Tag Archives: Digressions

Digression: an open letter to Rush Limbaugh

Dear Mr. Limbaugh,

You don’t know it, but you helped me today. I was at the gym–I hate the gym, Mr. Limbaugh–and I started surfing the channels on the dinky gym TV for a distraction. I landed on CNN, and watched Anderson Cooper replay the footage of you saying those words–the ones that have landed you in such trouble. And suddenly I had so much fast-moving rage coursing through my limbs that my workout was a breeze.

You said this about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke’s decision to testify before Congress about the need for affordable birth control:

“What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex…If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Mr. Limbaugh, I have PCOS–the disease that helped land Sandra Fluke in your cross-hairs. During her testimony, she told the story of a friend who lost an ovary, and possibly her chance at having children, to PCOS. I have never had that experience, Mr. Limbaugh, and I am thankful every day that I have so far avoided it–because I have unfettered access to hormonal contraceptives.

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Digression: Paula Deen and the war of healthy vs. good

So.  Paula Deen has Type II diabetes.

I was talking about this last night with Kate, who’s always my voice of food-related reason.  I told her I was tempted to blog about it.  She made a face.  “Really?  Are you sure you want to go there?”

I wasn’t sure.  At all.

But I’ve had some time to stew about it, and I realized that, yeah, I do want to go there.  Because I think there are some very good reasons to be concerned and indignant about Paula Deen’s announcement.  Just not the reasons a lot of people are giving.

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Digression: “The Fat Trap”

Welcome to January. It’s resolution-making time. Holiday-excess-detoxing time. Vegetables-whole-grains-and-water time. The time when “turning over a new leaf” seems very often to involve bringing down the number on the bathroom scale.

I don’t know if it’s true that losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions–as I’ve heard cited, oh, every year around this time–but it seems entirely believable. I’ve been there: one of the seeming millions, wrestling year in and year out with excess heft, alarmed about the potential consequences for my long-term health, putting my fist down on the table and resolving that this year I’ll finally shake off those pounds.

So when I read this week’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Fat Trap,” I thought it was brilliantly, perhaps cynically on-the-nose for this time of year. I also knew I had to write about it here.

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Digression: moving back in

It’s been windy in the city.  Not cold, not wet, just windy.  Yesterday I left work in the evening, as the wind was picking up, and struck out for Union Square.  I was going to buy a dress for a holiday party.  I wanted something sparkly.

The trees along Market Street were already twined with tiny lights, and the high-rises with their big windows were dappled with fluorescent light from within.  I walked, with the wind blowing my hair into my eyes and mouth, and suddenly I had a bell-clear thought:

It feels good to be living in my body tonight.

And then I realized: it’s been over ten years since I’ve even allowed myself to think that way.

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Digression: best of all possible

Yesterday my father had his second cancer surgery.  As I type, he’s ensconced at the local university hospital, studded with needles and tubes, as his body begins the climb back to wholeness.  For a guy who’s just been laid wide open on an operating table, he’s in stunningly good spirits.

I’m learning to be at ease in hospital wards.  It’s easy to feel a sickly thrill in those halls, but I’ve now seen firsthand that this is a place of healing as well as grieving.  I’ve recovered from the first cold shock of seeing my dad turn into one of those strange drifting figures, gown-clad and clinging to an IV pole.  And it’s finally sunk in how extraordinarily lucky we are.

My father has always been a total optimist.  In his mind, we all have the power to make any unfortunate situation better.  “Mind over matter,” he used to say to me when I skinned my knee or had a sleepless night, and even when I was diagnosed with PCOS.  I hated him for it–hated that he wanted to minimize my pain.  Let me suffer, dammit!  But over the past few months, I’ve seen firsthand how that relentless positivity has buoyed our entire family.  I’m firmly convinced that my daddy will get better, because he’s firmly convinced he will get better.

I’d love not to be in this situation.  It’s been months since I’ve heard my father’s voice–it disappeared after his first surgery.  But I’m trying to feed off the vibes from him, as he spends his time in the hospital diligently practicing his breathing and charming the nurses with his gratitude and good humor.

Instead of sinking into helplessness, I’m looking for things to do.  I’m planning meals for my family.  I’m taking long walks.  I’m collecting jokes and funny stories to tell my father when I see him next.  I’m feeling out our family’s support system, and finding myself profoundly moved at how many people have rallied around us.

Instead of wishing this never happened, I’m finding ways to help us get through it.

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Digression: the rain in Spain

The first two days we were in Barcelona, the city was sticky-hot and swamp-humid. On the third night, toward morning, the humidity broke with a wild thunderstorm. We woke up as the first throaty growls rolled across the hotel courtyard; I rolled out of bed and crept to the window, pulling aside the curtain just in time to see a single shock of lightning split the sky over the ocean. I gasped in awe, prompting a sleep-marbled mumble from the bed: “Is everything okay?”

I stood naked by the window, peeking through the heavy curtains, thinking of all the thunderstorms before–all the times I’d stood in strange rooms, in faraway places, watching the wet sky pulse with electricity.

The time my family got caught in a sudden downpour in Shenandoah National Park, and ran back to the cabin, stuffing our skin-soaked clothes into the dryer and wrapping our hands around mugs of hot chocolate and tea while the thunder rumbled through the trees outside.

The summer I spent as a teenage volunteer in Nicaragua, in a tiny half-rural barrio deep in a volcano-ringed valley, walking home from an everyday dinner of rice and beans, fried plantains and avocado halves, as tiny blue-white sparks flickered in the distant hills and knots of slate-gray clouds gathered on the horizon.

The night I stood on the porch of a schoolteacher’s house in a small town in Panama, after a meal of fried hot dogs and boiled yuca–two of my least favorite foods–watching a raging, alarmingly close electrical storm carve white-hot streaks in the sky right over my head.

I remembered those storms, and the places, and the experience of waiting for the clouds to gather and break, sitting down to fill my belly in a warm cabin or a tin-roofed house or a backyard hung with hammocks.

I stood there at that hotel window in Spain, with the curtain wrapped around my sleepy body, remembering all the times when nothing mattered but good food, and warm faces and free-flowing conversation, and the coziness of being sheltered from the wind and rain and thunder. When all the worries about health and body and beauty and self melted away with the first burst of lightning, leaving nothing but an incredible gratitude for being nourished and sheltered and loved.

“Everything is wonderful,” I said. “Come look.”

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Digression: the dangerous sell

So, this is a food blog.  Most of the time, that means cooking, eating, and then running to my computer to tell the Internet all about it.  I just made some killer Father’s Day eats yesterday that I’m dying to write about.  But they’ll have to wait a bit, for a new kind of post.

Sometimes food is about more than pots and knives the perfect touch of heat.  There’s also culture, and politics, and environment, and a whole host of thorny and complex issues around the act of eating in the United States.  I think about these issues a lot.  It’s only fair that I write about them, too.

So here is the first of what I’ll call “Digressions.”  These are musings about the world just outside my kitchen, and what happens when it finds its way in.

And, for my first trick…a rant about yogurt.

(Disclaimer: potentially triggering subject matter after the jump.)

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