day one: operation floppy hat

…or: my dream to look classically vogue while wearing a sundress in a Scottish field.

Noosh very sadly moved out of the apartment yesterday morning, so when I got home from work in the evening I opened the door to a half-empty living room and the realization that most of that crap was actually mine and dear God how am I going to get rid of all of it before I leave next month. Feeling the nausea that was rapidly transforming into borderline hysteria at the thought, I turned my attention to the refrigerator.

Aim low. Start small. I can do this.

I then spent the next hour and a half cleaning out my fridge. And when I say cleaning, I mean I took a vacuum cleaner to the floor while the shelves lay in heaps strewn about the living room. Of course, there was much produce to be thrown. Carrots hidden in drawers for so long they had decayed into some sort of orange mass (not pleasant), grenadine stains on door shelves that really should not have been left unattended for two years as they were (even more unpleasant), wasabi paste that I did not even know we owned. It was like bargain hunting in thrift store bins for treasures, if ‘treasures’ meant ‘I cannot believe you let yourself keep this crap for so damn long.’

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It was also while I was cleaning that I really thought about food for the first time in a while. And not just what am I going to make for dinner thoughts, but food.

(I’m not quite sure when or why the food blog turned into an online diary, but I’ll run with it.)

I realized yesterday that my relationship with food hasn’t always been seamless. My childhood was spent in the company of Hershey’s kisses, fish sticks, yoohoo chocolate shakes, and other treats hidden behind cardboard casings and neon colors. For some time, it was offset by swimming lessons, horseback riding, and the fast metabolism kids are blessed with. I hate kids. I didn’t know any better, but, you know, I didn’t really need to.

So, my relationship with food has a history of imperfections. In many ways, though, it still does. I’ve been around the block with every fad diet of the post-80s. The seemingly necessary introductory phase into adulthood of wanting to look absolutely perfect masked by profound self-loathing? It hit hard. Atkins, some modified sort of South Beach and Weight Watchers gleaned from online forums (i.e. free), calorie cycling, low fat, low sugar, what have you. There was a really bizarre period during my senior year of high school when I was somehow subsisting on under 600 calories for about 5 weeks. Most of my hair fell out and I had no boobs. Do not recommend. My first year of uni was spent crying myself to sleep over calculus II and mastering the art of binge-eating.

Fun times.

Much of the problem was that I didn’t really know how to eat. I didn’t know what was good; what was good for me; what was healthy, easy, and cheap. I still don’t really know how to eat. I’m quite sure that I’d fall back into old habits of binge-ing if gluten intolerance didn’t make snacking so damn expensive. So, you know, it’s a work in progress.

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Still, my attitude toward food and health in general improved markedly once I moved into my apartment and couldn’t rely on meal plans. (Read: your perspective on most things achieves a sort of transcendent clarity once your parents stop paying for all of your crap.)

I traded packaged goods for a year’s paycheck worth of cookbooks (and of the 80+, only about 5 were diet-related. Victory!).

I learned how to fry an egg (true story: I’d been baking for about 5 years, and I still didn’t know how to properly fry an egg).

I was met with the existence of things like Swiss chard and rhubarb and sheep’s-milk-ricotta (note: I still buy the aforementioned three with very little frequency).

Friends will forever judge me for carrying a woven basket to the Saturday market and having a clean, reusable glass bottle for emergency kombucha runs (kombucha is my current favorite indulgence. It is also an acquired taste. Don’t judge me if you hate it, like my friends do.).

Still, despite the heteronormatively masculine interests and general distaste for shopping, I am a girl. There will always be aspects of my appearance that I loathe. But I quickly realized that the amount I hated myself was greatly outweighed by the amount I loved good food.

