Sam and Ella, or Lessons Unlearned

[Warning: There is no inner-realization, finding of one’s self, or character building in this blog entry. It is just a recounting of some uneventful happenings. No wisdom is passed on. No truths are discovered. You should probably stop reading now.]

I don’t think life lessons usually get learned unless someone has experienced loss or suffering. Obviously, we learn the biggest lessons when we miss great opportunities, when someone close to us dies, or when we make huge mistakes. If we survive, we tend to emerge somewhat damaged but significantly wiser. Our hindsight and regret help shape our future decisions and allow us to grow as individuals.

But what about the little lessons? There are loads of bite-sized morals that we learn every day, and yet we repeat the same mistakes over and over again. For example:

  • Eating too much Halloween candy will make me sick
  • Not rinsing the blender right after use will make it impossible to clean
  • Drinking water right before bed means waking up in the middle of the night to pee
  • Facebook arguments lead nowhere and only make me miserable
  • Etc., ad nauseum, and on and on, et al,  ibid., x1000000000000000.

This weekend I went grocery shopping and somehow managed to forget one bag in the trunk of my car overnight. I didn’t worry too much, though, since the bag contained cereal, gluten-free bread, and canned tuna.

Oh, and one family-sized package of deli roast turkey.

The weather’s been rather cool recently, holding steady in the single digits (Celsius) during the day, and dipping below freezing at night. That’s almost like a refrigerator. Normally, I wouldn’t have given it another thought, except that the next morning the temperature had risen to 11, and by the time I discovered the missing bag, it had gotten up to a balmy 15. Any sane person would have thrown that package of turkey out right away, so of course I opened it up, peeled off a slice, ate it, and waited.


Nothing happened. 24 hours later, I was still fine. I have since eaten a sandwich containing the same turkey slices, and so far, so good. (We’ll see if I have to edit this later.)

I do NOT recommend that you try this the next time you leave perishables out by mistake. I know better than to do what I did. I’d completely freak out if I saw either of my kids try it. I fully deserve to have food poisoning right now, and yet I’ve been spared the agonies of a good bout of gastro thanks to dumb luck and possibly some unpronounceable preservative ingredients.

Everything I know about hygiene, bacteria, health risks, not to mention my own disgust with cooties and germs, ought to have been enough to make me throw it away, and yet my unwillingness to get rid of a brand-new, family-sized (that’s at least twice the normal size, y’all) unopened food product led to me making a risky decision that fortunately turned out okay. Will I be so lucky next time?

Wait, “next time”? I’m doing this again, am I? I think we all know that the answer to that is probably. If this ever happens in the future, I’ll most likely do the same thing until the day I actually get salmonella and find myself on the “Both Ends” diet. Then perhaps I’ll have learned my lesson and rethink my frugal ways. Until then, who knows what other crazy food risks I’ll take? I’ve got some questionable Brie and Coutances in my fridge. If cheese is already a mold, is moldy cheese really that bad?

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. (Sort of.)

Will Power?

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It’s Canadian Thanksgiving weekend! I’m not entirely sure what the deal with this holiday is, but I’m certain it’s not quite as entrenched in revisionist history as is the Thanksgiving of my childhood, a.k.a. American Thanksgiving. That being said, it is still a great opportunity for remembering to be grateful, spending time with family or friends, and best of all, eating until muscular failure.

The only problem here, of course, is that I’m trying to lose weight.

For the record, I’m always trying to lose weight. I think I was born on a diet. The last time I was in my healthy weight range was probably when I was 17, for about a day, and that was after a summer of life guarding and right before the Freshman 15 (40). Sadly, a semester or two of cheap Molson Ex and takeout chicken souvlaki with cheesy garlic bread made short work of my perfect figure, turning me into the squeezable (but lovable?) person some of you know me as today.

Last night we ate dinner with Hubby’s family, forgoing the traditional turkey and opting instead for some gorgeous Lebanese fare. I piously ate some tabouleh and other veggies, but only to balance out all the shish taouk, kefta, pita bread, wine, baklava, and mango flip I inhaled, not to mention about a metric tonne (Canada doesn’t do the Imperial system) of salmon mousse and crackers before dinner. I left their house feeling incredibly stuffed, sleepy, and full of goodwill towards my fellow beings.

Until this morning, when I stepped on the scale.

Up until yesterday I had been making such progress, slowly but surely getting back to a point where I was comfortable in my own skin. This morning’s numbers threw me off, making me want to give up, ditch the salads and stock up on dirty ol’ Pop Tarts. Why was I so incapable of controlling myself? Why did I make such bad decisions? Why was I born into a skinny family as its only round member? I felt like a failure.

Fortunately, this feeling only lasted a little while. I reminded myself that a) most of that weight gain was water, salt, and poop, and b) I am an active, human-shaped person who generally eats healthily but loves to discover the world through the food it produces. I’ll probably have to remind myself of this 100 more times before bed, but it’s what I’m hanging onto to get me through, and for now, it’s working.

Does this mean I suddenly love my body and feel great about myself? Of course not. I wish I were thinner, prettier, stronger, less ravaged by gravity and gravy, and more like the beautiful people of the world. But I also know that wishing and comparing get me nowhere.

There will always be people who eat better than I do, who choose to work out instead of veg out, who skip dessert but not the gym, and as a result have the abs and arms I only dream of. I admire these people, and though I will try not to compare myself to them, I’ll definitely look to them for inspiration the next time I’m faced with the choice between kettlebells and kettle chips.

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I might even make the right choice.

 

Rage Cooking

I’m on the floor. It’s been unseasonably warm, and the kitchen tiles are cool, if somewhat gritty, against my skin. I probably should have swept before starting to write this, but I’m lying here in the hopes that 1) I will stop sweating, and 2) this new perspective on my kitchen will somehow inspire me to start cooking dinner.

I love eating. It is my favourite activity in the whole universe. However, preparing food more complicated than a bowl of cereal triggers a toxic combination of anxiety, stress, anger, and resentment in me, the source of which to this day I can’t pinpoint.

Last weekend I watched a friend make dinner, which I was then lucky enough to eat: delicious zucchini, potatoes, grilled lamb with home-made aioli, and apple crumble for dessert. I compare the beauty, grace, and confidence with which the food was prepared to a ballet, but one that I’d actually enjoy.

It was incredibly satisfying to watch the deft chopping, casual yet deliberate measuring of ingredients to find that elusive “to taste” sweet spot, and the sensual drizzling of olive oil from a bottle half-stoppered by a knowing thumb. What’s more, everything was made while engaging in relaxed conversation, between sips of wine and several parenting breaks. (Oh, and somehow in the middle of all that, a cheese and crudité plate miraculously appeared.)

That all seems impossible to me. I can’t make a sandwich without having to leave the room and count to 10. I know some folks claim that cooking relaxes them, but, much like women who say pregnancy was easy and made them feel beautiful, they’re crazy. Or lying. Or both.

Yet clearly it happens, because these happy chefs continue to conjure edible magic that I greedily stuff into my face hole. Naturally, I wish I could cook as well as they do. I wish I could do anything with such instinctive expertise. What I envy the most is the enjoyment they get from doing something so well they don’t even have to think about it.

If I’m honest, the only thing I’m THAT good at doing is eating.

So now it’s time to start dinner, regardless of how much I’ve tried to put it off. Maybe if I see it as a game, or an art project, I’ll realize how much fun it can be. Then perhaps it’ll be me one day, preparing an exquisite banquet and loving every minute of it.

But not today. Right now, I can already taste the rage.

Rage cooking