Scenes From My Week 09.17.14

Conversations over tea and pastries…



A little boy and his train set…




…and pomegranates.



This week has been SUPER busy, I can’t even begin to say. But there were so many good moments, so many beautiful snippets of light and yumminess amidst the crazy, so who am I to complain?

Hope you all have a fabulous week! See you at Communal Global and Little Things Thursday!

Little by Little

Food, etc.

This post is long overdue. My family has been begging me for pictures of food from Thailand since the day I touched foot to land here. I’ve been accruing some photos, but shamefully, not nearly enough. I blame the poor lighting in most eateries (hello? street food) which leads to unappetizing photos. It would be an injustice to the food.

Some of my favorite street food I don’t even have photos of, like khao mun gai, which involves chicken on top of rice that has been cooked in chicken broth and served with a chili sauce, or kai pa loh, which involves a hock of pork leg simmered for days in a cinnamon-star anise-rich broth and hard boiled eggs. And tub tim grob! Oh, be still my heart. My favorite dessert! I won’t explain what it’s made of because you’ll just raise your eyebrows and go “Eh?” But I will say it involves a delicate strawberry-vanilla like flavor, with a bit of crispy goodness soaked on ice and coconut milk.

Here’s what I do have photos of though:

By the way, Thailand does indeed have excellent coffee. Our fears were much assuaged. Also: European desserts here are amazing.

Pure blended fruit juices. This one is orange and passion fruit.

Because remember these guys?

Lest you think passion fruit is the only interesting fruit around here, let me introduce you to jackfruit.

These guys are filled with little sweet yellow segments that are a bit crunchy/chewy and oh-so-yummy. But please do not confuse this spiny fruit with durian, which looks very similar, but with larger spikes. Durian smells to high heaven of the lovely perfume Eau du Diaper and tastes much like it smells. I think so anyway. A lot of people love it. But due to its intense perfume, in many cities in Asia, it is banned on subways and buses and recommended that you not enter public transportation at least 20 minutes after consumption. You think I’m kidding.

Much better for the palate, however, is mangosteen, sweet, delicate and delicious. Plus it’s pretty.

And did I mention there’s good coffee?

Because yes, oh yes, there is.

Also consumed, but not pictured above: pad phuk boong (fried morning glory – I eat this almost every day), tom kah (coconut soup), larb moo Issan (a northern Thai meat salad), deep fried fish topped with lemongrass salad, deep fried fish topped with five sauces, moo ping (grilled pork on skewers), yum talay (seafood salad), roasted duck in salads and curries, pomelo, dragon fruit, guava, and rotee (an Indian style crepe served with sweetened condensed milk).

And oatmeal. I found Quaker Oats at the grocery store and eat that with soymilk and a banana every morning because I’ve been a little stopped up since I got here. Better than the alternative I must say, which is what usually hits foreigners upon introduction to the Thai diet. (TMI?)

But on that note, you might have noticed some of the above dishes appear on the spicy side? I can confirm that they are indeed at least as spicy as they look. And what goes in must come out (FIRE IN THE HOLE!!). And a blog about life in Thailand would not be complete without…

A Word on Toilets

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Mindfulness in Eating

You know how when you look at pictures of Asian girls, they all look super skinny, like fat is somehow anathema to Asian genes? And you maybe figure, well yeah they’re skinny. They work like maniacs over there and all they have to eat is a bowl of rice. Okay, so here’s the deal. Every single one of my Asian cousins is that skinny, but they can pack away food like great woolly bears before hibernation. I’m being literal when I say I’ve seen a 110-pound woman (my sister-in-law) put away 7 bowls of noodle soup in one sitting. But when they come to the States? After a few weeks, the pound creep begins. Suddenly they need to discover exercise regimens.

It works in reverse too. Every single person I know who was born and raised American but lived abroad for at least a few months has shed significant pounds, mostly not even knowing where the weight went because they sure weren’t scrimping on the eats.

How does this happen?

