I used to think the goal was to get over things—to deal with them once and for all, to snap an issue closed like slamming a locker door, washing my hands of it forever and always. What I know now after all these years is that there are some things you don’t get over, some things you just make friends with at a certain point, because they’ve been following you around like a stray dog for years.
That’s how this is for me. I’ve been catastrophizing about my weight since I was 6. I’ve lost the pounds and gained them, made and abandoned plans and promises, cried tears of frustration, pinched the backs of my upper arms with a hatred that scares me. And through all that, I’ve made friends and fallen in love, gotten married and become a mother. I’ve written and traveled and stayed up late with people I love. I’ve walked on the beach and on glittering city streets. I’ve kissed my baby’s cheeks and danced with my husband and laughed till I cried with my best friends, and through all that it didn’t really matter that I was heavier than I wanted to be.
The extra pounds didn’t matter, as I look back, but the shame that came with those extra pounds was like an infectious disease. That’s what I remember. And so these days, my mind and my heart are focused less on the pounds and more on what it means to live without shame, to exchange that heavy and corrosive self-loathing for courage and freedom and gratitude. Some days I do just that, and some days I don’t, and that seems to be just exactly how life is.
Back to Lynne Rossetto Kasper. I wake up in the morning and I think about dinner. I think about the food and the people and the things we might discover about life and about each other. I think about the sizzle of oil in a pan and the smell of rosemary released with a knife cut. And it could be that that’s how God made me the moment I was born, and it could be that that’s how God made me along the way as I’ve given up years of secrecy and denial and embarrassment. It doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that one of the ways we grow up is by declaring what we love.
I love the table. I love food and what it means and what it does and how it feels in my hands. And that might be healthy, and it might be a reaction to a world that would love me more if I starved myself, and it’s probably always going to be a mix of the two. In any case, it’s morning and I’m hungry. Which is not the same as weak or addicted or shameful. I’m hungry. And I’m thinking about dinner, not just tonight, but the next night and the next. There are two kinds of people, and I’m tired of pretending I’m the other.
Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Nigella Express
I have a serious thing for Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. I read them like novels, and at the end of especially long days, I read them in bed before I go to sleep—comfort food for my brain. She writes about food in a way that connects with me, that captures appetite and passion and celebration and flavor in a way that moves me. Back when I couldn’t admit my own hunger, Nigella’s books became very dear to me because she did just that in a way that I wasn’t yet able to do. She’s not at all daunted or afraid of her appetites, and she has been a guide for me along that path.
I’m not always wild about flourless chocolate cake, and it’s not for lack of trying. Because Aaron eats gluten-free, we’ve tested lots of flourless chocolate cakes and tarts and brownies, and often they seem kind of egg-heavy to me, kind of like a not-so-good custard. But the almond meal in these brownies makes them heavy and dense in such a good way, and the addition of almond extract makes them even more fragrant and rich. I cut them into quite small pieces, almost like fudge. Heavenly.
And I’ve found that almost any good chocolate works for these—semisweet chips, a dark chocolate bar cut into chunks, anything. You really can’t go wrong. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 eggs, beaten
1 1⁄2 cups almond meal or ground almonds
1 cup walnuts, chopped