• Category Archives food
  • The Enemies of Art

    Even if you don’t write, you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of essays out there about how hard it is to just make yourself write. Fortunately, I generally find that I’d rather be creating than doing anything else, and I’m really good about clearing every other possible thing off my calendar to make that happen. I believe that talents and inspiration are divine responsibilities, and I’ve been known to be “too responsible.”

    But that didn’t mean that writing Peace Fire was an easy sprint from start to finish line, an unbroken journey. Oh, no. There were bumps in that road, unnecessary detours, slowdowns. Most of which are just ridiculous, which is why I’ve compensated with a dramatic post title. I’m going to share three of them.

    Most those articles about writing will talk about clearing away distractions and, at least the modern ones, will include resisting the allure of your phone or social media. Yeah, I’m reclusive and have no problem ignoring most people. Though one of you, and you know who you are, is so irresistible that I did lose some time to you. Ugh. You’re lucky you’re awesome.

    I am also able to resist the call of the wild. It’s not just that I’m an indoorsy girl, because I really do think nature is full of beauty. It’s more that this flat’s windows are all on one side, and that side looks out on a concrete courtyard and faces the other tower of this building. I am pretty sure that one or two stray leaves or the neighbours’ toddler don’t count as nature. No, no matter what a wild beast the child might sound like some days…

    My top distraction was another beast. Yes, the cat. The thing is my big, surly boy is not generally cuddly. We’re into bodily autonomy in this household, and that means that, even if he weren’t a mass of teeth and claws, I wouldn’t be into forcing pets and cuddles on him. He is also a master of inconvenient timing. So it’s no surprise that, almost any day that I had a hard time getting into the writing flow, he could sense when I was finally hitting my stride. That was his clue to “need” to be on my lap and get love. And he’s a big boy, so I couldn’t easily work around his formidable fluff. I absolutely cannot keep up a 1000 word an hour pace when pecking things out with just one hand. I told you my hurdles were ridiculous.

    My big, fluffy cat and his stuffed kicker toy, pretending to be innocent and adorableThe fluffy offender

    Ridiculous hurdle the second: Music! Okay, you’ll hear me say loads of other times and places that music is important and part of my process and so forth. But there’s another side to this magical music thing. You see there are songs I totally can’t resist singing along to or even having spontaneous dance parties to. They have such power over me that I will, for instance, have both feet out the door as I’m leaving a club but dash back in if one of them comes on because I. Must. Dance. Seriously. And if I’m home? Even if I can keep my butt in the seat and keep typing, I’m slowed down. Singing along and chair dancing impede typing.

    Wee me with headphonesThe problem started early

    Finally, food. Oh, food…How I love thee! And if I haven’t spent quality time with you recently enough, it is hard for me to think about other things. Like the story I’m writing. Okay, so, get up, go to the kitchen, and…and then stare at the options…If I’m lucky, my body and brain will agree that, this time, cereal is a great idea. If it doesn’t, I’m about helpless to spend the time necessary to make whatever it is that body and brain want. Some days, I felt like all I did was make and eat food. I love you, food, but you are sooooo needy sometimes. Ugh.

    Me with my mouth between a burger and a mic, sticking my tongue out like it's such a burden to want those thingsUgh. Food. And music. I’m tortured.

    Those are the things that tripped me up, slowed me down, kept me from writing a book in…I’m estimating I could have done it in 5 minutes if not for cats, music, and food. Yeah, that sounds like a legitimate estimate.

    Now, back to writing, lest I have to add “blogging” to my list next time I’m counting my ridiculous distractions.

    Peace Fire cover: a silhouette with a red flare in the middle, in front of and a large, round, metallic shape
    Peace Fire is out 11 October!
    Pre-order your Kindle edition here.
    Sale price until 10 October

  • Not Ashamed: Food Unrestricted

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    For you completionists, you might be interested in charting my ridiculous relationship with food as shown in my posts on anorexia, being a vegetarian, or imposing assorted food restrictions on myself for what I deemed health reasons.