We’ve heard a lot about poor consumer habits and choices: eating enormous portion sizes or being addicted to salt, fats, and sugars. Jamie Oliver does big spiels on getting away from processed foods, and in the speeches I’ve seen he uses some pretty extreme examples of people who’ve grown up extra large because they just don’t know how to cook for themselves. But what about the people in between? The ones who do eat fruits and vegetables, and stay away from processed goods when they can? The ones who do cook for their families, but still find themselves struggling? There’s also a lot of talk about what the food industry does to almost all of our food, not just the ones in prepackaged boxes: genetic modification, added preservatives, inserting corn (read: calories) into everything (if you haven’t seen Food, Inc., please do – and read Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). Not only are these things related to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, there is also some concern (not yet scientifically proven) that genetic modification is increasing our children’s susceptibility to food allergies. It’s not substantiated yet, but we do know that food allergies among children are on the rise (not to mention childhood obesity).

I look at all this and I feel overwhelmed. I feel cheated, like all the time and care I put into cooking well has been sabotaged by my own lack of awareness. By the simple fact that at least half of the time, I don’t know where what I put in my mouth has been. I know a lot of it has traveled many, many miles to get to me. I know what the labels say (and most of it is a foreign language to me anyway, full of chemicalese). But I don’t know what has happened in those miles and I don’t know what the labels don’t say because the government hasn’t thought to include it. Or because a powerful industry lobby managed to prevent hortatory reform (laws that ensure full market information).

I decided it was high time I became more aware, more conscious. I want to be more mindful about what I am eating, where it comes from, and how I am eating it.

On a whim, I started looking into Ayurvedic nutrition. This approach to consumption is a bit daunting and intense at first, though it does emphasize eating mostly whole grains, unleavened breads, fruits, vegetables, and natural spices for flavoring. I’m not going to get into a full discussion of Ayurvedic nutrition here, but I found a lot of it fit neatly into my goal to be more mindful about my eating. I’ve started transitioning into an Ayurvedic inspired diet, but I’m doing it at my own pace and forgiving myself in the moments I don’t follow it strictly.

But here are some of the things I can do immediately.

* Eat foods in their most natural state possible.
This means avoiding processed foods and eating as freshly as possible. Buy local from local farmer’s markets. Side note: adding ground ginger to fruit or drinking a little bit of aloe vera juice goes a long way towards solving digestive problems caused by any foods that are more difficult to digest. (I’ll spare you the details, but let me just say this works and is far more pleasant than things like pepto bismol.)

* Shop for less, more often.
In Europe and Asia, you find that fridges are much smaller than they are here. That’s because Europeans and Asians don’t buy Costco-sized items to last for weeks. They buy just what they need for the next day or so. So what they eat is really fresh.

* Honor and respect the kitchen and dining area as sacred spaces.
Take negativity elsewhere. Cooking and eating peacefully reduces stress and irritation, making digestion easier, and bringing calm after the meal. I’m so bad about this. The table where I eat is also where I work and is also where we entertain and watch TV. When we move to Thailand, my first order of business is establishing a dining room table that is separate from my work space.

* Be present when you eat.
Have you ever eaten standing up, in front of your computer, or in front of the television and suddenly gotten to the last bite on your plate and felt unsatisfied? That’s me, in a nutshell. I am making an effort to shut everything off and focus on the ritual of eating. I try to chew slowly and chew each bite at least 20 times before swallowing (depending on the consistency of the food of course). I’ve discovered I get satisfied sooner.

* Take a moment to respect where the food has come from.
This is my bigger picture moment. This, right here, is why I’m offering up this post for the Bigger Picture Moment. Do you pray before meals? Do you thank the provider? If so, has it ever been just a habit to you…something that falls off your tongue without the words penetrating your heart and mind? Is it something you say without consciousness? I found something that will help me remember to respect that which sustains me. Before each meal, I look at the plate of food in front of me and take a moment to think about where it originated and what it took to get it to my plate. Sometimes I think of the vegetables as they were in the ground. Sometimes I think of the hands that plucked them. Sometimes I think of the oil that was consumed bringing it to my kitchen. Sometimes I think of it, as it might have been when it was alive.

Sometimes I know I don’t know where it has come from. And that is okay. The point, for me, is to just be aware. The point is to not eat lies I tell myself. These are the words I have added to my eating ritual to help me remember to respect my place in this world:

In this plate of food, I see the entire universe supporting my existence.
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Saying this helps me see where I fit in the bigger picture. Food nourishes, it comforts, it sustains, and it has profound effects on our entire psychology. It connects us to family and friends, but it is also our link to the greater world. I want this part of my life, which is such a large part of my existence, to be characterized by honesty and awareness, at least as much as it is characterized by flavor and variety.

