Tag Archives: food

Back fat remix

(Because there was more to say about my sixteen year old body, apparently. Whatever, I ain’t questioning the muse.)

When I was sixteenish, I lost a significant amount of weight. I didn’t do it on purpose, and I didn’t notice until a classmate made a big to-do about telling me to turn to the side and then proclaiming “Ah! Where’s Arwyn? It’s like she disappeared!” (I did not thank him.) I weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 100lb less than I do now (I don’t know my current weight, and only vaguely knew it then). I’m supposed to pine for that weight, that body, because I was sixteen and svelte and sexy, or something.

Except I was also getting migraines multiple times per week.

Except I was still “too fat”, still mocked and attacked in the halls, still told by my entire culture I was ugly and lazy and unfit merely by existing.

Except I was so anemic I couldn’t walk a mile, much less run it, not because I was “out of shape” but because my muscles were suffocating, demanding oxygen I couldn’t give to them because my red blood cells were too small or nonexistent.

Except I lost that weight by accidentally not eating, by having nothing but three giant Mountain Dews at school (thanks defunding of public schools, for making overpriced undernourishing vending machines the only way for our district to buy textbooks), near passing out in Drama after classes, eating whatever I could find as soon as I got home, barely eating at dinner an hour later because I was still stuffed (my stomach too-small from nearly 24 hours with nothing but liquids), and doing it all again the next day.

And this is the body I’m supposed to be nostalgic for, am supposed to think was “better” than the fatter, flappier, floppier, fitter one I have now? This is the body people call “healthier” just because it had less mass?

I have more pains now, and less energy, it’s true. But that’s aging (and an old roller coaster injury and endless parenting) doing its work on me, and is to some extent inevitable. I also have more skills, and fewer mood swings. Less anemia, and a broader palate. Two children, and an amazing lifemate. Fewer hang-ups, and more orgasms. More strength, and less fear of asking for help. Less self-hatred, and more compassion for that small, hurting, hurtful voice inside that calls me ugly. I have hands that soothe and heal, legs that take me wherever I ask them to, arms that carry my children no matter how big they get, a brain that’s clever and mostly kind, and scars from skin that’s stretched to protect me when I felt I would burst from the crazy, when my meds fucked me up, when I made two babies, when I fed two children, when I learned to run, when I relearned to walk, when I lived and lived and lived.

My body was never “perfect”, never acceptable by my society’s standards. My breasts grew in pointing down, my skin scarred silver stripes just from becoming a teen, and I have always, always been called fat in one form or another. I learned so early I had a choice of how to feel, give in to labels of “freak” and attack myself, or say “fuck you” to the entire flawed and too often fatal system. The idea we have to love our bodies, no matter the pain or difficulties they come with, is as oppressive as the one that says we can’t because we are “imperfect” for whatever of ten thousand supposed reasons, but we can, we CAN, if we choose, if we want — and for me, for fat and finally healing me, it feels revolutionary.

And even better, it feels fabulous.

Eating Local

Originally published at Feeding My Boychick

I live in Portland, land of organic vegan locavore ironic bacon hipsterism. Located in the (stolen and colonized) Willamette valley, one of the most fertile pieces of land on the continent (despite many greedy people having done their level best to destroy it), eating local here is downright easy. About the only things we can’t grow are tropical fruits, coffee, and hard wheat, and nevermind because we still import, roast, and mill those locally. It’s absurdly easy, if also absurdly expensive, to buy only foods grown, produced, slaughtered, or processed within 100 miles of here, either in a market or grocer or even dining out at a locally-owned restaurant. And this is great.

Except.

I also live in Portland, one of the whitest cities in the country with one of the worst track records of gentrification. And much of this push for “local” and “sustainable” is coming from relatively new, relatively wealthy, overwhelmingly white consumers and business owners, not from the communities of color who have eked out spaces for themselves here for decades. I see them, small business owners themselves, pushed out of business by white people who’d rather shop at a national name than someplace run by a person of a different color whose fluent English the monolinguists can’t understand, and now replaced by white people who spurn the corporate giants for “local” businesses that have been here for SO LONG — since the mid-aughts! — owned and frequented largely by other white people able to pay higher prices and higher rents and higher mortgages.

