Saturday, 25 June 2016

Fox On The Run

I hit the ground running as soon as my plane landed in Saskatoon last Friday. A quick cab ride straight to rehearsal and boom! I'd missed over 2 days of rehearsals due to my Vancouver teaching job, so I had some catching- up to do. This show is a play-through, meaning that there is music in almost every moment of the play. Outdoor puppet theatre is hard, sweaty work, and tremendous fun. Doing a show based on Cree legends with a partially Cree cast means that we've done some interesting things as a cast, including smudging, feasting, and going to a sweat lodge (amazing, spooky, spiritual, and very, very, very hot). We actually met with a nutritionist yesterday, who gave us all advice on staying healthy and hydrated once we actually start performing outdoors in the sun and heat (after that sweat lodge it should be no big deal). It's one of the many supportive things this company has done for us, and I think it's going to be a wonderful 6 weeks, as long as I can sort out the fragile balancing act between staying hydrated and not having to pee for the entire length of every single show.
Where your mountains at, South Saskatchewan? 
Because we are rehearsing at a synagogue, we have Saturdays off, a thing that is almost unheard-of in live theatre. So while I had to jump straight in to work last Friday I was then rewarded with an instant day off. First things first: I managed to find a bicycle so I could commute between home and work. The little used 6-speed folding (!) Schwinn that I found for a dirt-cheap price has started several conversations with total strangers so far. I've affectionately nicknamed it the Blue Snail, because its small wheels make my rides a bit slower than I'm used to. The selling feature for me was its cute little basket, which makes it possible to transport lunches, scripts and groceries without having to carry stuff on my back- essential in this prairie heat.

One thing I wanted to make sure of was sticking to my no-flour, no-dessert eating plan while I was here; and I was nervous, because Saskatchewan is a land of bakers (is it me, or is this province especially obsessed with Long John-type donuts?). Surprisingly, my salvation came from the very place I feared most: the Saskatoon Farmers Market.

Browsing around there last Saturday I noticed the usual sweet and sticky baking stalls... but also a company called Fit Fuel In A Jar. Salads to go? All nicely packed into 750ml Mason jars? Requiring no prep or cooking on my part? SOLD. I bought just 4, since I wasn't totally convinced I'd like them... and ended up devouring them for my lunches because they are straight-up delicious.

Here's the skinny: each jar costs 11 dollars. And yes, that's a bit pricey. But honestly, if I bought all the stuff I'd need to make them, I wouldn't spend much less than that, and the convenience of having healthy meals all packed and ready to go each day is worth the extra cost. You can order online, and either have them delivered (in the Saskatoon area) or pick them up from the farmers market on Saturdays. Because they're large and include protein, I find them to be a perfect lunch (or dinner): they're fresh, packed with flavour, and yet light enough on these hot days to keep me energized for the afternoon half of rehearsals. Here are some of the meals I've tried:

  • ginger chicken & soba noodles
  • sundried tomato & lentil salad
  • chicken, mandarin & cranberry salad
  • thai steak salad
This week I ordered 10 salads (the ones above, plus a peanut shrimp salad) and picked them up this morning. They just fit in the back of the Blue Snail. I rode gingerly home - Saskatoon streets have a LOT of potholes- with 8 of them in the back and 2 more swinging from my handlebars. (It reminded me of one of my beloved Dorothy Sayers novels, where Lord Peter Wimsey is fretting over the transport of some wine of rare vintage and Bunter reassures him: "The damage is at present negligible, my lord.")
Big salads, little bike. 

I'm already scheming to reproduce these once I return to Vancouver. Does anyone have a business like this in YVR? If you know of one, get at me, because I can't find one. I'm almost tempted to start my own meal-in-a-jar company...

Of course, it's not all healthy eating, all the time. A girl needs her breakfast fix once in a while (it's been mostly granola, yogurt and fruit during the week). 
Something I noticed working here last year is that breakfasts are damn expensive in this town. Even the so-called diners and greasy spoons want to charge you something like 11 bucks for a basic 2-egg-bacon job that you'd pay less than 8 dollars for in Vancouver. What gives, Saskatoon? 