Om Shanti.

blackberry cobbler

NOM NOM NOM.My sister-in-law and I (egad…that sounds so formal…can I just call ya V here?) do enjoy getting together on occasion to do some cooking and baking together. And, well, since she was raised in the South and I was born there, we do enjoy having a good ol’ comfort throwback to our Southern roots. Like Southern fried chicken. Which we had with risotto and a green bean salad. Oh my it did us good. I’m sensing this burgeoning tradition of ours will always involve either Thai food or Southern food. And dessert.

On this occasion, we made blackberry cobbler.

Ok, well we set out to make strawberry rhubarb cobbler, but there was nary a barb of rhu to be found. So we got blackberries instead. But when we got home and pulled out the recipes, the one that was for blackberries called for 3 1/2 cups of sugar…and while I like dessert I do also like my kidneys and pancreas to function. Also it didn’t call for a topping (other than 1 1/2 cups of sugar). I do like my cobblers to have a topping. The one that was for strawberries and rhubarb didn’t seem to call for enough cooking of the fruit, though it did have a topping. But when we saw the flour-to-yummy-goodness ratio, we saw it we more like a pie crust topping. Clearly sub-par.

So we winged it, stealing ideas from both recipes and coming up with our own.

This is what you’ll need:
Oh sh*t we et all the berries!2 sticks of butter, 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 cups milk, 36 oz. of blackberries (or other fruit like blueberries or raspberries, cherries, etc.)

Note: the blackberries are not pictured in the photo above. That’s a ’cause of we ate them all.

For the topping:

The ginger was a good addition. Did I say that yet?4 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, ground ginger, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.

The ginger addition was inspired, let me tell you.

When you’ve assembled all your goods, set your oven to 325 degrees. Then melt the butter in an 11 x 14 pan. We stuck ours in the oven while it pre-heated and we busied ourselves with drinking beer prepping the rest of it. (Ok, well first step was wash your berries. But you knew that, right?)

Mix the flour, baking powder, 2 cups of sugar (notice a substantial reduction from 3 1/2 cups and the finished product was plenty sweet), and milk. (Truth be told, even the 2 sticks of butter might be a smidge much. I’d say a stick and half would probably do ya just as good…but then V might just slap me for such blasphemy.)

Drop mixture into melted butter (do not stir). Spread the berries over the batter. This is such a beautiful sight. I do wish I had thought to take a photo of it. The berries just melt into the batter. Bloop. Bloop.

To make the topping, just mix the brown sugar, spices and salt together, then sprinkle on top of the cobbler. Did I mention the ginger was a good idea?

Then bake at 325. Ours took about an hour and 15 minutes. And came out looking like this:
Oh my word, I could eat the hell out of you...And we served ours warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Because, you know, such things should be done right proper.

Like so:
I know it's the same picture twice. Just reiterating my point.See how the ice cream just oozes joy like rain down the blackberries? Yes, I wax poetic over food. Don’t you?

Did I mention this recipe was so easy it was practically criminal? Because, oh yes. It was EASY.

turns out i wasn’t out of control

pumpkin_muffinsI’ve always been the first to admit I’m a chocolate fiend. I love desserts of almost any variety, and a little sweet bite after dinner has been a favorite way to round out the meal. But over the past few months, I’d been noticing my sweet tooth has been getting more and more demanding. Instead of wanting a piece of chocolate, I’ve been needing ice cream. Cheesecake. Brownies. Pie. Anything sweet. And sometimes the cravings wouldn’t stop even after indulging.

I hated it. I felt out of control. I hated that it was insatiable, and even after I was full, my body was still demanding more sweets. And on top of that, add guilt for my over-indulgence and fear because diabetes runs in my family and the last thing I need in my life is to develop insulin resistance. It got to the point where I had two slices of cheesecake in one sitting – which I’ve never done before and could never fathom before – where I finally realized something had to be wrong.

So I did a little research and discovered that one possible reason for intense sugar cravings is a lack of seratonin. When seratonin levels are low, it causes your mood to depress and the body registers sugar cravings. But sugar only boosts seratonin for a short while. Then you crash and need more sugar. But it turns out that protein also boosts seratonin, but it does so at lower and much longer-lasting levels. So it could be that the real culprit behind my sugar cravings was not a sudden lack of self-discipline but a lack of protein in my diet!

