I had grand plans for the last week that were scuttled by an incredibly inconvenient and intense flare of pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. I am a woman of a certain age and that comes with a variety of challenges that I manage to (mostly) keep at bay. But gracious – when it hits, it hits hard. I found myself faced with a large block of unscheduled time that, due to the flare, wasn’t the playful vista of a vacation. Making matters worse, I was alone in the house, since my Beloved (I rarely write about him, but he is a Steady Constant in my life and this journey) was away on a work trip. I do not mind confessing that I felt a bit sorry for myself, but I am a deeply fortunate woman and I had friends offering their assistance which I was clever enough to accept.
I needed to do some mental gymnastics to see having the house to myself (aside from our Furry Overlords who must be tended to At All Times and were already suspicious about the potential decline in their quality of care by having only one Hooman tending to their needs) as a positive thing, instead of just feeling sore and lonely.
It’s safe to say that I stuck the landing. Let me explain —
For about five weeks, I’ve been quietly ramping up some lifestyle changes (including tracking what and when I eat) and this was the perfect time to take this to the next level. It’s been interesting – usually, by now I’m weary of tracking my food and irritated at how slow progress seems to be. But – well, it takes what it takes, and this time, I’m okay with small changes.
At any rate, a good friend asked for my grocery list and I decided to make my convalescent experience more than saltines and canned soup. This week, I’ve treated myself to simple dishes that I enjoy but don’t often make. For instance, I’ve been growing basil this summer and have plenty of it, so I asked my friend to get me the rest of the necessary ingredients to make a batch of fresh pesto. (I used a solid recipe, but next time, I’ll add more garlic and pine nuts.) From there, it was simple to decide to make one good dessert (if you enjoy chocolate, try this! The secret is baking the Chocolate Stuff in a bain marie, which is a fancy way of saying “put the batter in a dish, put that dish in a dish of water, and put the whole thing in the oven”). Furthermore, I resolved to use “the good stuff” as often as I want to. I mean, I have to wash the dishes anyway, so what’s an extra plate or three? And lemon yogurt really is prettier (and more satisfying) served with some chopped ginger and dark chocolate in a stemmed crystal glass. Look at that picture and tell me I’m wrong.
Thanks to heating wraps, rest, steroids, and time, the flare subsided after a few days. Being a bit stir-crazy, I ventured out yesterday to my favorite thrift shop where I found a mid-century bridge cloth. I have a few of these small tablecloths from my mother, who got them as gifts early in my parents’ marriage. She called them “bridge cloths,” since they were often used at card parties. We used to laugh about that, as there’s a story in my family about my parents playing bridge – Mom was never particularly competitive (she’d go to ball games and seriously say, “Well, as long as everyone’s having a good time!”), but Dad was and they stopped partnering pretty quickly. But the cloths are beautiful. This one was priced at $3 and I couldn’t get it in my hands fast enough. It took two bleachings, but it’s just gorgeous. (That’s it at the top of this post – the pattern gave me the idea for the topic of this post. Food is essential and eating should be joyous.)
To celebrate the end of the flare (and being able to get up from the floor again without needing to yelp), I decided to set the coffee table for breakfast today. The new cloth was still going through the cleaning process, so I used a different one and had a breakfast to remember, thanks to a lovely bakery in town. (I also relegated my Furry Overlords to a different room for the duration of breakfast.)
The funny thing is that I didn’t mind tracking “sticky maple nut pastry.” I’m sure the presentation had something to do with that. All of this is to say, if you want to eat better, eat better. With practice, it doesn’t take much time, although it will take a while to learn how to stock your kitchen (I never used to have maraschino cherries; now there’s always a jar close to hand.) The idea is to make meals an occasion – it may not be practical for every meal every day, but treat yourself better than just mindlessly eating junk on the run. If you want ice cream, stop what you’re doing and get ice cream. Don’t settle for some poor substitute that doesn’t satisfy you. Treat yourself like an honored guest – use the “good stuff.” Cook something from scratch. Garnish the results. Play music in the background. Break out the candlesticks. Enjoy your own company. Do this once a week for a month and I’m willing to wager that you’ll get hooked on the idea. If not, you’ve still enjoyed four amazing meals in your own house.
Scatter joy, Divas!