I figured that since I was gonna get fleeced any which way, I might as well get something a little more interesting. After some research on Google, I decided to check out The Hollows, which is in trendy Riversdale, pretty close to where I'm staying. 
You would be forgiven for thinking that The Hollows is actually a run-down Chinese restaurant called Golden Dragon, since that is what the signs on the building (not to mention the impressive neon dragon) would have you believe. They seem to have taken it over lock, stock and barrel, which is part of its Hipster-ish appeal. The menu embraces local ingredients, and a mix of old and modern cooking techniques. Brunch (served weekends) varies from the delicious-sounding Trout Benedict to Pear & Lavender Oatmeal (I want to try that next time) to Breakfast Poutine (which 2 people raved about independently when I mentioned that I was going to The Hollows), to my choice, which was called, prosaically, Rice & Beans. I wouldn't say it was outstanding; it was okay, and more to the point it contained neither potatoes nor bread and so it was okay for me to eat. Far more entertaining than my breakfast was the unexpected company of 2 people from Tourism Saskatchewan, who were filming a segment in The Hollows, and wanted to share my table as it head the best light in the place. We ended up having a nice chat, and they told me about some places I should check out while I was here. My table companions wanted to film their actress drinking a cocktail, so at 11am I found myself sipping a Gin Fizz while the woman across from me had a Rhubarb Margarita. The Fizz was an interesting mix of fizzy and creamy, and both drinks were very attractive. Overall, I'd splurge on The Hollows once or twice more during this contract, if only to try more cocktails and maybe their dinner menu. 

This is Fenster. Fenster ate plastic last week and it got stuck in his intestine.
Now he has a cone head and a big incision in his tummy.

It's already 6pm, and so my day off is nearly done- so soon! I spent a rainy afternoon playing salsa music on Spotify and dancing around the kitchen watched by a sceptical cat, whilst cooking up sausages (shout out to Benlock Farms, which sells amazing Angus beef products). 

Another intense week awaits. At least I know that my little area of the fridge is stuffed with an assortment of tasty meals-in-a-jar, ready to carry me through the next 6 days. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

No-Mayo Apple Slaw Perfection

Well, that last post got a little heavy, didn't it? Food addiction? Who wants to read about that on a food blog, for heaven's sake? Judging by the mostly awkward silence on my Facebook feed, most of my friends didn't really know what to say either. But I swear, whatever your predilections, you are going to want this apple slaw as soon as a heat wave hits your part of the world. 

Vancouver is stinkin' hot right now, and I know all I want to eat is fruit, meat, and veggies. Which is basically what I should be eating, so that's a win. This recipe combines two of these things and pairs really well with meat. Scoop a big spoonful of this slaw onto your plate, barbecue up some meat or fish (who wants to turn the stove on when it's this hot?) and add a corn on the cob. Voila: dinner! 

The inspiration for this slaw originally came from Bandida's Taqueria, which serves it with some of their entrees, but other than noticing that it had apples and cilantro in it and was crunchy and refreshing, I didn't really take much note of the ingredients. I knew I wanted to try making it though, so I started to Google "apple slaw no mayo". The dressing is taken right from this recipe, except I halved the amount of honey. I tinkered with the veggies, but my claim to brilliance has to be adding mint leaves and subtracting cilantro. Cilantro is a very... polarizing herb. I happen to love it, but I know that many of my friends do not. Plus there's just something about apple and mint together. It's the perfect summery combination. I recently brought it to a BBQ potluck and everyone cooed over it. The cool lime-y, vinegar-y apple-y crunch of this slaw will taste good and you'll feel less guilty about basically living on barbecue meats during the heat wave. As if there was anything to feel guilty about. 

First, pick your base veggies. You can grate or chop red cabbage, green cabbage, or, if you're a lazy person like me, buy a bag of this mix. It has cabbage, brussels sprouts and kale among other things, and it's pre-washed and everything. Maybe pick out large chunks or slightly off-putting brown bits.

Grate some carrots and chop some mint leaves. You could matchstick the carrots, but why? 

Next, make the dressing. It's so easy!
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
a dash of cayenne powder
salt and pepper to taste

Add at least one crisp, sweet apple. (Add more of everything if you're feeding a large party. And double the dressing.) You want to add the apple right before you add the dressing, otherwise it will brown very quickly. That's why I make the dressing first. I actually do matchstick chop the apple, but my knife skillz aren't great, so they're kind of chunky matchsticks. 

Oh, and as you're serving the slaw, you could sprinkle some nuts or seeds on top for added crunch. I was going to add shelled pumpkin seeds, but what I came up with was walnut pieces, and they were so great I haven't deviated from this since. 


Monday, 6 June 2016

On Addiction

I thought about the bag of newly-bought bagels in the freezer. And then I thought that I could keep making excuses forever. So I wrote a note on the communal whiteboard in the hall: I let my roommates know that they were welcome to finish off that bag of bagels. 
That was 2 weeks ago and I haven't had a piece of bread, a muffin, a dessert, or pasta since. 

Two years ago I wrote a post on my other blog, but I never published it. It was called "Loss". Here are some of the things I wrote:

I had an email from my employer, asking me to lose weight (I was a performer) ... I am angry that they took it upon themselves to ask me to lose weight even as I admit that it spurred me on to do it... I am proud of the self-control that took me to this point (I lost over 20 pounds), even as I am angry at a culture that judges women for being overweight... I wanted people to hire me, to like me, to DATE me. Did I want to stack the odds against me even more by being fat as well as old?