So here’s my choice: I can buy dinner from a locally-owned restaurant that’s been here for decades and uses conventional produce and imported noodles and factory farmed meats frequented by the people of color who have lived here for decades, or I can buy it from the three year old place that uses local and organic and fresh everything and is all the rage among the white people who have lived here for three years.

Or I can buy groceries from the locally-owned store that’s twice as expensive (but everything is homegrown!), or the budget Safeway that’s served the neighborhood for decades. I can support the brand-new co-op that sells organic produce, or the Asian market that sells unmarked, unknown-to-me veggies.

It’s not that I disagree with the small-business, locally-owned ethos nor the entirely logical reasons to support the same. But the fact remains that when my neighborhood (which I, middle class white woman with my young family, just moved into) started gentrifying, in classic Portland style, all the new mostly-white people said “we want local shops — let’s start some!” and didn’t ask their neighbors where to buy veggies, where they ate out, who owned and shopped at and was employed at the run-down supermarket. We didn’t move in to this imperfect neighborhood and ask “what’s being done to improve the place we now live, what’s important to our neighbors, and how can we help without taking over?” We moved in and assumed nothing of value was here and we needed to replace it all with trendy, “local” businesses and eateries (never diners!) and then we patted ourselves on the back for being so damn sustainable, so morally superior, doing something good while we bought our organic fair trade latte from the queer artist barista with all the body modifications.

But it’s culture. It’s all culture. We want to shop and eat and be seen at places that feel like ours, that reflect us, that tell others about who we consider ourselves to be and who we want to be. And that’s not wrong, not really. But it’s also what the people who lived here first, who we pushed out to the margins before we decide to take that over too, also want. And the conversation we need to have isn’t local-small-good versus corporate-giant-evil. It’s whose local? Whose good? Who was here first, whose voices have long been marginalized, whose foods are exoticized and whose normalized, who’s making the decisions about what’s valued and what the neighborhood needs?

Those are questions I need to consider as well, no less than “was this peach sprayed, is this asparagus local, is there MSG in this?” It’s not as easy a conversation, nuanced instead of ideologic, complicated instead of obvious. But it’s important. Because “community” isn’t a nebulous concept, it’s the family next door we never talk to, the people who walk up my street to get to the free clinic, the guy who runs the convenience store two blocks away. And the health and sustainability of food isn’t just how it affects and nourishes my family, but how it affects the people who grow it, the people who harvest it, the people who sell it, the people who cook and serve and clean up after it. Only considering part of that system isn’t sustainable; it’s selfish in the extreme.

(Note: I use “we” throughout not as writer-and reader, not to assume the “they” I speak of is not also you, but as writer-and-agent, as indication of my own guilt and reminder to myself of membership in the offending groups. I’m still searching for less alienating phrasing; please forgive any implications of exclusion.)

Dear RMB

Dear Raising My Boychick,

I’ve been cheating on you.

It’s not you, though, it’s me, really. I’m too tired, too time poor, too unable to write long pieces in short bursts in the five minutes at a time I have most days.

(OK, it’s a little bit you, too: you’re just too good. I’ve built you up over the years into something beautiful — if I may say so — something hard to live up to, and some days hard to live with.)

So I started playing around. Just a bit, at first, just for fun, very nearly on a dare, almost just to see what would happen. And, well, I didn’t mean it to, but things got a little serious.

Not a lot, though. One of the things I love about this, let’s say “side project”, is I don’t have to be too serious. There are a lot of quickies.