    Last week’s food restriction-related post included some general notes about my relationship with food. It might also be a somewhat interesting contrast to today’s post. You see, after all that health-related food restricting, I now have only a couple things I restrict (corn syrup and linoleic acid), and even those are just when I’m doing my own shopping. Actually, there are times when what my body tells me it Needs includes a little of that and I go ahead and just eat it (like that time I ate only Lucky Charms cereal for a week, because my body was Very Clear about that, which means some vegetable oil—one of the main ways many of us take in linoleic acid).

    I wasn’t thriving on all that careful, clean eating I was doing. In fact, I was finding that some long-term issues I’d had were getting worse, even stuff that, per the persuasive web sites and my own ideas about what must surely be Right, ought to have been improving. Now, here is where my cool nutritional therapist comes up again.

    Before I started working with her, I assumed that she was going to insist I eat broiled, skinless chicken breasts and brown rice with a side of kale, that I ditch all red meat and bread and so forth. Fortunately, she’s the sort of sensible person who believes that all bodies are unique and, therefore, have unique needs. So, sure, some of what she started encouraging was the clean eating…But then she sent me an email one day, and she started by saying that she knew I’d be dubious, that she was hesitant but that it was something we hadn’t tried, so…

    Will Ferrel drinking milk. Text: What if soy milk is just regular milk introducing itself in Spanish?
    By not cutting dairy, she stopped me making this joke daily

    I read the stories first, the blog posts from people who’d tried this same thing and had success. And they seemed to have quite a lot of the same concerns I had.

    When I found that my knee-jerk distrust of anything but so-called clean eating had eased a little, I followed the stories through to http://180degreehealth.com. And I was kind of horrified at what the person wanted me to do. The site has been a bit reorganised, but, at least then, the blog posts gave you all this information for free, so at least I didn’t suspect he just wanted my money. And I was desperate.

    So I buried a lifetime of beliefs and I went to town on sugars, simple carbs, saturated fats (fortunately, paleo had already gotten me okay with that), and salt (okay, I’ve always gone to town on salt…mmmm…). That wasn’t the whole of it, but you can hunt down this guy’s essays on your own if you get curious (cos I know that even people who know me tend to have a horrified reaction like my own initial reaction when I tell them about the change). And, after I saw a number of positive health changes (plus, as verified by my doctor, I grew an inch taller), I shifted to mindful eating (which is basically what step 2 of this guy’s approach is). I only do a mediocre job at it…but I do pretty well at the part where I let my body tell me what it wants and I eat it, no shame.

    If I don’t fight the cravings but try to feed them immediately, and, if I pay attention as I do that, I usually only need a bite or two (but no worries if I need more) and the craving then buggers off. And stays away for much longer than usual. (My life used to feature daily, serious cravings.)

    sushi arranged to look like a military tank. punny text: fish tank
    Favourite weapon for fighting cravings…

    It took a while. After a lifetime of teaching myself that I couldn’t eat certain things or classes of things, I had to convince myself that I meant it. Had to prove to my body and brain that it really could have what it needed, what it asked for. The week of Lucky Charms appears to have been the last bit of that. (I was walking through Costco and passed the massive boxes of Lucky Charms and my body said, “NEED.” And I asked if it was sure, and it was. So I put a box in my cart and strolled through the rest of my shopping with a big grin on my face, feeling very cheeky.) I still start most days with a sweet, usually something from the UK or Europe or homemade (so generally no vegetable oils or corn syrup). That chocolate or biscuit appears to be enough to remind my body and brain that we still do what we need, and then I don’t generally have sweet cravings the rest the day.

    And the positive health effects have remained. And I didn’t have to buy a new wardrobe. But! I should note that there’s a genetic component here (one of my grandfathers was always rail thin and very warm and lived mainly on coffee and sweets) and that this is what my body wants and needs. Every body, in the long run, will have unique needs. And those needs will almost certainly change over time.

    Right now, I have no allergies and my body thrives on foods I used to avoid or look down on. Which means, now, I eat sugar and meat and simple carbs and dairy and whatever else my body wants.

    Which also means that all kinds of clean eaters look on me with pity, disdain. If they know I used to eat like them, it’s almost certainly more that they feel I should be very ashamed. After all, I obviously know better and have wilfully lost my way. And all kinds of vegetarians and vegans now just see me as another murderer. Even the ones who hear about how my doctor who was a vegetarian asked me to eat me still kind of see me as damaged goods. (I know not all of you folks in the clean or non-meat camps are that way, but plenty are, at least to me.)

