Archive for the 'food' Category

the wound

A reader alerted me to the fact that it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week right now (thank you, Addison!). Please click the link and learn more.

I was about to publish a different post, and mention NEDAweek in a note at the bottom. And then that didn’t feel right, so I wrote this. I didn’t have a lot of time. My mom is watching Eden in the other room. I hope you’ll forgive any mistakes or general hurrying. But I wanted to say:

This is a serious, serious issue. It erupts on the infected site of the wound girls and women have sustained from a world that enforces the flat, cold idea that our worth is based primarily on the way our bodies look. It festers. It takes different, complicated forms. The definitions can seem unhelpful and nebulous. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that bad. Sometimes you don’t even know about it. Sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with being skinny. Sometimes it results in death.

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Kate on February 26th 2014 in beauty, body, food, weight

the only one eating all of the doughnut holes (a story about choosing a career)

Louie CK does a bit about cookies at a party- he keeps sneaking back to take another, pretending to “rediscover” them every time. “Oh, look! Cookies! I should probably have one…” Bear said it reminds him of himself. Brenda said it reminds her of herself. It reminds me of myself, too, so I don’t know who all of the other people at that party are. The ones who aren’t taking the cookies. But I wanted to share a story about a time when this happened to me.

It starts during the time when I still didn’t know what I was going to be when I grew up.

When I went to grad school, my plan was to grab the Master’s degree on my way to the PhD, and head straight through to the end, where I’d be a professor in a foggily half-imagined future full of diplomas and a sense of quiet security. But then, a few months into grad school, I realized that no, I’d gotten the whole thing wrong, I wasn’t going to become a professor, ever. I wasn’t cut out for it. I didn’t have that drive that the other students had—that urge to burrow into a text, that finely honed focus. I wanted to talk in broad swaths, and I couldn’t ever make up my mind. I wanted to study big, wide-open topics, and I didn’t care if I never read in the original text. And worst of all, I was bad at theory.

So, with only half a year of my Master’s left, I had to scramble to figure out the rest of my life. Or at least a viable beginning for it.

My thesis advisor said, “Maybe you should try to write,” but before I listened to her, I decided to go to cantorial school.

I had been a lay cantor at my synagogue in NJ since I was a teenager, so I knew I liked it, and actually, I’d once been so sure I’d become a fulltime cantor that I picked my college for its music school and proximity to my synagogue, so I could work all the way through. I started college as a vocalist in the music education program, because I’d heard that a music ed degree was desirable in cantorial school. And then I was miserable. And I sat in a practice room after music theory class crying and writing a poem about the grand piano with its comforting bulk and its sharp, punishing teeth, or something. At juries, the voice faculty told me that my voice was not “bel canto” enough. I googled it. It meant “beautiful singing.” It was beautiful singing enough for the congregants, damn it! I thought bitterly. Then I went on a bitter walk in the rain.

“The cantorial influence is too strong,” said my voice instructor, an enormous, barrel-chested man with a red beard who sang with the New York City Opera and told tales of his own grandeur. “You have to give up singing at your temple if you want to be a true classical singer.”

I didn’t want to be a true classical singer. I wanted to sing haunting, ancient Jewish melodies. That was the whole point.

(singing Jewish music makes me feel mysterious and sexy, like this. source)

So an academic year after I arrived, I stood up and walked out of a piano test.

“I’m done,” I said to the panel of judges. “I quit.”

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Kate on December 4th 2012 in fear, food, life, work, writing

Learning to eat on Thanksgiving

I wrote this for the Huffington Post, but I wanted to share it here, too: 

I am at a point in my life where I can order pasta.

I know, I know: there are bigger things. There are people starving in the world, and you want a pat on the back for eating some spaghetti? I can practically hear my Austrian great grandmother, who worked in a sweatshop, say it.

But still. Little victories. And the way we women sometimes punish ourselves, deprive ourselves, and criticize ourselves is a big thing. It’s bigger than us—it is as big as a whole culture.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because of the food, of course. And I’m Jewish, so I have a lot of holidays to pick from. My second favorite is Yom Kippur, which has no food at all, only fasting. I think they balance each other out.