It's 2 years later. I don't work for that company anymore. A guy fell in love with me in spite of my age and my curves; a guy who treats me every day as if I'm the sexiest girl in the world. I have worked several times for a burlesque company that celebrates ALL types of performers: from drag queens to big curvalicious women to little skinny guys and everything in between. 

 I spent a lot of last year feeling kind of sick. Despite a lot of visits to the doctor I never found out why, but the fatigue, the sore throat, the faint-but-always-there headaches, the low-grade nausea? They weren't exactly conducive to working out. They were extremely conducive to comfort eating and laying around, it turns out.  So I gained weight. And yeah, I gained back all 20 of those pounds, because I was not feeling my best, and mainly because I stopped being careful about what I ate.

I'm in okay shape. I walk to work. I bike to lots of places. I did a 20km hike last Saturday. I run (sporadically). But I like food, and I love sugar, and it makes me put on weight. 

I am addicted to sugar, in a lock-up-your-jellybeans kind of way. I have indulged in some addict-like behaviours: 
I can't ignore sweet stuff if it's in the house. 
I have bought large amounts of sugary stuff and eaten way too much and then put the rest of it way down deep in the garbage or run water over it so I won't be tempted to have any more. 
I have felt ashamed about how much of something I've eaten. 
I don't feel in control of it. 
I resolve to do better and then I fuck up. Again. And again. And again.

Here are some things about being a sugar addict:
  • It's not like I weigh 300 pounds or anything. I have 20-30 pounds I'd like to lose. That's all. That's like, 3 cats. Or an accordion. Or a toddler. So to call myself an addict feels kind of over-the-top in a woo-woo, self-help, jargonistic kind of way. I'm not totally comfortable with it. But then, I'm not totally comfortable with my behaviour around certain types of food, either. So. 
  • You can't quit eating food (duh), so you need to be careful every day about what KIND of food you're putting in your body. 
  • If you're like me, the hard part isn't the first few weeks, when you're all fired up with righteous zeal, and it's not the next few months, when the weight is dropping off and people are showering you with compliments. It's when you get really comfortable in your new, slimmer body and you think I'll just eat this cookie. And this piece of cake. And this bag of jellybeans. And it begins, all over again. 
Some random thoughts about weight:

It's a thorny issue, because I FULLY SUPPORT ANYONE'S RIGHT TO BE BIG. OR CURVY. OR DOWNRIGHT GODDAMN FAT. Including my right. I will not starve myself, or go on fad diets, or learn to hate myself when I'm heavier. I know that many body types were not made to be thin. I could starve myself forever and I'd still be prone to big boobs and wide hips. And thank god. And so says my boyfriend. 

But I have stopped eating things made with flour again. Also desserts. Because every time I do that I lose weight. So yeah, I care. I want to weigh less and I want to be healthier and I so want to not be controlled by my sugar addiction . 

I saw a girl I'd done a show with a few years ago and she is way thinner now and also radiantly happy, but I didn't want to say "you look great!" to her because the truth is, she always looked great. She is a beautiful person, inside and out. Whatever she weighs. 

But at the same time, I love it when I've lost some weight and people notice. I would love to look as thin
     as good 
as I did 2 years ago, the next time I go up north, so that they don't think Oh, she's really let herself go since she was up here last. 

Last December, I saw a friend of mine, someone I used to see on the regular, someone whose healthy lifestyle has been a great inspiration to me over the last few years. She cheered me on and helped me out when I was losing weight, exclaimed with joy when I came back from my summer job tanned and lean and strong. This winter she didn't comment directly on my weight gain. She didn't have to. She was clearly disappointed and she hasn't been in touch since. I hope that it's just that she's been super-busy. I really hope so. I would hate to think that someone would give up on me. Would find me less appealing to be around because I'd gained weight. 

You know what's boring? Obsessing about weight. Don't eat that piece of cake and then cluck about how "naughty" you were. Be silent and strong and fierce, whether you're working to lose pounds or revelling in all your sexy curves. Or ask for help if you need it. Support your friend, whatever you think about her lifestyle choices. Make changes, try them out, and if you fail, try again. Do it for yourself, and for no one else. 

I remember now, why I didn't publish that other blog post 2 years ago. It was angry and proud and confused, which is all the things I still feel today about weight loss and body positivity and self esteem. There are no easy answers that I can find. And so I put this out there in hope of... what? I honestly don't want you to tell me that I look beautiful at any size. I don't want validation. But I'd love to know your thoughts.