    People used to look at me with respect. What a clean eater! What discipline! What healthy choices! And now, I have fallen from grace. Shame on me…

    But, like I said last week: I have to make the choices that I feel are me doing the right thing for my health. And, whilst I did actually feel ashamed at first…Now that I see how my body thrives (and my brain and my emotional health) and now that I’ve had time to really think about how silly (in my opinion) it is to eat a way that others admire to the detriment of my own health…I am so, so not ashamed.

    Sad looking cat. Text: Spent all day hunting for a delicious mouse. Human won't eat it.
    Not even if my food choices disappoint the cat

    That doesn’t mean I think everyone should just fall face first into all the junk food they can find. (I promise that I still eat fruits and vegetables and fish and so forth.) I believe that we need to eat the food that is right for us, which may leave room for treats. (It better…in my body, it sure does…because chocolate and pizza and crisps and chips and…yeah…I’m hungry now…) I also believe that introducing shame into matters of eating is detrimental. I think I’ve even read studies that showed that. So, let’s stop with the shame.

    I’m going to go eat a massive bowl of pasta (chicken and bacon borsetti with loads of parmesan and romano and salt). Maybe you can google those studies about how shame is detrimental to health or you can evaluate your own eating attitudes (I seriously recommend stuff like mindful eating and normal eating). Or just go have a meal of your own. Don’t forget dessert. (Shame never, ever counts as dessert. Or a side. And it makes a horrid sauce. Shame doesn’t belong at the table, lovely.)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Food Restricted

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Last week, I posted about having been vegetarian. And there is a reason I’m actually covering food habits in three posts. (Third one coming up next week.) Actually, two reasons. The first being that there are different “shames” and motivations and such with each post. The second being that food is really, really important in my world.

    Technically, there are four food posts, because there’s that post on anorexia. See, one of the things tangled up with and coming out of my anorexia was this (very wrong) idea that there’s a Perfect Way To Eat, that I had to figure out The One Right Way. And I have spent ridiculous amounts of time reading and researching and thinking and planning and blah blah blah.

    And, when I’m not thinking about food that way, I’m thinking about preparing and eating food. I’m considering what would taste good, I’m fondly recalling food I previously ate, I’m trying to think how to not fill up my daily gratitude posts on social media (been doing them a couple years) with just food food food. And don’t even get me started on how susceptible to suggestion I am. I’d consider it a mercy if people on TV and in films weren’t allowed to eat food I like…

    When I first left home and started to think about how I would know I was “making it,” my whole measurement scheme for that was food-based. It went like this:

    • Eating daily.
    • Eating multiple times per day.
    • Eating three meals per day and maybe a snack.
    • Eating what I want, not just what I can afford, monthly. (At this point, I assume that at least a couple meals a year can be eaten at restaurants, not just home cooked…cos home cooked is cheaper. But not all the monthly meals I want would be eaten out; some would just involve not-cheap ingredients.)
    • Eating what I want weekly.
    • Eating what I want daily.
    • Eating what I want for every meal.

    As I lived on my own, there were other markers of “making it,” most of which continued to be food-based (food quality, organic animal products, etc). And, yes, I’m entirely serious. If I had to be honest, I’d say that, in the ever-noisy arena of my brain, at least one part of me is always thinking about food.

    cat licking a lolly
    This cat lives in my brain

    So, there’s the second reason that there are three or four of these label-related posts that are about food. Now, the first…

    As I said last week, being vegetarian started as an exercise in self-control and very quickly became about living up to what I felt was ethically right for me. There wasn’t any self-righteousness there. Well, very little. But, this week’s lot of food-based labels…They include paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, absolutely no sugar, and a few others.

    These were things that I tried because, for varying reasons, I thought they were the healthier option for my body. I thought that they were The One Right Way. I’ll let the “and a few others” stand at that, but the other four fall into two distinct groups.

    I was dairy-free and gluten-free because I had some health issues and, at different times, I thought that I was lactose intolerant or that I might have wheat intolerance or celiac. Dairy-free came back into play later when I had a friend who actually was lactose intolerant. That was the least lame of the two to live. Fortunately, there are plenty of dairy substitutes and ways to get things that are almost-right and are, on their own merit, sometimes quite tasty. The gluten-free…That was miserable. Even with the help of a partner who was quite capable in the kitchen, I never got satisfactory substitutes for foods I adored and missed.