My dad, a diabetic who can’t eat it himself, makes an amazing moist stuffing. He makes an amazing turkey, too. One of my grandmothers makes a magical dish we’ve always called “green rice,” which has just a tiny bit of broccoli mixed into rice and a lot of what appears to be and probably is Cheez Whiz. My other grandmother is family-famous for her scrumptious plum cake. My mom, along with providing a host of somewhat less exciting but healthy veggie dishes, makes this decadent pasta casserole: penne with melted gruyere and caramelized onions and green beans. Oh my god, it is heaven.

(source)

Four years ago, when I moved to New York, I stopped ordering carbs when I went out to eat. I was always too “full” for dessert, too. It’s normal, this pattern—you see it everywhere.

I wasn’t overweight, but I didn’t feel thin enough. It’s not always clear where thin enough is, where to draw the line. Especially when, like me, you are struggling with other aspects of your appearance. You think, “If I was just thinner the rest wouldn’t matter as much.”

Somewhere along the way, we learn that food is out to get us. It’s dangerously seductive, like a young, buxom woman in a red dress when you’re a married man with two kids and a senate seat. We women are always cheating on our thinner selves with food. We’re always apologizing for eating, making excuses, laughing at ourselves.

“Oh you know me, I can’t help myself when there’s chocolate around! I’m a bad girl!”

Straight to my thighs…” we mutter as we bite into something mouthwateringly good.

“I shouldn’t…”

We live deep inside a culture that is always yelling at us to diet. That assumes we all, every single one of us, want to be thinner.

And you know what they say about people—if you tell them enough times how they should feel, they might just start feeling that way.

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Kate on November 21st 2012 in beauty, body, food

everyone is supposed to be exercising all the time

I grew up really healthy. It was weird, at the time. My mom grew her own vegetables and I was forever picking basil for pesto. We got meat from a friend’s family, who raised and butchered cows, and everything else (blocks of mozzarella, knobby carob treats, the occasional bagel chip, palak paneer) came by truck from an organic co-op. We didn’t eat sugar, we didn’t eat processed foods. Store- bought milk seemed pretty special at the time. Once, when I spilled it, I cried over spilled milk.

I mean, we were just a weird family. My mom is a La Leche League leader and there was always a circle of nursing women sitting around, with cloth slings, in my living room, or at the park, or wherever we were, eating chunks of watermelon in the summer, eating carrot sticks always, but not from the bag.

(like, this was going on EVERYWHERE. source)

We were super weird—homeschooling/unschooling, liberal Jews who didn’t watch TV. Not at all. No TV.

“Do you even have a microwave?” the kids at Hebrew School asked me.

I burst out laughing. Of COURSE. Who doesn’t have a microwave? Are you kidding me? What am I, Amish?

In retrospect, it was a fair question.

Now that I’m all grown up and living in Brooklyn, it turns out that everyone wants to be like my mom. Well, not totally. I mean, they’re not gonna go so far as to give birth in an inflatable tub in the living room and not send their kids to school, of course. But they want to eat like her. It is totally, epically uncool to not care about what you are putting in your body. They want to exercise all the time.

I rebelled by eating a lot of junk food in college and never, ever exercising (I’m a badass). My whole family exercises. My dad and brothers lift weights for hours every day, my mom used to, and now she does tons of yoga and pilates. I am the only one who doesn’t do anything. I have been known to flaunt doughnuts.

(i mean, look at it, it’s gorgeous! source)

But I find myself drifting backward into the future, trying to remember to always make vegetables, joining a CSA to force myself to make vegetables, spending extra money on grassfed meat even though it’s so much more expensive that it pisses me off. The one thing I’m not doing is exercising. I’m not. I’m not exercising at all. And I should be. Because that is what conscientious people who respect their bodies do. That is what healthy people do. They do yoga. They go running. They go running and then do yoga. They get off their goddamn asses and do SOMETHING about their heart rate. Sex doesn’t count. Does it count? Should I do it more aerobically? How? I pace when I’m on the phone. That should count for something. Once every three or four days, I do a deep bend, all the way over, to almost touch my toes. It’s like yoga, except it only takes about five seconds and I’m not actually touching my toes, because I actually can’t touch my toes.