And, not that I don’t still love you, but this “side project” really gets me, and doesn’t mind that my interests are a bit different, what with the baby around. I keep wanting to talk about food, and you, well, you’ve never given me the feeling that’s something you’re into. Sure, I can bring it up every once in a while, and you’ll let me natter on, but, I get the feeling that you’re sitting there thinking “I hope she doesn’t expect me to be like one of those blogs.”

I don’t want to leave you, though! You’re still my first love, my one true blog, but I hardly have time to sit down with you these days, and, don’t hate me, but your phone interface is… a little clunky. I’d rather just sit and think by myself than bother, sorry to say.

I really think that if you’ll spend some time with the “side project”, you’ll see how much you have in common, really, and how you two can fit together in my life. We all care about gender and social justice, about bodies and parenting, about finding our way out of kyriarchy. You and I, we’re just about all that through the lens of raising the kids, of surviving as a queer fat crazy woman with children. So let’s keep doing that.

But I’ll also be spending time thinking and talking and caring about food and surviving in a rather more daily-need sort of way with Feeding My Boychick. She’s made me so happy in our brief time together.

I hope you’ll forgive me, and that we can grow stronger together through this. I’m sure when we get a chance to sit down and think it through, we can figure out how all three of us can live together in joy.

Your blogger,
Arwyn

How to make chicken noodle soup from scratch when sick with the third cold in a row during the winter of DOOM

Step one: make bone broth
(Two days to two+ months prior)
Make fried chicken/bbq chicken/chicken roast. Save bones in fridge — make mental note not to feed broth to gluten-free friends if using fried chicken. Invent plausible explanation for denial of broth to gluten-free friends. Resolve not serve broth to outsiders. Pray to remember this resolve.
Save onion, celery, other veg ends in fridge or freezer, over course of week — make mental note not to let friends look in freezer and/or invent plausible cover story for storage of, essentially, trash.
Wake up feeling not quite as busy as usual. Toss bones and veggie scraps into pot, add extra celery; cover with water. Look into pot. Make mental note to not look into pot next time.
Take older child to school. Come home, nurse baby, watch Battlestar Galactica. Wonder if the Chief could get any sexier. Remember stove never got turned on. Watch next episode with sleeping baby in lap. Turn on stove.
Add spices.
Look at garlic, look at baby in sling: toss garlic cloves in whole, with skin. Try not to think about it.
Add more spices.
Let boil.
Sit down.
Hear broth boiling over, curse, swear baby to secrecy on both counts.
Get up, turn stove down.
Add more spices.
(Shift laundry, empty dishwasher.)
Sit down. Decide no, the Chief could not get any sexier. Make mental note to look up Chief/Lee slash. Never let anyone know this thought.
Make lunch.
Look at broth — curse, remove grey celery, add more water.
Eat lunch.
Taste broth, gag. Add salt. Taste broth. Glare at broth.
Bake chicken for dinner.
Add extra bones after dinner.
Debate leaving broth on stove overnight. Remember house’s lack of fire extinguisher. Turn broth off, put in fridge before bed.
Sleep. Dream of Chief/Lee.
Put pot back on stove in morning.
Add water throughout day as needed.
Adjust spices.
Admire deep red color of broth, then remember onion skins. Shrug.
Get bored waiting, turn stove off.
Scour kitchen for jars; spend half hour matching jars and lids. End up with two jars without lids, ten lids without jars. Glare at cabinets.
Strain broth into jars, 3/4 full. Put in fridge.
(Optional: empty ice cube trays, put broth in trays, freeze. Transfer to plastic bag when frozen.)
Next day: loosen lids, transfer to freezer. Pray for sturdy glass and no breakages.
Following day: check jars, give thanks, tighten lids. Do not make joke about overscrewed jarheads. Remember dream. Do not smirk.

Step two: Decide to make soup
(Day before)
Watch in dismay as entire house comes down with another cold, two days after FINALLY starting to feel better from the last. Do not go grocery shopping, because COLD OF DOOM.
Look in fridge, cry.
Look in freezer, whimper.
Pull out frozen thigh meat, last two tiny jars of broth.
Take box of tissues and bottle of water to bed.

