feast or famine.

I don’t know a woman who has not struggled with body-image issues.

For my part, in my adult life I have largely avoided the weight (or, more accurately, weight-loss) fixation that seems so commonplace in our culture, but I am by no means immune, especially since having my children:

It took me two years to lose the 90-plus pounds (yes, you read that right) that I gained while pregnant with my daughter; and, nearly three years in, I am still working at shedding the last of the (considerably less, thankfully) weight that I gained while carrying my son.

In both cases, I was aware but largely unconcerned about the impact of my post-baby girth until one too many well-meaning comments penetrated my maternal bliss enough to make me want to get moving – not so much because I was displeased with how I looked (although I do cringe a little, looking at the photos from those times) but because I began to feel vulnerable and a little bit ill-treated; and at some point it occurred to me, humiliatingly, that my outward appearance was no longer an accurate reflection of – well – me.

I won’t burden you with the details of the resulting lifestyle choices (that very phrase being one of the most narcolepsy-inducing I know), but if you know me at all by now, you will be aware that, no matter that I am nearing forty and lead a generally responsible adult life, self-denial at the table is not – and has never been – my strong suit.

So instead, I try to get out running as often as I can.

I am not very sporty, and I don’t much like being around other people, so running suits me well: music blaring, lost in thought, unhinged from my daily responsibilities, I come home from a run bursting with a happiness that feels almost reckless.

The way I see it, there are at least two happy side effects to all of this (and no, lest anyone tell you otherwise, the hard work etc. is not its own reward): the first is that I have made peace with my park.

The second is that I believe that my daily run makes me a kinder person, or at least a more tolerant one.

(I know for a fact that it makes me easier to live with – as evidenced by the fact that my husband will, if I am lingering grumpily around the house on a given morning, ask me in the same slightly impatient tone he uses with our children when they are being particularly unreasonable, “are you running today?”)

Even given all of that, though, I don’t always love it. I will gratefully welcome an excuse to skip it, and wander down the road to join all of my neighbours for a latte instead. On those days, rather than the large lingering lunch that might be my preference, I pour myself a glass of Perrier and eat things like this.


Feast or Famine? A Summer Salad

I am not a fan of the leaf-heavy, hair-shirt-y salad; in fact, that I consider this a healthy lunch is perhaps a more telling insight into my daily diet than I intended – all that’s missing is the bacon! – but there’s only so much I’m willing to do.

For the salad, gently toss the following together in a large bowl:

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1c canned black beans, well rinsed
2 tbsp capers
1 1/2 lightly packed basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3c pine nuts, toasted and cooled
175g feta, cubed

For the dressing, whisk together until emulsified:

1 tsp dijon
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp umami paste (optional – I recently discovered this stuff and I love it! Anchovy paste – or even nothing at all – would be a fine substitute)
fresh ground pepper

Pour dressing over salad and toss gently.

Serves two very hungry people, or four moderate eaters, or six as part of a larger spread.

5 Comments on “feast or famine.”

  1. Hi! Thanks for the amazing post. I’m assuming (because I am a man) that this process you’ve been going through applies to both women and men. After a short trip to the Northwest Territories for our work, my business partners and I all came back to the centre-of-the-universe with a new-found appreciation for fresh and local produce to which most of us in Toronto have easy and ready access. I agree that excersise and a good diet are at the core of a healthy lifestyle. But what of those in this country who have neither the means, the access or the knowledge of such things. Not to be all Jamie Oliver about this, but why can’t our neighbours’ children eat as well as our own? In Yellowknife walking from meeting to meeting we passed through sections of town that were dominated by fast food purveyors like the old fried chicken colonel guy and the sadistic scottish clown name Ronald. Who were these restaurants’ main clients? On any given day, 30 or 40 First-nations youth on breaks from courses or just hanging around surrounded the fast food joints. Not a white person around except behind the counter, the contemporary Canadian “Smallpox Blanket.” We met great people who are doing great things like Robin Wasicuna of the Wiseguy food truck. He sets up every day at a centre for people with learning issues, they help with the prep of the food and at lunchtime the local office workers line up to scarf it down. I’ve lost my point here a bit, but your title “Feast or Famine” really struck me, that with so much food available here in Canada we’re in the middle of a famine. People in this country are starving for healthy options.

    • Annie says:

      Dear Christian, thank your for your considered and thought-provoking comments. As it happens, when I began this post it had a slightly more political (and, it must be said in my case, slightly soap-box-y) thrust; I wound up taking it in a different direction, but I do vigourously agree that the “healthy lifestyle choices” that I refer to so casually here are essentially the purview of the privileged. What, indeed, “of those in this country who have neither the means, the access or the knowledge of such things?” They exist in greater numbers than most of us would like to think.

      • Christian says:

        Thanks Annie, Sorry for my soap boxiness. My work with the Canadian Chefs’ Congress is making me more and more politicized around food issues. I think you’re doing great work and look forward to reading more!

  2. Kelly-Anne says:

    I can’t wait to try this amazing summer salad recipe. Perfect for a hot, humid day like today.

  3. hey lady! whatever you are doing it’s working. you always look so stylish and positively languid in those high heels when you walk down the street for a coffee. good to see you and meet your kids last week. let’s do it more.

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