    For others, both of these made me a pain. Not because I tried to be…Honestly, all it took was a polite, “Excuse me, can you tell me if this has dairy in it?” and I was suddenly just the worst person ever. I wasn’t asking for substitutions or anything like that…And these are things that, for those with actual issues (not just people trying to be trendy, trying to use dietary restrictions as a way to lose weight, using this as an excuse to avoid foods they dislike), are serious health concerns. Sometimes massively serious. I’m lucky; I don’t have celiac. I have friends who do, though, and I feel like both the people who lie about that (for reasons noted in the last parenthetical) and the people who are difficult about those with celiac disease trying not to end up with massive physical pain and mental issues…Yeah, both those types of people are jerks and can get in the sea. And you can bet, given I legitimately thought I had health issues that could be solved by it and that I was super polite about trying to avoid dairy and gluten, I’m not at all ashamed for having been dairy-free or gluten-free. (But I’m really glad that I didn’t need to stick with either of those dietary restrictions.)

    The second group of the food restriction labels is the paleo and going absolutely off sugar. These are things that were entirely about what I thought was The One Right Way to eat. And I got caught up in this idea of Eating Clean. And I kind of struggled with judging other people who didn’t see the Obvious Genius of these ways of eating.

    turtle trying to eat a tomato
    This turtle feels me…

    I swear I tried to be restrained about it, keep my mouth closed. Especially given that people were sufficiently nasty about me choosing those paths as well. But if you ever felt judged or pressured by me when I was doing any of that, I’m truly sorry for that bit of it. I could, and still can, get pretty caught up in whatever it is I think is the current Proper Food Philosophy for me. With this particular set, I was being cheered on by assorted zealous internet sources and, to some extent—though she certainly deserves no blame, by a concerned nutritional therapist.

    At the root of all this, of both groups of food restrictions, was a desire to treat my body The Right Way. And I tried to be polite about it, tried to keep the brunt of the efforts on me. So, again, I’m so sorry if I made you feel judged or went on a bit about it. But I’m definitely not ashamed. We all have to eat, and hopefully we are trying to do that in a way that contributes to our highest quality of life.

    But more on that next week…For now, I’m hungry…

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Vegetarian

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I was vegetarian for about a decade. It started as a way to make a point about my self-control, but, within only a few weeks, it became something that research had convinced me was the right choice for me in terms of ethics and health and the global good.

    During that time, briefly, there was another vegetarian in one of my social groups. I hadn’t understood people’s wariness about socialising with a vegetarian until someone told me that the way she, that other vegetarian, behaved was what they were used to from vegetarians. I had strong beliefs and opinions, as I do on many things, but I didn’t expect others to live their lives the way I lived mine. Other Vegetarian, though…she would loudly exclaim in disgust if anyone was preparing or eating meat, and she wouldn’t stop until she was out of their presence. Whole meals with mates were prepared and consumed with her as a chorus of revulsion, whilst I quietly enjoyed time with my mates and whatever non-meat thing I was putting in my mouth.

    Whilst I was vegetarian, every single non-vegetarian in my life—including people who were almost complete strangers—made sure to let me know that they thought I was foolish or wrong or stupid. Some even, I later learned, snuck meat into meals they made that we shared. (For the record, that is a breach of trust and a reprehensible thing to do. Not just for the trust issue, but also because many people who haven’t eaten meat in a while have severe stomach distress when they do eat meat again. Don’t do this. If you do this, you aren’t a true friend or truly loving family. You are just a twat. Even if you are well intentioned.) And every shared meal was a struggle…Was I sure that being vegetarian meant no chicken broth? Fish weren’t really meat, were they? Just a little meat is okay, right? Even asking a server at a restaurant whether the rice was cooked with water or meat broth got me unreliable answers or huge sighs, as if I were the worst for politely asking.

    Aside from Other Vegetarian, there were a few friends who, for brief moments, tried out vegetarianism. But, mostly, I was doing it solo. It wasn’t peer pressure…not even peer support.

    True story: I went to prom with a guy who asked if I had any opinions on a restaurant for dinner. I said the one thing I needed him to remember was that I was vegetarian. He chose a steak house and complained when all I ordered was salad. (It was a big salad. I had to ask them to hold the bacon. It was the only non-meat thing—aside from sides—on the menu.)

    Now, aside from the part of my vegetarian tenure that overlapped with the anorexia (and, let me tell you, people make it really easy to use vegetarianism as a reason not to eat anything they prepare), I tried to eat healthily. As my pennies allowed, I tried out meat substitutes. Even when completely skint, I loved all sorts of beans and cheeses and non-meat protein. In spite of that, around the time I was considering going full-on vegan, it became undeniable that there was something wrong with my health.

    Before all of you haters smugly nod and post comments about how unhealthy vegetarianism is, I want to point out that there are many, many healthy vegetarians and vegans in the world. That’s not just something I’ve heard; I’ve known them myself. I’ve seen their rosy glow and their high energy. Even the doctor and the yoga instructor in the next paragraph were (probably still are) vegetarians. So, y’know, get in the sea with your smugness.

    So, I went to my doctor. Her conclusion, her recommendation…She told me that some people actually need animal protein and she was sure I was one of those. She, my doctor who was a vegetarian, asked me to consider eating meat. To at least give it a try and see if it helped. I took this advice and my conflicted emotions and had a conversation with a yoga instructor I knew.

    A lot of serious yoga practitioners tend to be vegetarian because of the principle of ahimsa, which basically means “do no harm.” (How does my spellcheck know “ahimsa”? Weird…) Ahimsa was in line with reasons I had stayed vegetarian. But, as she wisely pointed out…an intertwined part of the true spirit of yoga is to be where you are in a pose. If you don’t already naturally get into a “perfect” form of a pose, you can push yourself a little, but you shouldn’t force yourself. To do so might cause injury, harm. I hadn’t thought about it, but here was ahimsa applied in every yoga session. And, if I truly cared about myself (which I did by this point), how was slowly killing myself via vegetarianism less a form of self harm than cutting or starving?

    I took some time to really consider it, and I decided to give meat a try. Here’s the thing…The whole time I was vegetarian, I had vivid dreams constantly of medium rare red meat. And when I finally ate meat again, on purpose this time, I didn’t get sick. (Just like I didn’t get sick when friends snuck meat into meals. Man, I’m glad I didn’t get sick, but I kind of wish I had so that I might have caught them and they could have felt really bad about making me sick.) And some of my health issues improved dramatically. And it didn’t take long for me to get over my guilt, so it’s not like I weep quietly these days with every burger. Unless maybe it’s weeping for joy over how tasty it is…Sorry, vege friends.

    But a lot of people didn’t know I’d ceased being vegetarian. Most people didn’t know for a long while, because the last thing I needed to top off all their harassment was their smugness that I’d been forced to give in. I decided to tackle my own guilt and to get my health less crappy before I had to deal with that. I’d even leave the office for lunch, every lunch, so that nobody there would see that the lunch I’d packed included meat. Work was miserable enough without adding their smugness. Go ahead and have a sad little mental image of me, sat in my car in all sorts of weather, furtively chowing down on a sandwich. (I’d like to say I was paranoid about how people would react. I was not. Very few people did not take at least a moment to be smugly pleased or give me an “I told you so” over it.)

    Now, history aside, I’ve got a couple of things that have stuck with me from the vegetarian times. Things I wouldn’t have expected.

    I learned that, if you make a big, negative deal over someone’s choices, they won’t come to you when they change their mind. That might seem obvious, but it sure seems like a lot of people forget that. Think someone is making a mistake? Are you close friends or a healthily loving family member or someone they came to for advice that’s relevant to their choice? If so, you get to politely express concern once. Or maybe once each time they end up in the hospital for their poor choices. If you’re not one of those three types of people, there’s a good chance you’re out of line. And if you take every opportunity to hammer at them or poke at them about that choice, it doesn’t matter who you are; it’s not going to help move them more in line with your opinion.

    I also got a little less judgemental when I was eating meat again. It’s years later, but I always feel a compulsion to share my story with vegetarians I meet. I want them to know that I’m on their side, that I’m not going to hassle them, that I’m empathetic to their probable plight (vis-à-vis the harassment of non-vege kids). But also…

    This will come up again next week, but I’ll say it now anyway. See, even those people who are most vocal about not judging others are happy to be just as vocal about people’s food choices. Not just the stereotypical obnoxious vegan (I know non-obnoxious ones, so no insult intended, vegans) or vegetarian types…not just the meat eaters who feel free to harass the vege kids…but anybody who has beliefs about how to eat…”How can she eat that?” Well, maybe she tried eating your way and she got sick.

    I won’t lie; I enjoy meat these days. Though I still try to remember to ask vege friends if they mind me ordering meat when we go out together. I try to be respectful. Also, I don’t want to accidentally learn that I’m eating with someone who plans to shame me with every bite. Ugh.

    And, whilst I avoid food waste in general, I try to make extra sure not to waste meat. Some animal died so that I could have the meat my body appears to need. Again, I try to be respectful.

    I was vegetarian and I’m glad I was. Not ashamed. And now, much to the pleasure of this odd body of mine, I’m not. And I’m not ashamed of that either. Just disappointed that this flesh of mine is so picky. Why can’t I just thrive on cheese pizza, crisps, chips, chocolate, and Vimto? Stupid, picky flesh of mine…

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Anorexic

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    (Trigger warning: eating disorder)

    First, once again, I want to stress that my parents have no blame in this or any other of the things in this series of essays. And I want to send out gratitude to my friends who saw what was going on and made diligent efforts to get more calories into me.

    I remember sitting in health classes and trying not to snort with laughter when the instructor would say that anorexics and bulimics didn’t realise what they were doing. Because I knew exactly what I was doing. I’d made a choice. I hated my body and I was mired in depression, and I had made an assessment that anorexia was more effective than bulimia (and knew that I preferred practising some discipline to vomiting).

    I was going to carefully starve myself as much as possible (didn’t want to get caught not eating). I was going to get very thin. My period was going to stop. And then my organs were going to fail. When I actually started, I also found that I was going to feel clean and tight during the process. Yes, I knew exactly what I was doing.

    If you’re reading this and thinking that sounds good, I want to tell you how very not-good a choice it was. Or if, like me, you’ve done this and find that you get a little hungry for it when you read about others doing it, I want to tell you not to give in to that.

    Because what it really did was make sure that, once I started eating again, there was weight put on that was unlikely to ever go away (which also happens to those of you who think you’re just eating a calorie-restricted diet). And it crippled my metabolism so that, even years after I was eating regularly, it took a seriously calorie-dense diet (I ate so much, and foods that I was horrified to eat, and I wasn’t allowed to exercise) to get it back in order. Until I discovered the issue and fixed my metabolism, I had low body temperature (years of wearing socks to bed every night, among other things), more painful periods, fatigue, and apparently it stunted my growth. (No joke. This last year, I suddenly grew an inch—as measured by my doctor—and started to have breasts large enough to need a bra a few days a month. Fortunately, puberty was less stupid this time around. Ha!)

    The saddest thing is that I was never overweight. Not even a little. And I knew that once I started to work on getting healthy. But it wasn’t until recently that I realised I’m skinny. Like many people, I don’t see myself clearly; I don’t see my reflection in the mirror clearly. When I look in the mirror, I see an average-sized body. I just got lucky and saw one photo of myself that jarred me and made me realise the truth. Realise the truth, but not be able to see it…At least, these days, I see “average” instead of “cow.” (And, since people often ask, I didn’t see others through the same lens. Whilst I was hating on me, I might find someone else’s actual curves lovely. Yeah, this is a mental health issue.)

    It’s years later (I got sorted in my late teens), and my body is just now “normal.” But that demon sits in the back of my head and takes any chance to try to convince me do it again. Thank goodness I’ve learnt that food is awesome. That I took the time to get the physical and mental issues of this sorted. Because all the things I meant to fix by starving myself were better handled by eating well and working on the real issues in my life.

    You don’t have to tiptoe around me or worry. I eat quite a lot. I calmly handle it when good friends point out that something I’m wearing doesn’t flatter my bum. (I’m grateful for those honest friends!) I keep meals on my daily schedule and keep a food journal so that I can’t accidentally slip. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just baked some bread and I expect I’m going to eat quite a chunk of that loaf, slathered with butter and jam. Yum!