Step three: Make soup
Engage partner in game of chicken and/or woe-is-me contest over who feels worse.
Lose.
Pull out pot from cabinet. Wash pot, grumbling.
Set pot on stove to heat/dry.
Chop chicken into bite-ish sized pieces.
Remember empty pot on stove, curse.
Add dollop coconut oil.
Realize water had not entirely evaporated; place lid on pot to avoid oil explosions.
Give thanks for high burning point of coconut oil.
Toss chicken in pot as chopped.
Tell older child he may not taste the raw chicken.
Curse keeping him cooped up at home instead of sending to school.
Resolve to pretend not to notice next time he is sick.
Make mental note to investigate chloroform purchase.
Give child kiss; tell him to wash hands before coming back to help.
Stir chicken — turn up heat.
Add spices.
Wash knife and cutting board; yell at tell child not to add any further spices.
Chop onion; add; stir.
Add more spices while child is not looking.
Pull last four, previously-rejected carrots and remainder of celery stalk from fridge. Scrub carrots carrots. Bend celery; shrug, rinse. Chop all.
Add carrots, stir.
Let child add more spices.
Add cup of water, scrape bottom of pot. Pretend “browning” the chicken was on purpose.
Add celery, stir.
Go to fridge to pull out broth. Attempt to pour broth in. Realize broth is still frozen. Curse.
Yell at Tell child yes, that IS a bad word.
Spend ten minutes pouring boiling broth from pot into jars and out again to melt broth.
Wait until remaining frozen chunks of broth melt in pot.
Bring to boil.
Squish last half of garlic bulb; put in jar, hand jar to child to shake.
Teach child meaning of word “vigorous”. Listen to him say “I’m being VIGOROUS” ten thousand times to background of garlic shaking. Make mental note to buy another pair of noise canceling headphones.
Finish peeling garlic, mince finely.
Look at garlic; think that’s a lot of garlic. Remind self to think of it as chemical warfare against cold germs. Contemplate chopping more garlic. Remember noise. Decide against.
Add noodles to boiling soup.
Forget to add peas.
Add garlic. Repress urge to cackle evilly at imminent cold virus death. Resolve to check temperature after dinner.
Boil until noodles are done.
Serve.
Leave clean up for partner.
Brag about cooking skills on social media.
Collapse into bed.

There’s no such thing as “healthy food”

There’s no such thing as “healthy food”.

I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

And repeat:

There’s no such thing as “healthy food”.

It’s true.

There is Health Food, as a cultural construct1, but, as a cultural construct, it is ever changing; currently we are undergoing a cultural shift from low-fat to low-carbohydrate food earning the appellation. But, aside from the fact that we simply cannot agree on what qualifies, there is so such thing as “healthy food”.

One of the most frustrating things about being a fat woman is: everyone is convinced they have The Perfect Diet, and if I would just follow it, the fat would just walk away2. Everyone. Everyone. The veg*ns. The Paleos. The Atkin adherents. The raw food peeps. Eat no fat; eat tons of fat. Eat no grains; eat soaked grains. Eat a fastfood turkey sandwich every day; eat nothing from a store. Everyone is convinced they have The Truth on what is Healthy Food, and what the other guy (or the fat chick) is eating ain’t it.

Or, maybe, for the super open minded and tolerant, they’ll say we’re not quite sure just what healthy food is (except you won’t find it at McDonald’s). But by all the saints and Starbucks, don’t question the idea that there is such a thing as Healthy Food, because surely, if we just apply Science/Prayer/Common Sense/Historical Analysis/Noble Savage Wisdom, we’ll figure it out. And no one will ever die.

