Kale with white beans, raisins and tomatoes

Kale white beans and tomatoes

Kale white beans and tomatoes

How strange it is to one day wake up and find yourself the age that you are, whatever age that may be. And find yourself living where you do, wherever that may be, and living with the people you live with, whomever they are, (and still uncertain when to use who or whom, despite your best attempts to learn). How strange to find that you still struggle with all the things you’ve ever struggled with, although some are stronger or weaker now, some are just nagging shadows of old worries, and some threaten unexpectedly to drown you, on a bad day. How strange to hope for the things you hope for, and work at the things you work at, and find that they haven’t changed all that much since you were a child, and how strange that you’re not still a child. And where did this dog come from? How did she end up here, of all places? It’s a funny discombobulation, sometimes, to look at your life from the perspective of your former or future self, and to walk around your world dizzy with the speed that everything is going. I made a joke yesterday that I’m a bon vivant who spends my days making witty quips and drinking champagne cocktails. I’m so obviously not a bon vivant. I’m not quick enough for clever witticisms, and I don’t even like champagne, it gives me a headache. (Although I do like bitters!) And yet, I do believe that I am a bon vivant, in the sense of a person living well. I think my former self, though somewhat shocked at the age that I am, would be gladdened and cheered to see where I live and whom I live with. I think she’d be satisfied with all that we have, and with all that we try to do with it. She’d be encouraged by the persistence in focus of hopes and works. And of course she’d love the dog. And I think that my present self had damn well understand all this with great alacrity, given the relentless pace of time passing, before she creates regrets for my future self!

Kale with white beans, raisins and tomatoes

Kale with white beans, raisins and tomatoes

If she’s not talking about beets she’s talking about beans and greens! Sheesh. But I love beans and greens! And I particularly like them prepared this way. This is a fairly traditional treatment of kale, I think…cooked with white beans and garlic. But there are two special sneaky things that make this different. One, it has raisins in it. Just a small handful of golden raisins, chopped up, but it lends a subtle sweetness which goes nicely with the kale’s bitter edge. And two, it has a small amount of red wine, which gives it a nice rich warmth. I put small cubes of mozzarella in, which gave it a nice meltyness, and made it nice to eat with crusty bread. The boys ate it with orchiette pasta, but it would also be good with couscous, farro or bulgur, or even rice.

Here’s Once in a Lifetime, by Talking Heads

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Kale and black beans in curried pumpkin sauce with pumpkinseed-arugula pesto

Kale, black bean and pumpkin stew

Kale, black bean and pumpkin stew

This meal reminds me of something I used to make back in my bachelorette days. Can of pumpkin purĂ©e, can of chickpeas, loads of broccoli. It was quick, easy, cheap and not very fattening at all. In those days, I used to walk around the city I lived in. I’d walk for hours, every day, no matter the weather, lost in thought. And as I walked I repeated the mantra, “mad as a hatter, thin as a dime, mad as a hatter, thin as a dime.” This time of year, we always read a lot about diet tips and trends. I always want to yell out about my story, calling out like the over-eager kid in class. It’s not much of a story, really. At one point in my life I was really skinny, and I wasted a lot of time and energy thinking about getting skinnier. I wasted a lot of energy depriving myself of energy, really. I was obsessed with numbers on a scale, I felt good at losing weight – it was a skill I’d conquered, and one it was difficult to stop once I’d started. I felt as though I’d conquered hunger, as well. The longer you ignore it, the less frequently you feel it. For me it wasn’t about looking like Kate Moss, who hadn’t been invented yet, it was about a million other things. About being the most thin; about becoming less human, more ethereal, less heavy on the earth; about getting away with something; about worrying people; about scaring myself. And the reason any of this is worth mentioning is that I’m not like that any more. I know that millions of women are, and some men, too, and I’d like to say that it’s possible to regain balance and perspective, to feel good about yourself. And, actually, to stop thinking about yourself so much, so that you’re free to think about other things. It helps to have help, of course, from parents and boyfriends and friends. But mostly you find the balance yourself, gradually, over days and weeks and years. You learn that the better you feel about yourself, the better you feel about yourself, and that being healthy feels better than being thin and having ulcers and stomach aches, and having your hands and feet turn blue when it’s cold, and getting dizzy if you walk too far. You learn that it feels good to be strong. You’ll allow yourself to take up some space on the earth. You learn that you can loosen the vice-like grip of your control on everything you eat and how often you exercise without really changing yourself all that much. You’ll learn that all of the control in the world can’t save you from things over which you will never have control – your body will change over time, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But you’ll realize that we’re all in it together, all heading in the same direction, and pulled by the same gravity. (And then, maybe, you’ll have a couple of kids and your whole world will turn upside down forever!) You’ll learn about the pleasure of eating with other people, and eating like other people do. You’ll find a place that you’re comfortable with yourself, and you’ll see that everything goes in cycles – you’ll gain weight, you’ll lose weight, everything will even out. You’ll throw out your scales. You’ll develop some rules to live by, probably unconsciously, that will help you to maintain your balance through thick and thin. You’ll mostly stop comparing yourself to other people, because you’ll realize that everybody is built differently. You’ll stop comparing yourself to yourself years ago, because everybody changes. You’ll know that you’re not fat, and most of the time you won’t even feel fat. You won’t worry constantly about your food and your body: you’ll take pleasure in them. That’s what I want to say when I see all of these advice columns, on websites, and on the covers of magazines at the grocery store, and on the news – all trying to sell themselves by making you feel bad about yourself so that they can tell you how to feel good about yourself.

And, of course, you’ll keep making meals like this, because they’re cheap and tasty, and full of vitamins, and yes, just a bit because they’re not very fattening at all. Kale and beans and pumpkin!! Can you think of all the vitamins and protein in this one meal! I was hoping my boys would like it, and they did like the sauce and the beans, but the kale was a little bitter for them. I bought a bag of baby kale, and because it was so young, I didn’t boil it first, but it was a bit bitter, so next time I’d parboil it just for a few minutes. I’ve been thinking for a while about combining pumpkin flesh and pumpkinseeds in a meal! It just makes sense that they’d go together, and they do! The flesh is sweet and warm, and the seeds are smoky and cool, and they’re just perfect together.

Here’s Tom Waits Diamonds and Gold.

There’s a hole in the ladder
A fence we can climb
Mad as a hatter
You’re thin as a dime
Go out to the meadow
The hills are agreen
Sing me a rainbow
Steal me a dream

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