A girl named soup

I’ve been making soup on the weekends. Two different kinds of soup, if I can manage it (lately I can), and we have some for dinner Sunday night and then portion out the rest to take to work with our salads. I never used to be a soup person. Soup was all sippy and precious and tedious, and I never quite believed that the food in soup was real food. If anything it was ghost food, sad little wraiths of celery and onion drifting around in a murky brothy underworld. But this was because soup in a can was the only soup I knew. It was also because I used to only like food that could punch me in the stomach from the inside. Soup just wasn’t thuggish enough, unless it had cream or cheese or noodles or dumplings or pizzas floating in it. But hey, these days I like the soup, and it goes well with This Thing I’m Doing, which has gotten me to cook stuff I might not have made otherwise. I suspect that if I didn’t have to cook vegan, I’d be trying to make pitiful low-fat versions of all kinds of cheesy chowdery thug crap, which of course is never as good as the real crap. Theoretically you can make vegan versions of cheesy, chowdery crap, but it’s a pain in the ass, and it tends to involve ingredients that Chris is allergic to, and most days I do my best not to kill him.

So see, I have no choice but to make the black bean soup and the spicy carrot peanut soup and the roasted squash and cauliflower soup and oh, it’s a living hell, I tell you, me in the kitchen on a Saturday afternoon with my hand blender and my enameled cast-iron pot, listening to the radio and wrangling soup. Yesterday I made the tomato soup recipe from the latest issue of BUST, and today I made harira, which has become a This Thing favorite around here. So now we’re set.

I know there’s more to it all than this, but the soup days are doing me good. Yesterday was sort of a hard day—it reminded me I’m still stumbling around after all that’s happened in the last six weeks. I spent half the afternoon taking a nap and the other half in the kitchen with the soup, and yes, that helped. Hence, soup.

Catching up

It’s nice that the heat is free in this apartment but we can’t turn it the hell down either. We have eight histrionic radiators which make a big hot fuss several times a day, which is great if you are a Sonoran lizard or a fondue or some other kind of heat-loving thing, but not so great otherwise. It gets worse as it gets colder outside, so if you’re cold in your apartment you should come on over, and open your pores and stay awhile. And then we’ll put some of that hot in a Ziploc baggie for you to take home.

Anyway. How are you guys? How about those Bear people not winning that super thing last weekend? We seem to recall hearing something about this.

I’m still doing This Thing I’m Doing, though the week after we hit the hundred-day mark last month Chris and I took a little break. We had Santullo’s and ribs and burgers oh my, and this time my stomach didn’t protest as much as it did over the holidays, so apparently I haven’t completely transformed into a lily-livered herbivore. I’ve been back on the wagon for a couple weeks now, so to speak, but I haven’t made much new progress yet. (Of course, the vegan wagon is probably not a terribly speedy wagon, you know? Because it’s not like you can use oxen to pull it.)

However, in totally old news that I have neglected to tell you, we made it through the “holiday survivor” challenge at our gym. That’s where they give you a nice little gym bag for not gaining several pounds of festive butterfat between late November and mid-January. We also got t-shirts for trying six new classes. I hope we get a chance to earn pants next, since the ones we bring to the gym were simply bought, with dirty old regular money and everything, and how can you expect to have a decent workout if you’re wearing pants you can’t respect? But whatever.

I was freaking out a little by the end of the challenge, because it was happening right around the time I had to fly to Albuquerque again. I wanted to do my final weigh-in before I left on the trip but the perky gym staff kept telling me, “Oh, that’s okay! You can just do it when you get back!” I wanted to tell them that no, they didn’t understand: I signed up for the Holiday Survival Challenge, not the Death Of A Loved One Endurance Challenge. But I got through them both somehow.

A few days after I got back, both Chris and I came down with some kind of buggy stomach thing that compelled us to sleep straight through dinnertime and most of the next day. When I could finally get myself out of bed I padded over to the scale. If I believed what the scale told me, I could say that I’ve lost twenty pounds since October, but of course I was dehydrated and the moment I actually ate something again, that number flitted back into purely hypothetical territory. It’s going to be awhile before it comes up again. In the meantime, though, we’ve been getting back to our Weights/Hateful Pop Remixes class (now with new remixes to hate!), and I swim whenever I can talk myself into it.

Plus, it’s so hot in here that whenever I shift around on the couch it totally counts as Bikram yoga.

Breaking back in

It’s getting better. I have a stack of cards people have sent me (thank you). I have been reading a great many kind emails (ditto). I have a box near my desk that came filled with things to cheer me up: tea and mix CDs and books and pretty soaps and other stuff (thank you Michael and Marianne and Jenny and Patty). I haven’t emptied the box completely; I might still need to have it around. Everything helps: the road trip to Michigan; the memorial service; returning to work.

If you’d like, you can make a donation in my mom’s name to Wellness House in Hinsdale, Illinois. Gifts can be made here in memory of Kathleen McClure.

I’ll be getting back to posting this week. Thank you all for your patience and everything else.

Beyond the book

First of all, if you’ve just read I’m Not the New Me and are visiting this site for the first time, hello. And yes, I’m a real person. In the two years since the book has been out I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people who didn’t quite realize it wasn’t fiction. Nope, it’s all me.

Second: we have some catching up to do. Most of the events in the book took place from summer 2000 to late 2002 or so, and a lot has happened since the book was published in 2005. The day after INTNM came out I met my boyfriend, Chris, who bought a copy and learned way too much about me in our first month together. A year later we moved into our current apartment near Albany Park in Chicago.

Not everything is good news. My mother passed away in early 2007, a year and a half after she was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was so supportive of the book and of my writing and I hope that one day I can write more about who she really was; the book provided only a glimpse. I miss her every day.

It took a few years, but I gained the weight back. Something about writing your first book really makes you reach for the mac and cheese, I guess. I gave up on Weight Watchers after a few more not-very-successful attempts and last year I turned to a healthier, mostly vegan lifestyle. I’ve lost more than twenty pounds so far and you can read more about it in these entries.

I’m writing other things besides this website. I still do my column for BUST, and I’m a contributor to the True Life Tales feature in the New York Times magazine. I’m working on new books, including a novel. And The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan came out in May 2006, in case you didn’t get enough of those recipe cards.

Any other questions? Write me. Thanks for reading.