When I thought about it more, it made total sense that this problem would have become apparent over the last few months because in that time span, I had started shopping more at the local farmer’s market and food co-op, and eating more vegetable-rich meals. The vegetables were a good move, but I had also been eating less and less meat. I’ve heard before, too, that women often don’t get enough protein in their diets, so it really did begin to make sense.

Once I realized all this, I started re-introducing protein into my diet. Figuring that protein takes a bit longer to digest than sugar does, I started having a protein snack a couple of hours before dinner: some chicken or cheese, for example. And immediately, and I mean immediately that very first day, the sugar cravings stopped cold. I no longer needed or even wanted dessert. Every day since I made sure to eat protein, and every day since, I’ve had no problem with sugar cravings. Some days I didn’t get a protein snack before dinner, but had it during dinner. After eating, I felt a vague desire for dessert, but I just waited it out. Less than 20 minutes later, all sugar cravings were gone. Even when I went out to dinner and imbibed drinks (which are a sure way for me to cascade into gorging in desserts), and everyone at the table ordered a dessert (chocolate lava cake with raspberries and whipped cream, no less), I had absolutely no desire to even taste it. I sniffed it and gloried in the scents of chocolate and raspberries…and was satisfied.

What a change that is! I couldn’t believe it. Obviously I need to be sure not to overdo the protein because that’ll lead to it’s own problems. But making sure to get a small serving of lean meats, legumes, or low fat cheese or yogurt into each meal seems to be going a long way towards keeping my body happier and more in balance. I came up with a Lentil Mint Salad I’ll try for lunches on days I can’t eat at home (recipe in post below). I think I might even try doing a food diary to track what I eat and how it affects my energy and satisfaction levels 20 minutes, an hour, and multiple hours after eating.

I can’t tell you how amazing it is for me to not need sweets. The past few months have been the worst, but I could always find desire for dessert. Of course I’ll still enjoy sweets now and then…but to be in total control of the desire? If I really can manage it through protein…it will literally change my life.

spice-rubbed cornish hens with cranberry-date chutney

cornishhensUsually when I have guests over for dinner, I cook Thai food, which requires about 10-20 minutes of preparation, 10 minutes of a flurry of arm-flailing effort, and then voila! it’s served, and you have to eat it right away. But I’m starting to discover the glory of baking food, which requires you start a little earlier perhaps, but then for the hour or so the food is baking, you can do other things. Like hide the socks, jackets, books, and other bits of evidence that your home is not quite a Martha Stewart home. And light candles. And freshen up your makeup. And have a glass of wine. So you don’t look like a sweaty, disgruntled host who can’t even greet the guests as they walk in the door because you’re busy producing four different dishes at once.

I realize I may be the only one who is just now figuring this out.

But I’m truly excited to find ways to look like a gourmet chef, when really it takes little effort. And that’s where this dish comes in! Because cornish game hens for dinner? Who does that? Sounds decadent right? Turns out it’s super easy, cheaper than lamb or fish (at least in these parts), and pretty much guaranteed to impress your guests.

This is where I’m digressing to tell you about this cookbook I found that I. AM. IN. LOVE. WITH. It’s called Eating Well In Season: The Farmer’s Market Cookbook, by Jessie Price, et al. I’d been looking for a cookbook organized by seasons so I could take better advantage of things available at the local farmer’s market and food co-op, and I came across this one. It’s fabulous because most recipes call for easy-to-find ingredients, the recipes themselves are fairly simple, there’s lots of gorgeous photos (and really, it’s all about the photos in a cookbook, isn’t it?), and everything we’ve tried is REALLY GOOD. (And no, I’m not being paid for this endorsement. Just me all by my onesie saying this book kicks cookbook bootie.)

Anyway, so this recipe actually came from the Spring section, because it calls for rhubarb. I couldn’t find rhubarb, but what I did have was leftover cranberries, and I figured, they’re sweet-tart too, so it should be all good. And oh my, it was. And cranberries make this the perfect holiday dinner.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Ok, so here are the ingredients you need (for 8 servings; the pictures you’ll see are what I did for 4 servings).

