Monday, December 13, 2010

ode to a sorry self

[credit: toothpastefordinner.com]

dear friend

rejection arrives
again, fresh
each time
the cut never old
familiar
the letter form/from
[prestigious retreat] came
today, sucks to be
me

you?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Internal Lynn Swann

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Girls were expected to be not-athletic. Sports were a boy thing. I went along with the expectation. I did not play organized sports. Being picked for a team in gym class filled me with terrible dread. Often I was picked last, especially for kickball. If there was an outfield, I hung back in it. If there was a lot of action  around the ball, I stayed away. If a ball came straight at me, I froze in panic. I hated sports.

Except that I didn't.

On my own time, with my best friend, Tim, I was fast, agile and tough. I ran, wrestled, and loved to play football. The Steelers' Lynn Swann was my idol, because like me, he studied ballet and played football, proving dramatically to the world what I understood in my body. We are more powerful when we understand that "girl things" and "boy things" are just, largely, people things.

When I was in middle school, I heard about a girl at a high school somewhere who played on the varsity football team. I briefly considered trying out for football, but it was too outlandish an idea. I also considered trying out for track. I knew I was a good sprinter. But I was too shy, and there was no one around who offered to mentor me.

I did have some female athlete role models. My friend Shelly played hockey, on a travel team I think. That was tough, and certainly not a traditional "girl thing." There were girls' basketball and volleyball, and probably softball, teams, but I never understood how those might relate to my love for the rough and tumble of football, for the brute struggle at the line and the great soaring freedom of moving down the field in time to jump up and meet the ball at the end of its arc. Plus, I resented the "girls" team aspect of them. The girls teams were, by definition, less important.

By the time I was in high school, I was enmeshed in theater and punk rock and dating college guys. Tim and I went our separate ways. I was too busy to care that there was no outlet for my contrarian athleticism. But I lost a great pleasure and a source of strength. I lost my internal Lynn Swann.

If there had been a girls football team, I wonder if I would have gone out for it. There's enough interest now that my friend Marie plays for the Cleveland Fusion, part of a women's football league with teams in several cities.

Title IX was in effect in my childhood, but its effects didn't fully reach me. I hope it reached some of my classmates. I think its longterm effect has been profound. Women athletes might still struggle to be valued on a level with men, but women athletes are visible and vibrant. My daughter, and my son for that matter, thinks of sport as one of many important facets of life. Like so many contemporary American kids, they play soccer. Z hangs back sometimes, but she can also be dogged and fierce. Then the two of them come home and analyze fashion on Project Runway. I like to think that things are better for them.

Today is Rally for Girls' Sports day sponsored by the National Women's Law Center. Read more about how sports participation has a positive influence on girls' academic success and physical and psychological health. Help your girl find and keep her internal Lynn Swann.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Miracle of the Brussels Sprouts

           Ceci n'est pas une pipe

We've been busy and then we were gone half the weekend. Sunday was my writing day, so David took ZandO to the winter festival at University Circle. When it came time to make dinner, my cupboards looked woefully bare. I was even (once again) out of pasta. We could have just had sunbutter sandwiches and carrot sticks, but then I wouldn't have had anything to feed my kids for lunch the next day.

What I did have was a lot of winter storage vegetables. A ton of squash ... but, no, squash takes some planning.

Potatoes! Cheesy smashed potatoes, still in their jackets, would make a great base. But what to put on top?

Ah-ha! A big bunch of mystery greens sat in the crisper drawer. Before Thanksgiving, I'd gotten two bunches of these from City Fresh. The first bunch went into a pasta & chick pea concoction with lemon juice and a good bit of Parmesan. The were wonderfully rich and chewy, with a pleasing sharp note that worked nicely with the earthy beans and cheese.

At City Fresh there was speculation that they might be Brussels sprout greens. Turns out they were.

Can you see the baby sprout?
I took out the bag, hoping that most of the bunch would still be edible, and removed a bouquet of sturdy dark green leaves and was surprised to discover that several of them had begun to grow baby Brussels sprouts in the cold dark of my fridge!

There were eight tiny sprouts in all.

I removed them and set them aside, then tore the leaves from the stalks and chopped them into smallish bits.

The leaves seemed like they were on the tough side, so I doubted a simple saute was going to work, but a quick braise might soften them up.

While the potatoes cooked, drained, and sat waiting for the masher, I softened some onion in bacon fat (goes so well with greens of all kinds!), added a generous quantity of garlic (6 cloves maybe?), then tossed the greens in. After they'd softened for a bit, I added the baby sprouts and poured in a cup or so of vegetable broth, covered the pan, and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so.

Sometime during the mashing process, I decided this meal was going to be too squishy and was going to need some kind of crunch. I'd noticed the tail end of a bag of walnuts in the freezer when I went to get out the bacon fat. I'm not sure I've ever had walnuts with greens, but it seemed like the flavors could be complementary. I sent my table setters off to do something quiet for 5 minutes and quickly toasted the walnuts in a little omelet pan then chopped them into small but toothsome bits.

Before serving, I finished off the greens with a good dash of malt vinegar. We added hot sauce to taste at the table.

The finished meal was served in a broad shallow bowl. Potatoes covered by greens, sprinkled with walnuts, all crowned with teeny, tiny miracle sprouts.



 The baby sprouts were tender and a little sweet. They tasted like they'd come from an entirely different plant than the rich greens. The potatoes were a perfect base, and the walnuts were definitely the right choice. Without them the dish would have been fine, but they provided a perfect counterweight to the other ingredients - crunchy, toasty, slightly astringent.

I did good.