bear - ingn.1 the manner in which one comports oneself; 2 the act, power, or time of bringing forth offspring or fruit; 3 a machine part in which another part turns [a journal ~]; 4pl. comprehension of one's position, environment, or situation; 5 the act of moving while supporting the weight of something [the ~ of the cross].
I've made variations on this bacon-tomato-onion pasta sauce before, but I think the version I tried yesterday evening was the absolute best, the permanent one in my repertoire from now on. I think it's the provolone, an unusual substitution for pecorino romano, that makes the difference. It's from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook called simply Pasta Sauces. Here's how I did it.
5 large ripe Roma tomatoes, or a mix of Roma and conventional tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, chopped fine
6 ounces bacon, snipped into thin strips
2 Tbsp or so olive oil, plus extra
8 oz or so rotini or farfalle (whole wheat works fine)
3 oz finely grated provolone cheese
Pinch cayenne pepper, more if you like
Salt to taste
Sauté the bacon in the olive oil until crisp and rendered; use a slotted spoon to remove it to a small bowl. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté until translucent and soft. Add the tomatoes, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the sauce becomes creamy and thick.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with a little olive oil. When everything's ready, toss the pasta with the hot sauce. Add the bacon and provolone and toss again.
I served this with fruit salad and steamed Brussels sprouts (and also a bowl of pasta with just butter and Parmesan for my little sauce-rejecters. Who am I to complain? MORE BACON FOR ME).
I hadn't felt the baby move yet until yesterday. But in the morning, I was lying in bed and absentmindedly pressing my fingers into my abdomen, feeling the contours of my uterus -- and there it was, someone pressing back into my fingers. Four times, equally spaced. Just a little slow push back.
I lay there for a while, pleased. Mark woke up not too long later, and I told him, and put his hand on the spot and showed him how firmly to press, and we lay quietly and waited -- not long, maybe a minute.
"There -- did you feel that?"
"I did!" Surprise! That's a first. I'm used to weeks and weeks going by, after I first feel movement, before the baby moves when I want it to. Let alone when I'm trying to get him/her to perform for somebody.
Yesterday evening instead of going to the gym we took turns running around Lake Calhoun while the children played at the 32nd Street Beach playground. Mark went first and I went next. I didn't run all the way around, just the 2.5 miles from the playground to where we left the van. Of course I walked to the playground, so I did make it the whole way.
I gave myself plenty of time, telling Mark to meet me back at the van with the children in half an hour. Probably because I wasn't pushing myself to go very fast -- twelve-minute miles -- I enjoyed the whole run. Maybe I've discovered the secret to running and liking it: Running hard is never fun, at least not for very long. But if you get used to running hard, then running easy -- well, it is fun, outside in the nice weather, anyway! And of course, the harder you practice running on a regular basis, the faster you can go and still call it easy. I think I'm starting to understand this running thing.
(If my theory's correct, you have to spend most of your running time NOT enjoying it so that sometimes you CAN enjoy it. But that I can understand a lot better than just never enjoying it at all anyway. It's like working for the weekend, you know?)
So I ran an easy 5 mph, most of the way around the lake. I was running easy because it's starting to feel a little uncomfortable in the pelvis to run hard. I've developed this odd sort of skating, waddly stride that, I think, is the result of unconsciously trying to keep my pelvis a constant distance from the ground. I probably look kind of silly -- maybe no more silly than the other people I see running, some of them very fit-looking, who don't really run, it's more like a gentle shuffling jog.
I enjoyed the sight of my pregnant shadow running along beside me, slowly revolving around myself as I made the circuit of the water. I do look pregnant now -- not with the huge cantilevered sort of bump, but with the sleek maneuverable definitely-starting-to-show sort of bump. I marveled to think what might have crossed my mind, back before I started exercising, at the sight of an obviously pregnant, 35-year-old woman, in maternity running pants and top, running around the lake. I wouldn't have thought ill of her, but I certainly wouldn't have thought she was the same sort of person as me. I probably would have assumed she was one of those addicted-to-running sorts.
Hardly! And yet, there I am, still going.