What? That’s the logical conclusion to the idea of Healthy Food. If we eat right, we won’t get sick. If we eat right, we won’t get fat. If we eat right, we won’t become diabetic. If we eat right, our kids won’t get autism. (If we eat right, we won’t be infertile, and we’ll be able to have children, who will obviously be free of all illness and defect.) If we eat right, we won’t be crazy. If we eat right, we won’t die from heart attack or stroke or cancer or liver failure or kidney disease or AIDS — and, if we eat right when we’re pregnant, neither will our children.

These are all things believers in the myth of healthy food have said. Half of them to me.

Ok, but let’s say that’s a hyperbolic misrepresentation of the position of Healthy Food’s believers3. Let’s say that when you say “she got diabetes because she ate like crap” you don’t actually mean “she wouldn’t have gotten diabetes if she’d eaten right” which itself could only be true if “no one who eats right gets diabetes”, which is utter bollocks. Let’s say that, instead, you have amazing powers of sight into alternate dimensions and a perfect ability to predict outcomes of statistical likelihoods4 — because that what it comes down to, risk, with some eating patterns carrying, on a population scale, different risk profiles than other eating patterns. You’re just saying healthy food improves your odds, not actually calling healthy food a panacea. But there’s still healthy food and unhealthy food, right?

No.

If we are not claiming there is a food, or a way of eating, that brings perfect health (which is assuming we can even meaningfully define “perfect health” in the first place), then the best we can do with food is risk management. “Healthy” can only exist as a comparative, not absolute, value.

So, compared to what? Which is healthier, raw cultured butter from pastured cows, or cold-pressed organic olive oil? That depends on whether you’re vegan, or lactose intolerant, or live in a dessert without a means of keeping food chilled5, I’d say. Which is healthier, a plate of brown rice spaghetti in fat-free sauce made from tomatoes from your own garden, or a protein shake with artificial sugar substitutes — to a diabetic? Which is healthier, the home cooked meal a growth-delayed, sensory-averse child absolutely won’t touch, or the McDonald’s chicken nuggets they’ll scarf?

Food — all food — brings things that are “good” for us, and things that are “bad”; or, more accurately, things that we need in that moment and things that we can store for later and things we don’t need (right then or at all) and things that we have too much of and things that actively harm us. All foods have all of these — only the specifics and amounts of each change. And the specifics are variable depending on our needs, which not only are different from person to person but each person’s needs change all the damn time.

Given that no food can fill all needs simultaneously6, and eating is a practice in good enough balance over time, how can we call a food “healthy” as an absolute?7 Food is meant to meet our needs8, and can only be evaluated on its ability to do so. Even a Twinkie is “healthy” for a person starved for caloric energy.

So there it is. There absolutely are foods that have a better need-filling to harm ratio in any given situation9. There absolutely are reasons to aim for eating foods that better meet more of your nutritional needs more of the time (though you have no moral obligation to do so). There so absolutely are reasons to call for large corporations to take out unnecessary harmful components from the food they sell and for, at the least, factual labeling about those additives. I disagree with not a piece of that, nor with helping people, should they wish, learn how to feed themselves in a way that meets more of their needs more of the time with less harm. Please, if that’s your calling, keep at it.

But the fact remains: there is no such thing as “healthy food”.

  1. Whence we have the terms “crunchy” and “granola” to describe people — as many would describe me.
  2. SOMEONE BUY ME THIS.
  3. It isn’t.
  4. Remind me not to play craps with you.
  5. Helloooo rancid oils.
  6. For example: the presence of calcium inhibits the absorption of iron (and, pertinent to both me and the Boychick, oral thyroid hormone supplementation), and therefore we need to eat some foods high in calcium and deficient in iron, and others high in iron but lacking calcium.
  7. Even postulating the theoretical existence of a food that perfectly filled all of our nutritional needs simultaneously in a perfectly balanced way: would it be healthy to be bored out of our ever-loving gourds by eating the same exact thing all the time?
  8. Not just nutritional needs, but emotional, ritual, social, and so on — none of these is more or less important than others.
  9. A large apple may do as well for our theoretical Twinkie-eater — though only if they have the teeth to eat it.