cubes will cook faster than the halved squash).

Meanwhile, peel, core and cut the apple into a medium dice. Cut the onion into a medium dice. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the apple, onion and sage, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the squash is ready, set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan with the sautéed apples and onions; discard the squash skins.

Add the broth, water and measured salt and pepper, stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces of squash, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.

Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap (the pour lid) from the blender lid and covering the space with a kitchen towel. This allows the steam to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off. Alternatively, use an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve garnished with fried sage leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds. Makes 6-8 servings.

Categories: Comfort Food, Dinner, Lunch, Recipe, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment