Even skinny people get fat. This bewildering fact is slowly getting through to me. After years of being so bone thin I had to shop for jeans in the toy department, I knew my chocolate consumption was out of hand when my daughter referred to my new size 10 jeans as “plus size.” It’s true I’ve put on weight eating all this chocolate. But it is also true that according to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, I am one pound over the “ideal weight” for my height. Yes, that’s right. One pound. And I’m sure that pound is pure muscle.
And a quick googling of my age + “average weight” suggests that I am 25 pounds below what the average American woman my age weighs. True, put me in L.A. or Paris and I’d be hog-tied and shipped off to the nearest fat farm, but send me back to Texas and they’d be force feeding me barbecued pork and deep-fried whoopee pies with extra butter cream frosting.
This whole weight thing has me very confused. On the one hand, I really don’t care that eating has caused me to gain weight because I love to eat, I felt like a skeleton with loosely wrapped skin when I was a minus size, and sitting on a skinny rump just plain hurts. But now I’m starting to feel like I’m wearing someone else’s body and it’s time to climb out of it before I mistake it for my own. Which gets me back to chocolate.
The idea of learning to make chocolates, and more importantly writing about learning to make chocolates, is that it offers me joy and a sense of accomplishment in troubling times. Having been an academic, I spent years writing and teaching about the problems of the world, and I was considered very wise. But all that social critique eventually eats away at the soul as wisdom turns to cynicism. By replacing my voracious appetite for news with a voracious appetite for chocolate, I have found far more joy than any academic knowledge ever brought me, but at the cost of having to buy a whole new wardrobe – which, when you are unemployed, is not nearly as fun as it ought to be.
So in order to tighten my belt, both figuratively and literally, I spent a week not making chocolate, not eating (much) chocolate, and drinking lots of water. I did sit ups and pushups and jumping jacks and walked along the beach real fast. I stored the everyday dishes way out of reach so I’d have to stretch to get them. I watched from a psychic distance as my skinny teenager gobbled up store-bought cupcakes the size of hats, and took over our chocolate covered kitchen to bake brownies and cookies and devoured them with glass after glass of whole organic milk. I ate barely-dressed salad with roast chicken and skipped the potatoes and stuffing and gravy. I even trimmed the fat from my corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, a first for me. And I snacked on vegetables, apple sauce and dirty air. Until I remembered the saffron ganache.
I’d made a double batch last time I made chocolates, thinking we love it so much, why not make even more. I took it out of the fridge, rolled it in confectioners’ sugar, and piled the truffles high in a porcelain sugar bowl. After a weekend spent eating a few, some just as they were, others piped into cored strawberries or sandwiched between Mira’s cookies, I felt another clasp fasten tightly on that stranger’s body I’ve been wearing. Now it would be even harder to take off, thanks to those luscious saffron truffles.
But that’s okay. I go outside and admire the beautiful women – the size tens, twelves, and even higher — the ones who walk like they own their bodies. I watch Mad Men where the women look like women, not adolescent boys, and I think, a colorful sundress, a Wonder Bra and a few dozen martinis and I’d be Mad Men perfect. I put on my size ten clothes and twirl around in the mirror and the only thing that looks “fat” is the bunion on my right foot. Owning your own body, I’m coming to realize after years of being underweight and now nudging upward exponentially, is all a matter of perspective, attitude, and the right fit.
I go into the kitchen and look around for some chocolates and find they’re all gone after a week of not making them – and I realize this is my life, and my body, and I want chocolate in it. Which is not to say that I am going to forsake exercise and consume a pound of chocolates a day, pile the food high on my plate or continue to eat like a sumo-wrestler as I did when I weighed ninety-five pounds and was so stressed out my hair was breaking off by handfuls like I’d come down with a bad case of chemo. Life is precious. And chocolate, like friendship, is best enjoyed in precious moments, moments when we feel in need, moments when we want to share our joy, moments when we feel good about ourselves and the world that cradles us.
So I put the saffron truffles in the freezer and got out the chocolate molds. There’s more to the ideal weight than mere pounds and body fat. The ideal weight is the weight we just happen to be when we love our bodies, we love our selves, and we love the people who surround us. And when we reach that ideal weight, what better way to thank the universe than by celebrating with just a touch – or more – of homemade chocolates.