Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My version of eating my feelings

For the second year in a row, the feast-or-famine nature of my holiday custody arrangement - having the kids for a week over Thanksgiving but then not seeing them for 8 days from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day - has hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know why I didn't remember how hard it was to spend over a week without the kids, without close family at hand, at a time when everyone I know is well ensconced in their own holiday traditions, whether here or out of town.

I don't have difficulty being alone, but under these circumstances, it feels lonely.

I do my best to fill the time.

I took a ski lesson on Christmas day that was really transformative. In the seven years since Josie was born, I've skied with enough regularity and determination that I have gotten relatively decent, but felt like I had hit a wall when it came to being comfortable and proficient on more difficult terrain. With a few pointers from my instructor - and lots of falling down as I tried to retrain my body and brain and shed years of muscle memory - I made a breakthrough that was exhilarating and empowering. By the end of the day, I was skiing terrain that previously would have left me frustrated and in tears.

The rest of the time, I did laundry and cleaned and binge-watched shows that were buzzy. I lit the Hannukah candles. I read a book. I cooked.

I tend to be lazy about cooking and eating. I can cook like a champ when I want to, but when I'm just cooking for myself, it's hard to get worked up about doing anything interesting. But I found myself watching TV and movies that centered on cooking and food - Top Chef, The Hundred Foot Journey, Waitress, and one of my favorites, Jon Favreau's Chef - and felt inspired.

This is not unusual for me. After watching Big Night years ago, I got a wild hair and, along with my friend Karen, hosted a dinner party that featured dishes from the movie - we spent 10 hours cooking, including making tri-colored risotto in the colors of the Italian flag, and this amazing dish called timpano, which is a giant pastry filled with layers and layers of pasta and eggs and meatballs and sausage.

My efforts this past weekend were more modest. I was tired and hungry after a day of hard skiing in the cold and wind, and I wanted some comfort food. So I made pasta aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil) inspired by this scene from Chef.


It was delicious and comforting. But I wasn't eating it while being seduced by anyone, or while seducing anyone myself. I wasn't cooking for friends or family.

I was by myself. And it's just not the same.

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