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Lately, though, I’ve fallen back into the gastronomic despairs of my first year. After all, I am officially a college graduate. I am officially an independent, 20-something-year-old young woman, responsible for maintaining an apartment, grocery lists, bills, meals, and a full time job (for the very short moment) on her own. Potential employers are not going to hire someone who is able to eat an entire 14″ pizza pie in under 20 minutes (circa May 7, 2013), has traded water and green smoothies for sour mix, and stays up until 3am with salt and cracked pepper potato chips as company (two weeks ago). It’s time for a self-intervention. Not for weight loss (though a nice bonus), but because I want to feel good again. And I figured the best motivation I’d have would be documenting it for the public. Naturally.

(A note to potential employers: I assure you I can be the paradigm of class and efficiency. Do not be deterred.)

I decided right away I wasn’t going to diet. I hate the word, I hate the concept. A diet isn’t a sort of arbitrary restriction of food. It’s a lifestyle. And a lifestyle of carb-counting and fat restriction? Thanks for playing, but no.

Instead, I turned to Ms. Gwyneth Paltrow for guidance.

Now, I am really hesitant about celebrity chefs. Don’t buy ’em, don’t trust ’em. I want a real, trained chef, thank you very much, without some underhanded desire to expand his or her bank account with pretty photos and demurely saccharine life anecdotes wrapped up in a package of self-righteousness and overprivilege. But I have been known to be pretentious in the way unfamous young people typically are, so on the road to serenity and inner peace, I decided to forgo some of my prejudices.

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I am also a hypocrite, seeing as how I’ve owned GP’s latest publication – It’s All Good – on Ebook since its release in April (mum forbade me from buying more physical cookbooks about 3 months ago after I started transporting them back to my parents’ and still have 50 here at the apartment). I was pretty hesitant of it, since so many people have some unfounded hatred of her. I don’t know why? I mean, yes, I do think it’s true that her eating habits are financially unsustainable for an unemployed recent grad’s nonexistent income (as I will be in approximately 15 business days), but the book’s quite palatable. And there are so many lovely photos of her holding green onions with backdrops of perfectly vintage barns and floppy hats and I’ve decided I just want to be her. But her book has gotten pretty big in the foodie-verse the past few weeks (I am a particularly huge fan of Rebecca Harrington’s article on The Cut), so I thought I’d give it a more serious revisit.

It’s actually a pretty solid recipe book. GP did this whole clean-eating thing for some time, which included no wheat, no sugar, limited dairy, no tomatoes (random), no coffee, no eggs, limited meat, and was very pro-vegan. Seeing as how I already eat no wheat, limited dairy, and have a great desire to eliminate most sugar from my diet (as in lifestyle eating behavior), I find the book pretty accessible. At least, for a short cleanse. If you ignore the anecdotes.

I like cleanses. They get a bad rep, but I also don’t like the ones that require you live off of water infused with chili pepper and honey for five days straight. Cleansing itself, though, I think is good from time to time. I usually do take a day or two out of each month to eat 100% clean as a way to recharge. Sometimes it means fasting for most of the day (with the allowance of water and tea to keep from dehydrating), and sometimes it means solely raw fruits and veggies. In any case, it’s a nice break, and keeps me grounded. Unsurprisingly, though, I’ve fallen out of that particular habit in the past few months (read: year). Cue pizza and chips. But I’ve hit a point where (a) I am so puffy from the excess sodium and sugar that 90% of my photos make me look like Jabba the Hutt, and (b) I feel downright shitty. I have a weak stomach as it is, and the weird carb binges aren’t doing me any favors.

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But I think Gwyneth will be useful. She has recipes listed by dietary preference, meaning some of them say ‘Elimination Diet’ which vaguely sounds like some sort of militaristic, gastronomic boot-camp. So that’s exciting. I think a week long cleanse by means of avoiding all those ‘toxins’ she talks about will do me some good.

And I figured the best way to stick to it is by documenting it for you all. Naturally.

As a side note, I’m not sure I will ever look quite good in a sundress, even if I achieve the perfect dress size. It’s not really among the clothing items of my people. The horse races were a good indication. But I do love hats and, I would imagine, Scottish fields.

Quinoa salad and salmon for dinner. Recipe to follow tomorrow.

XOXO.

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