For the hens:
1 orange
4 Cornish game hens
1 T light brown sugar
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t ground pepper

For the chutney:
1/3 c cider vinegar
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1 T minced fresh ginger
1/4 t ground cinnamon
2 c fresh cranberries (I mashed them a little with a mortar and pestle)
1/2 c pitted dates, chopped

So Step 1, play with wash your hens.
cornishhens_danceAhem. Actually, the cookbook says the first step is to preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then take a vegetable peeler and remove a 2-inch strip of zest from the orange, cut the orange in half, squeeze juice out of one half and cute the remaining half into 4 wedges. Place two tablespoons of juice and the strip of zest in a medium saucepan for Step 4. Tuck an orange wedge into the cavity of each game hen. Sprinkle the remaining orange juice over the hens and place each breast side up in a large roasting pan, leaving space between them. (Although I cut the recipe in half for there were only 4 of us at dinner, I did use the whole orange and just put two wedges in each bird. Figured it couldn’t hurt. And actually I think it helped keep them extra moist.)

Step 2:
Stir 1 tablespoon brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture over the hens and tie the legs together with kitchen string. I didn’t have kitchen string, so I just used toothpicks like so:

Step 3:
Roast the hens until the juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, about 1 hour. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Step 4: While the hens are roasting, you can prepare the chutney. Add vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon to the orange juice and zest in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add cranberries and dates, increase heat to medium-high and return to a boil.
cornishhens_boilReduce heat to low and simmer gently until the cranberries are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Just before serving, remove orange zest. (I had a little left over orange juice, which I reserved until it was time to serve the chutney. By the time the hens had roasted the chutney had gotten a little dry, so I stirred in a little bit of orange juice just to liven it up a bit upon serving.)

Step 5: To serve, remove string (or toothpicks) and slice each hen in half lengthwise using a large, heavy knife. You can remove the skins for a healthier meal. You can see I didn’t because it’s juicier and yummier with the skins on.

Serve each portion with 1/4 cup of the chutney.
cornishhens_chutneyI put mine on a bed of lettuce and served the chutney with a sprig of mint to decorate.

This dish is really wonderful for when you have guests or for any special meal because game hens do seem decadent. And I think the cranberries give it that extra special holiday touch. My vote? ♥♥♥♥

Rating System:
♥♥♥♥♥ Omigod this is awesome, I could eat it every night!
♥♥♥♥ Wow this is amazing for a special meal!
♥♥♥ Great choice for a dinner party!
♥♥ Hey, that was pretty good. We should have it again sometime.
♥ Eh. S’all right….
♠ Ugh, no! That was so bad I just had to share.

After trying this baby out, it quickly became a go-to meal.
Over-used Recipes Swap

grandpappy’s damn good eggnog

eggnogThe crazy work madness is over (allowing me to settle into routine work load) so I’m celebrating with a drink! Actually, this post originated as a Facebook discussion, but this eggnog is just so good, I had to share it with the masses. You know you’re in good hands when it’s a grandpappy’s recipe. Unfortunately, it’s not my grandpappy’s recipe (Something makes me suspect neither of my grandfathers – one Thai and the other, a Christian missionary – were too much into eggnog. But you never know.), it’s someone else’s grandpappy’s recipe that I just happened to Google when my parents asked for eggnog after Thanksgiving dinner. (And by asked, I mean they suggested in wistful tones that it would be lovely to have eggnog and wasn’t it a shame we hadn’t picked some up at the store, and I volunteered to make it with what we had to save us from such despair.) This recipe, which you can find here, looked like the best of what I could find – and man, was it ever! My family is insisting this be a new tradition to include with the rest of the holiday fare.

And by holiday fare, I suspect they mean any meal and/or without a meal on special days that you need such a pick-me-up. Like on days ending in “day”.

So in such holiday spirit, I feel I should share the wealth.

In the spirit of the public good, I should also draw your attention to the fact that there is a very good reason the recipe begins and ends with a disclaimer about “drinking responsibly” and designating someone responsible (read: more sober than you would be should you drink this) to drive your drunk ass home. Or be smart like us: drink this in the comfort of your own home, where the longest, most dangerous commute is from the living room to your bed. Or couch. Or wherever you happen to land.

Because the recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of rum AND one and a half cups of bourbon. Ahem. It’s good stuff.

