My husband and I have been on a diet. I suppose we finally noticed ourselves in the double-mirrored closet doors we pass frequently in daily comings and goings, stopping long enough on one recent occasion to wonder, “Who are they, and what happened to us?” Or perhaps it was that as well as the stereotypical question one considers when the last child leaves the house and the next 50 years of one’s life stretch ahead: Now what will we do? Goodness knows the possibilities are nearly limitless, but considering engaging in new adventures sporting matching muffin tops isn’t an attractive option. Hence, the diet.
Eat less, exercise more. Watch portions, no seconds. Eat whole grains, dark greens, and brightly colored vegetables and fruit. Cut back on the Coke (him) and the wine (me). Not exactly rocket science, I know, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t feel like cooking. It’s easier to slice cucumbers and dip them into a two tablespoon ration of roasted garlic hummus I purchase instead of making it myself. I know. Make my own hummus. I have before. Does that count?
I have been fairly diligent about baking whole grain bread the two of us chew on throughout the week, on mornings toasted and smeared with a bit of apple butter, or at lunch with an ounce of cheese. No cooking involved outside of the initial bake, and it has been fun experimenting.
With the toothsome texture of this loaf made primarily of spelt, at least I’ll know we’ll have thin cheeks.
I think I’m the last person on the planet who has had the Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi, added to her food radar. The first time I saw anything about them was in one of my food magazines about a year ago. Anything with bright veggies gets my attention — especially if it’s salad. But a salad in a sandwich? This had to be good. Pickled carrots, cucumber with cilantro…and pork? I’d never heard of this particular kind of sandwich before. It was interesting that it was on a French baguette, too. An easy search led me to Battle of the Bahn Mi and then to White on Rice for some amazing renditions of this sandwich.
My first attempt follows. After much procrastination, I’ve finally joined the ranks of those who love this sandwich.
Now, I need to find a local place that makes them.
I could eat them every day.
If you’re like I used to be, you try to get some exercise occasionally. Actually, my efforts constituted more than trying for several years. I rose before the sun at least four mornings a week on good weeks, stumbled into my car, and drove to my friend’s house hoping that my light knocking on her door wouldn’t wake the dogs. I often felt that our trudging through the dark streets, sweating up one hill and huffing down the next had little effect. Of course, my stamina had definitely improved, I no longer wheezed when trotting up the stairs, and most of my clothes fit better. Unfortunately, the scale and I haven’t had an amiable relationship for years, so I rarely factored its results into my evaluation about whether my toiling was having any kind of noticeable effect.
The last seven months of no exercise have taken their toll. Although I’ve chosen to completely avoid my scale so can’t have the bad news confirmed, and my clothes haven’t quite taken on the appearance of a wet suit, I’ve begun to puff when I walk up stairs again. My knees hurt, and my feet feel as if they’re carrying around a pack mule’s load. So with little fanfare, and conscientiously avoiding any talk of a resolution, I’ve promised myself to take better care of my body. I know how to do this and so I will. It doesn’t mean giving anything up; it means paying attention to what I eat, and how much.
It also means I have to get out of bed before the sun at least four mornings a week. My good friend will join me two of those days, and I’m hoping I can get my husband to at least think about it on the other two. In the meantime, indulge me my veggies.
Have you ever made spring rolls with rice paper wraps?
On the days I most want to sleep in, I find myself staring into the dark wondering what time it is. Falling back into a sound sleep rarely happens as mental list-making begins. This isn’t something I choose to do, but once it begins, I give in and quietly head downstairs to wait for sunrise.
The most pleasant aspect of being awake at 3 a.m. is the quiet; the refrigerator’s soft whirring and a clock ticking somewhere in the house magnify the silence. If I’m lucky, I will have remembered to bring my book downstairs, finally able to read more than the pathetic page or so I manage to get in each night before nodding off. Otherwise, I’m left to leaf through food magazines or cookbooks, looking for an excuse to organize a dinner to try a few new recipes.
Within a few hours, the room takes on a rosy glow as the rising sun creates a burst of purple, then magenta against the clouds over the mountains in the east. When it finally crests the skyline, brilliant light shoots through the kitchen window, creating a show of patterns against the wall that has me reaching for my camera.
The squeak of floorboards upstairs lets me know that someone else is awake and so I can begin my favorite breakfast. The aroma won’t quite attract attention that bacon does, but it will be a welcomed treat just the same.
When I think of Earth Day, I think more about how I was raised instead of an event marked on a calendar that occurs once a year. I guess my mother was green before her time simply because she needed to be frugal with her earnings. But that’s not all. Her common sense was what was really at work. If you’re a single mother who works split shifts and have three children under the age of six, you put all of them in the tub at the same time and teach them that the water cannot rise above their belly buttons. Absolutely no showers, ever. You rinse your two girls’ very long hair with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with water they wished was warm instead of shockingly cold. You nag your children incessantly until they understand that lights are turned off when not in use and that electricity costs money — which sadly does not grow on trees. You make your children’s clothes, and as much as your younger daughter may not love the idea, pass the older daughter’s clothes down once outgrown. You make shorts from cut off pants, either outgrown, or made possible by knees that have worn through. You purchase less of everything and teach them how to take care of what they have, because if they don’t, they’re not getting anything new. You make popsicles from koolaid poured into ice cube trays and dole them out over a few days like they were gold nuggets. You remind them to bring home from school each day, not only the brown bag their lunch was in, but the baggies their chips and sandwiches were stuffed in to. You teach them to clean their plates at meals, and never, ever to waste food. Ever. Or else.
And you teach them how to eat their vegetables — especially the green ones.
In celebration of Earth Day and smart, frugal moms everywhere who were green long before it was the cool thing to do, this soup is for you. It’s healthy, and made with a bit of this, and a bit of that from my vegetable drawer.