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Kate on November 2nd 2012 in beauty, body, exercise, food, life, new york

the ice cream sundae challenge

I had this crazy dream last night. In it, I was eating an ice cream sundae. Let me just tell you about this for a second:

It was in a fluted plastic cup. At the bottom were melted heaps of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, buried under a thick layer of hot fudge, which was studded with brownie chunks. Fluffy piles of whipped cream hid cool, slick slices of strawberry and banana.

Someone else was holding the sundae. I don’t know who, but I was probably not supposed to be taking so much of it. And I kept spooning enormous bites into my mouth. It was heaven. Cool and creamy and sweet and textured.

I kept having more. Another bite, another bite. I was trying to eat quickly, glancing furtively around. I wanted so much more, but I was trying to hide what I was doing.

And the whole time, I was thinking, “This is so bad for me. I wonder how many calories are in this thing? I shouldn’t be eating this. This is all sugar. Sugar kills. I am basically killing myself right now. I am doing to gain so much weight if I keep eating like this. I need to stop.”

In my dream, I was embarrassed and guilty. For eating an ice cream sundae that didn’t actually exist.

(source)

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Kate on June 13th 2012 in body, family, food, weight

black women and fat and a photo of a girl wearing someone else’s face

It is not totally rare that I am moved to tears, but this time it was for a good reason.

I was standing in a sleek little gallery on the Lower East Side, music beating in the background, as I looked at an enormous photograph of a little black girl holding the image of a white model’s face over her own. The colors were vivid, almost intense, but simple. The girls skinny legs and arms jutted. She was sitting, clutching the other face against her own. It had been torn from a magazine. It was a makeup ad. The girl was a Ugandan orphan. I wanted to peek under her mask and see her real face, but she wouldn’t let me.

The photographer was Gloria Baker Feinstein. She was in the city for her exhibit. She’s spent a lot of time in Uganda, and she established a non-profit for some of the amazing orphaned children she met and grew close to there (their art was also on display at the gallery). She also took a bunch of pictures of women eating cake, after reading this blog. And they are amazing.*

But anyway—I met Gloria in person for the first time, and she was wearing a leather jacket and being unassuming and quietly awesome and badass, and her photos made me cry.

And then that one, the one of the girl holding the pale face up to cover her own, dark one, made me suddenly think of this Op-Ed I read in the New York Times the other day. One that keeps bothering me. One that I don’t know how to talk about because it is by a black woman, talking about black women, and I am a pale, Jewish woman who is probably not fit to comment.

But I can’t help it. I’m commenting.

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Kate on May 10th 2012 in beauty, being different, body, exercise, food, weight

You only think the bullies are helpful

A therapist once said a really helpful thing to me.

She said, “Even if you stop thinking negatively, you’ll still succeed.”

She was talking about my grades, in college.

I think it was the end of my junior year, and my dad had just been diagnosed with gastroparesis. So his stomach was paralyzed, and he couldn’t eat without being in incredible pain. It did not look like he would be able to eat again, at that point. I called the counseling center and got myself an appointment, and then I found myself sitting across from a pleasant-looking, nondescript woman who has mostly been lost to memory, with a standard soothing voice, who listened to me talk about how scared I was that my dad would die. How scared I’d always been about my dad dying, really, since he’d always been sick. And what would happen to my life if my dad died? I couldn’t imagine. It seemed like there was nothing, after that.

I came back for a second session, but this time I talked about how enormously important it felt for me to get perfect grades. To justify the cost of college. To make something of myself. To be good at what I was doing. To prove myself.  I had chosen a state school for its affordability and proximity to my job, but I still felt like I couldn’t rest for a second, because I needed to make sure I was succeeding.

(I think I’m bad at figuring out what this should unlock)

So I felt bad in general, and also, my dad couldn’t eat.

And that’s when this nameless therapist who I could no longer pick out of a small coffee shop told me that I would still succeed, even if I stopped being so mean to myself. She said hard work isn’t about guilt. It’s not really motivated by that desperate feeling of “what if I fail?” We just believe it is. She said that kind of thinking gets in the way of working hard. The results have nothing to do with it. They have to do with something else entirely.

And that idea caught on, for some reason, and I remembered it.

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Kate on April 30th 2012 in beauty, body, exercise, fear, food