I made 8 servings, which basically called for:
4 fresh eggs
1/2 c. of sugar (separated into (2) 1/4 cups)
1/2 c. of rum (I used Myer’s dark rum)
1 1/2 c. of milk
1 1/2 c. of bourbon (I used Woodford reserve for about half of it and Chivas for the rest because I didn’t want to use up all the good stuff)
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
and nutmeg to serve (This part is important!)

Easy Instructions:

  1. Separate eggs into yolks and whites in separate bowls.
  2. Beat egg-yolks with 1/2 of sugar, set aside.
  3. Beat egg-whites until stiff, then mix in other 1/2 of sugar.
  4. Pour the yolks into the whites and mix together slowly.
  5. Stir in rum slowly.
  6. Stir in milk slowly.
  7. Stir in whiskey slowly.
  8. Stir in 1/2 of cream slowly
  9. Whip rest (1/2) of cream and fold in carefully.
  10. Serve at room temperature and sprinkle nutmeg on the top.

Cyril K. Collins sure knew what he was doing. This stuff is super rich and creamy (so, not the healthiest drink calorically…but who’s counting? Not me.). If you take care to blend it smoothly, it goes down super nicely. I hate when you can taste the layers of different drinks like in a poorly made Irish coffee. Bleah, no thank you. But this one? Smooth as a baby’s hind-ang.

And alcoholic enough even my hubby stopped at one. And my hubby can pack the alcohol away.

Of course, my mom had two servings in one sitting, so there you go.

But then, I don’t recall whether she did do more than sit after that.

What I really want to do is make some of this again this weekend. And then take some of it and put slices of good bread in it to soak overnight and in the morning, take a fat slab of butter and maybe some cream cheese and jam and fry up the best stuffed French toast ever made on this beloved planet.

Got Milk (Suggestions)?

When it comes to the essential vitamins and nutrients, the one I always seem to have trouble including in my diet is calcium. Does anyone have any suggestions for low fat, low calorie options to get my daily double dose?

Mot dairy options I find (like cheese and ice cream–so yummy, yet so bad for you) are not worth the caloric content since this is supposed to be a daily part of my diet. I’ve picked up yogurt and those 100-calorie pudding snacks. But there’s only so much you can eat before you get pudding-ed out. Plus I need two servings a day. Two of those and I’ve consumed 1/4 of my daily calorie/fat allowance, which frankly, I’d rather be spending on something else more filling.

I’ve started drinking a glass of nonfat milk, but I don’t particularly enjoy it. Are there any options for dressing up milk (besides Nesquick or Hershey’s)? I’m also taking calcium supplements but I don’t really trust them as much as real food. I’m always afraid my body won’t absorb the nutrients as well as with real produce, which comes with it’s own natural carriers and absorbers.

Does anybody have anything they think I should try?

Life After Fire

She eyes me as I take another bite of pastry.

“All the women on her dad’s side of the family have big hips,” she says with a conspiratorial nod to our guests, who smile politely, though somewhat uncomfortably.

“That’s a true story,” I say, laughing it off a bit.

She pats her thighs. “But she gets the big thighs from me.” She laughs. Our guests smile nervously, flitting glances over at me, trying to gauge how I react.

“I guess I’m screwed on both sides,” I laugh. And the guests relax, relieved by the easy banter. Meanwhile, I think, Thanks Mom.

In less than a minute we have slipped into our old routine of half-joke/half-warning and feigned nonchalance. It fits like a favorite old pair of slippers. I know why she does it. She watches my weight like an eagle-hawk ready to shred any excess pound because she worries about my health. She has diabetes and doesn’t want me to go the way of needles and insulin like she has. And I appreciate that about her, even if I don’t appreciate the verbal harping.

But 20 pounds lighter and in a healthy weight I haven’t seen since high school, I am still the fat girl. Still the one who must watch her poundage and battle the bulge. While I was losing the weight, part of me was looking to prove to her I could. Nearly a year since I lost the weight, part of me still hopes to prove to her I did, and could keep it off. And yet, no matter how skinny I get or for how long, I will always be the one who has big hips and big thighs and have to weigh each bite she eats.

And in less than a minute, I am struck by how, after everything happens and the dust settles, old patterns rise again like they’ve never left. After trauma, after marriage, after weight-loss, after fire, the life before returns and things are as they always have been. Some things in life will never change, no matter what you try to prove.

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