Tag Archives: food

Two kinds of cookies from home

My husband is spending the weekend with our two grown sons, who live in Washington, D.C. His flight was leaving very early on Thursday morning, so I knew it would be a scramble to get out the door. That meant I had to get organized.

I wasn’t going along, but I had my own packing to do. I consider it my sacred duty to provide homemade cookies for “my boys” at every possible (and ever less frequent) opportunity. These particular cookies — a healthier version of the traditional chocolate chip — have a long history in our family. I made them nearly every Sunday night during our sons’ high school years, when their friends would come over to play basketball. When Andy and David were in college, I never visited them without bags of freshly baked cookies. (It won me big points with their roommates and friends.) I also make cookies when my brothers are around. There’s something hardwired in my brain about cookies and boys.

But hardwired doesn’t necessarily mean “top of mind.” And after a busy but enjoyable day at work Wednesday I came home exhausted and out of whack. All I could think about was food, bed and Unbroken, the wonderful work of historical nonfiction by Laura Hillenbrand, which I’m about halfway through.

I awoke Thursday morning at 5:30 (which is “sleeping in” for me). As soon as my feet hit the floor, my spirits sank. I’d  forgotten to bake cookies! Dan wanted to leave the house at 6:30. I had an hour.

I raced through the mixing, the plopping onto pans and the baking. At 6am I had cookies cooling on racks. But they looked … different.  In my haste and uncaffeinated morning stupor I’d forgotten to add an essential ingredient: oatmeal. So, as I heard Dan get in the shower, I pulled out my ingredients and started all over again.

By the time we left the house, there were two kinds of cookies from home packed up and ready to go. Two dozen with oatmeal, two dozen without. But all four packed with a mother’s love.


Feeling fat

When she baked pies, my mother always saved a small piece of pie crust dough just for me. She’d put it into a small aluminum foil pan (the size of a single pot pie). She’d brush it with melted butter and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. She’d bake it with the regular pies, pulling it out a bit early so it didn’t burn.

Crisco and white flour. Butter, sugar and cinnamon. I can’t imagine eating something like that now; I’m much more health-conscious in middle age than I was as a child. But I thought about those warm slivers of buttery, cinnamon-y goodness this morning, as I toasted a two-day old bran muffin for breakfast. On a whim, I slathered some (zero grams trans fat) canola oil margarine on the warm pieces, then sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top.

And I wondered when — and why — the joy of eating my childhood treat was ruined for me.

I wondered again this afternoon, when I listened to multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint’s podcast interview with Dena Cabrera, Psy.D., a psychologist at Remuda Ranch, which specializes in the treatment of eating disorders.

At some point in the lives of many girls and young women, food stops being a source of pleasure, comfort and joy. It becomes the enemy. It becomes the reason nothing else goes right in life. It contributes to self-loathing, insatiable perfectionism, anxiety and fear. And for some women, it stays that way, to one degree or another, for years. Even decades.

I was one of those young women. From the moment an elementary school classmate remarked that “you have big legs” I became self-conscious about my weight. Food became a source of shame and guilt. Enjoying it was something that I (as a person with “big legs”) was not entitled to experience.

When I got to high school, I refused to eat in public. I never ate lunch at school. I didn’t touch the food at parties. At home, I nibbled at meals. But when I was alone, I slammed down the food. It got worse when I went to college. One of my roommate would go for days without eating and then, when it became too much, she’d drag me out with her for fast-food binges. At one point in my young adult life I weighed 40 pounds more than I do now. (A self-fulfilled prophecy: my legs really were big.)

As the other stresses of adolescence waned and I found fulfillment in work and lasting relationships, my life — and my weight — stabilized. I was lucky to avoid the devastating effects of an eating disorder. But for more than 10 years, I definitely had disordered eating. So I recognized myself in many of the comments Cabrera made during her interview with Vicki.

I didn’t have a daughter, so I can only imagine how tricky it is to navigate food issues as the parent of a young girl. I’m just glad there is help, and hope, for those who find themselves in the throes of destructive eating habits.

Listen to Vicki’s interview. Hear Cabrera describe the “hostile environment” that awaits young women attempting to recover from eating disorders. Think about the message you are sending every time you say, “I feel fat.” And every once in awhile, eat something just for the sheer joy of it.