I carried my cell phone in my hand (no pockets in maternity running wear) in case I had to call Mark and let him know when I got sore and uncomfortable and needed to switch to walking. But instead, with this easy run, I felt better and better as I went. The muscles in my sides seemed to warm, open up, and let me breathe more freely. A tightness seemed to spread across my lower abdomen, but it wasn't a warning sort of tightness, instead it felt supportive and secure, holding everything in firmly. As I came around into the full evening sunlight, the sweat broke on my neck, back, and shoulders, and the breeze off the lake cooled my skin.
When I got back to the van -- I'd beaten Mark there by several minutes -- and slowed to a walk to meet him on his way back from the playground -- I was even a little bit reluctant to stop.
Melissa surprised me yesterday by bringing apples picked from a local apple orchard for the children's tea. Good ones, too -- a crunchy, sweet, light green variety called Ginger Gold, and another green-blushing-to-red, tender-fleshed sweet one -- don't remember the name.
"You're kidding -- apples are ripe already?!"
"Not many but some. We went to pick raspberries, and they said we could try apples off the tree and if we found some that were ripe, pick more."
(I love the bounty of apple orchards. Pick one, take a bite, finish it if you like or throw it on the ground and look for a more auspicious tree.)
I'll give it a few more weeks, I think, even though some of the early apples are my favorites. Most of the year you go around eating Granny Smiths and Fujis from the grocery store, and they're pretty good, you know, the default fruit, nice with peanut butter or a slice of Tilsit cheese, but nothing really special. And then autumn comes, and you pick apples from the apple orchard and -- wow! It's like a completely different fruit. Every variety is like a completely different fruit. Mind-blowing, how good the orchard apples can be in September and October.
Christy P. pointed me to a blog item/discussion thread at the NYT Well Blog asking "What Is 'Normal' Eating?" I started to read through the 150+ responses and after a short while got very fatigued with "arrrrgh! how wrong most of these people are!" feelings, and had to stop. It is a good question, but I don't think there is much wisdom to be found there in the answers. Maybe you are interested, though -- so here it is.
I will use it for a springboard to write about something I've been thinking lately. I've been mulling over whether it is at all helpful to think about overeating -- garden-variety overeating, not obviously disordered behavior like binge eating -- as a mental illness (an organic one -- body chemistry is involved) in and of itself.
I started wondering about that as I was reading through (and participating in) the discussion at Megan McArdle's. A lot of people, both the obese and the anti-obese, are obsessed with "blame" -- Should we blame obese people for their obesity? Should we avoid blaming them? Should we blame the food processing industry? Advertising? Is blame counterproductive? Are overeaters rational actors in an unhealthy environment? Who's responsible for obesity?
These facts are unassailable:
- Rigorous control of one's behavior, when it really is rigorous, reverses obesity.
- Most people who attempt such rigorous behavior don't actually succeed in producing it long-term. Some think they do and are wrong. Others are aware of their repeated failure.
- It is really, really, really difficult for people to eat less than their bodies tell them they should.
Whatever our eventual philosophy turns out to be, I think we must refuse any line of thinking that either leads us into "self-control is useless" OR into "obese people must have no self-control." The first is contradicted by facts, and also rather insulting to human agency and free will. The second is contradicted by the claims of many, many obese individuals, and also rather unkind and insulting to specific humans. Let's be charitable and take people at their word when they say they are trying hard, okay? And at the same time let's recognize that a portion of the people who try hard really do succeed, and their hard work and success is not meaningless, okay?
Which is why I keep coming back to the overeating-as-mental-illness model:
- It's individual: no two people can be treated exactly alike.
- It's not immutable: hard work, often extraordinarily hard work, and treatment, has successfully treated it.
- Yet not everyone can overcome it: many people have to live with and compensate for it their whole lives.
This leads me to two conclusions:
1. It is dishonest and dangerous to 'normalize' overeating (that is, to say it's just another kind of "normal") in a misguided attempt to make sufferers feel better about themselves or to remove stigma. It is and always will be intrinsically disordered (to borrow a phrase from another field of human behavior) to eat, over long periods of time, more food than is necessary for physical health.