    (If you’re struggling, please get help. At the very least, use an online calculator to find out the shockingly large number of calories you should be eating. Stop over-exercising. It is insane how much joy I can find in guiltlessly savouring a chocolate bar. It is insane how much more fulfilling life is when I put less time towards exercise and more towards all the other stuff. I want you to have the same.)

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Beyond Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

    Yeah, you read that right. I’m going to talk about bacon cinnamon rolls. But what’s really going on is beyond that.

    Before we go on, however, a quick note. From things some of you have said, there are at least a handful of folks reading all the words on here, getting all caught up on what I’ve been saying. If you’re one of those and you’ve already scoured the whole site, you might want to know that I’ve updated Where I Stand after an impactful conversation. (The old text is there, but with a strikethrough, so it’s easy to find if you’re so inclined.)

    Alrighty, bacon cinnamon rolls. Or, as noted, beyond bacon cinnamon rolls.

    Whilst I can be a tenacious girly (and I do doggedly pursue the things I love and desire), there’s this old pattern that plagued me in previous years. I’d enjoy something or want something, and then I’d have a nasty, demoralising experience, and I’d convince myself quite thoroughly that I’d never wanted to do or have it. I suspect a lot of this was tied in with the same ugly voices in my head that had me deep in self-hatred when I was 15.

    For instance, I used to quite like to bake and cook. And then I shared a kitchen with someone who was really quite good with the whole cooking thing. That alone wasn’t a problem for me. Hey, I got fed some tasty food and, initially, assumed I’d pick up some tricks. Instead, it was made clear that my skills were laughable and I wasn’t to be trusted in the kitchen. Ouch. (And, so we’re clear, it’s not that I made anything that didn’t taste good…I just didn’t make fancy things or chop vegetables with ease.)

    Fast forward, and there I was, content in knowing that I really didn’t care for the kitchen. I’d somehow forgotten the hours spent making all manner of goodness. And I’d have stayed there, except that I have the coolest best friend…Someone who just let me do what I did without criticising and who reminded me of the joy of cooking, as it were. Someone who gave me opportunities to experiment. Oh…that was probably the…what’s the opposite of straws breaking camels’ backs? The splint that mended the camel’s back? Heh.

    In the last handful of years, I’ve had the opportunity to discover, confront, and overcome a number of things like that. I love to break through, to reclaim, to blast ahead as a me who is…more a whole me. And, man, how can I not love the best friend and other good people in my life who allow me to be me? Seriously, we should all be surrounding ourselves with good people like that.

    Okay, bacon cinnamon rolls, since some of you actually came here to read about that. (Though I fear all you’ll learn is that I am not a seasoned food blogger…)

    See, last Sunday, out of the blue, I kept thinking “bacon cinnamon rolls.” I hadn’t read about anyone doing that at that point. It was just suddenly knew it must be a good thing. And, though I planned to do a quick look online to see what I could learn from others, I was going to make tastiness one way or the other. I’d already sorted out the cinnamon rolls. (Another story, but first I sorted out my mum’s cinnamon rolls, and then I sorted how to modify them to be made with sourdough…I’m an experimental girl!) I knew I could make bacon on the stove or in the oven. Yeah, I could do this.

    And I did. And I took pictures. Because I’m jealous of all the polished and fabulous food blogs. I won’t give a recipe here, cos it would vary based on your sourdough starter. And cos I did what my mum used to do and made some things up as I went. But I tried three different ways, and maybe it will inspire the bakers among you. Or at least inspire you to sort out what thing you used to want that you let yourself be pulled off track from and you’ll go for it again. Or at least make sure that the people you keep close now are the sort who lift you and let you be you instead of stealing joys.