(I say "over long periods" because it's pretty obvious that humans rationally anticipate future scarcity by building up fat stores, and also that it's normal human behavior since time immemorial to use food in social celebration during special feasts. Neither of these, however, describes the constantly grazing, every-plate-looks-like-Thanksgiving behavior that characterizes the overeating I see around me.)
2. And yet, it is unfair, unkind, and unhelpful to shame and blame people, or categorize them as lazy or without self-control, because they have not succeeded at the kind of drastic, long-term change that would reverse obesity. It's really hard. I don't say it's impossible because some succeed. But many don't. It doesn't mean they can't. It does mean that it's asking more than most people can handle without a significant commitment of resources that they might, reasonably, be unwilling to make.
We know better now than to shame people because they can't handle, say, bipolar disorder or drug dependence on their own. We know, too, that it's not pointless to try to encourage people to do the hard work of regaining control of their lives. Maybe we need a similar sort of sanity about overeating.
What does this have to do with normal eating? Well...
I question whether "normal eating" is really what recovering overeaters need to be shooting for. I'm not sure it's possible to eat normally, once you've been a compulsive overeater, just as most people agree that it's not possible for a recovering alcoholic to use alcohol like a "normal" person. I think it will always be somewhat artificial, never natural, for me to consume the amount of food I physically require. I am able to celebrate with food, to enjoy it as a social interaction, to feast; but always with a kind of calculation and attention, like a diabetic who must remember to measure blood sugar and apply corrections to the daily insulin dose.
Appropriate eating -- healthy eating -- for a recovering overeater is not the same as for someone who naturally eats "normally." Part of the reason that so many people in threads like the one at the NYT blog are so wrong wrong WRONG-- is because they fail to see that normal behavior is not what's best for abnormal people, and the corrections that abnormal people need to make are, well, ridiculous to try to apply to the whole population, especially the healthy ones.
One of the elements of modern (often Evangelical, but sometimes Catholic) spirituality that I find most foreign is when people talk about Christ as being "my best friend." It seems an even more familiar form of the relationship suggested by hopeful missionaries, "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?"
It's possible to err in either direction on these things, and I make no representation that I am a perfect Christian, but I don't think of myself having a "personal relationship" with Christ, certainly in a "best friends" kind of way.
The ways in which I would normally envision Christ are not guy-next-door, my-buddy-the-savior kind of images. Christ the King, enthroned in eternal splendor into union with whom all Christians wish to enter for life everlasting. Christ Crucified, pouring out his blood for the sins of the whole world. Christ Risen, triumphing over the reign of death which had doomed humanity since the Fall. Christ in the Eucharist, kneeling before the glittering monstrance in which the Body of Christ forms the center of a sunburst of golden rays, with the crucifix above and the tabernacle behind.
I have a reaction to that sort of thing that's pretty similar to Darwin's, but I don't think he's got the right idea of what that "best friend/personal relationship" thing is really trying to express.
I think the "personal relationship with Jesus Christ" -- a phrasing that is really foreign to Catholics -- is best understood as an attempt to express two things:
1. The perfect knowledge Jesus Christ has of each individual. A one-way sort of knowledge. That He knows me better than anyone else knows me, including myself.
2. The intention Jesus Christ has to save each individual -- that Jesus Christ didn't just die to save everybody, He died to save me.
Not being of the Protestant persuasion, I naturally prefer to emphasize -- when I think of salvation -- a more corporate, Church-centered, we're-all-in-the-barque-of-Peter-together view. But the individualistic view is also a true way of looking at salvation. And I am pretty sure the "personal relationship with Jesus" thing is an expression of it.
The problem with the "best friend" imagery associated with belief in such a personal relationship isn't its intimacy, it's that it implies an equality that isn't there. I am not Christ's equal; but "friendship" implies symmetry. And yet it's hard to find a modern archetype of a relationship to point to which expresses the vast asymmetry and the tight intimacy at the same time. We are divorced from an idea of the relationship between a man and his Lord and Master as an intimate one. If we can envision a relationship like this that is as intimate or more intimate than the best of friends, we will be getting back on track.