    Mostly pictures from here, with some text and some reviews of the finished products. I reckon you could just use one of the methods below with your preferred cinnamon roll recipe (even if your “recipe” starts with buying tubes of pre-made cinnamon rolls you’ll bake yourself).

    sourdough starter
    It all starts with this goo in a jar.

    basic ingredients
    And then you mix in some basic ingredients…

    Bacon for variant #1.

    baking bacon
    Bacon for variant #2 and #3 getting crispier.
    (Yeah, I oven bake. With good reason. Please save arguments against that method for when I’m so famous that I’m bored with regular interview topics…haha)

    filling ingredients
    These would be the normal filling ingredients…

    bacon crumbles
    And these would be the hand-crumbled bacon bits to take these beyond normal!

    variant 1
    Variant #1, which was what I found online, just involves laying less crispy bacon on the filling and rolling it up so each roll has a piece of bacon. I was dubious…

    variant #2
    Forgot to snap variant #2 until I was rolling…You don’t unroll once you get going! This variant involved sprinkling a ridiculous quantity of bacon crumbles on after I sprinkled on the normal filling and before I rolled.

    variant #3
    This is the version I don’t think got a fair chance. So I’ll have to make bacon cinnamon rolls again just to try a different method for incorporating the bacon into the dough. Oh, the tragedy…(Variant #3 involved me mashing bacon crumbles into the dough itself before I put on the normal filling and rolled it.)

    Note: The bacon cinnamon roll version of “licking the bowl” is “eating unused bacon crumbles.” Yah!

    ready to rise
    And here they are, my various attempts, ready to rise before baking. (I made a few plain rolls as a “control” group. Because that makes it sound like science!)

    glaze ingredients
    Good thing I took a picture of frosting ingredients….

    finished glaze
    And of the finished frosting, because it makes up for the photos that should come next (at least in terms of quantity of photos…)

    There should be a picture of the pan coming out of the oven.
    And then there should be a picture of the pan, frosted but undefiled.
    And possibly a single shot of a yummy cinnamon roll fresh from that hot pan.

    But by the time they were done baking, the smell alone had removed all thought of what “should be.”
    The camera sat idly by as we frosted and consumed…And I came to my senses at this point. (Okay, the awesome conversation didn’t hurt in distracting me either.)

    the carnage
    Yeah, so there were only 6 of 16 rolls left at this point…Oops…

    And how did they do? (I mean, aside from clearly being so yummy that the pictures were neglected…)

    Fresh from the pan, here’s where people landed (at least those who thought to comment beyond grabbing another roll):

    Of the one with the crumbles rolled in with the cinnamon sugar (variant #2), Taster 1 said, “It tastes like Christmas morning.” In short, magically delicious (but not Lucky Charms, which would be what my Christmas mornings often tasted like…).

    Taster 2 had a bit more to say…Absolute winner for Taster 2 was the one with the crumbles in the dough. The other two were about equal. And we reckon the only way to have crispy bacon would be to add crumbles on top after baking. (Taster 2 was really hoping for crispy bacon…but did love these enough to consume multiple in one sitting and take some for later.)

    I liked them all, but agree with Taster 2 that the best flavour came from the one with the crumbles in the dough (funny, since you may recall it was the one I didn’t feel got a fair shake due to technique). Though I’d only done the version with the single slice rolled in because the other blogs all loved it and I thought it would be the worst, I think it was my second favourite. As with the others, it all had to do with flavour balance. Least favourite was crumbles in the filling. Still tasty, but found the bacon taste was inconsistent for some reason.

    Now, to tuck the leftovers away and see what one more mouth thinks of them in the morning!

    (I did try one of variant #1 when it wasn’t piping hot. Still tasty, but not as tasty. I suspect variant #3, the winning variant, would fare better, but I had already promised it to someone else so I can’t tell you. For now, I can simply recommend devouring them whilst warm…)

    Feedback from one last mouth. At this point, we’re dealing with reheated rolls. Taster 3 enjoyed them all, but found variant #2 the tastiest. So, the votes for best (from those who voted instead of just eating with gusto) are split between variant #2 and variant #3, but no one would turn down variant #1 if offered (and that’s the one that is easiest and found on multiple other blogs).

    You know what that means? Aside from the fact it means you’re probably good to make whichever variant you want, it also means you might need to make and try them all. You know, just to be sure…

    Someone who heard me drooling over the idea of bacon cinnamon rolls last Sunday suggested rendering the bacon grease and using it in place of butter in the rolls. I didn’t have time to play with that idea this time. I guess that means I “have” to make more bacon cinnamon rolls. Local friends, perhaps you will be subjected to the next batch of science. Nom nom nom!