Book Club: Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky

To go along with the theme of the book club I belong to, I have decided that whenever I read a book that may or may not be worth sharing, I would post about it under the header of “Book Club” and the name of the book.  The first book that I have read in a long time outside of book club is Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky.

I was introduced to the book by The Young Friends of the Museum of Jewish Heritage Facebook page when they announced that Apron Anxiety was their book club pick for July.  The first description I saw on Amazon.com made me want to read the book: “’Hot sex, looking good, scoring journalistic triumphs … nothing made Alyssa love herself enough until she learned to cook. There’s a racy plot and a surprising moral in this intimate and delicious book.’ —Gael Greene, creator of Insatiable-Critic.com and author of Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess”  The cover of the book proclaims “My messy affairs in and out of the kitchen.”  Yeah…they were mostly in the kitchen and involved Alyssa’s teaching herself to cook.

Needless to say, all of this “sexy” marketing of the book let me down as the book was not as hot as I was led to believe.  It did, however, have its fair share of humor.  Well, the hilarity of the introduction did not set a good precedent.  It did contain lines like “And even at the world’s best steak house, I am most excited by a clean baked potato and a dirty-minded man, not Kobe, Wagyu, or whatever” and “It feels liberating to confess that I once thought ‘kale’ was the name of a rock band, that the Laduree luxe macaron was the same as Passover’s canned macaroon, and that a growler involved a kinky bedroom, not a nice cold beer.” 

The book begins with her family history with food and continues to wind its way to how she met Chef (her name for one of Top Chef’s early cheftestants…I Googled to figure out which one).  She spends the next several chapters describing their “relationchef” (as someone who once dated a chef, a relationship with a chef is not the same as a relationship with a person who isn’t a chef).  They break up and she uses the last few chapters to talk about getting over him and ends with their current relationship.

The way traditional cookbooks have short anecdotes with each recipe, this book has a recipe or two that follows each chapter depending on what ate or cooked in that chapter.  The recipes are pretty far from paleo, but could be worth keeping in mind for non-paleo-challenge days. 

During my reading of Alyssa’s 260 pages in her “relationchef,” I got to thinking about the one I used to be in.  After the torture of his early mornings or his late nights or the nights he wouldn’t come home, I decided I would never date another chef.  I should note he was not on Top Chef; but, he was obsessed with the show.  I am grateful to him for three things: he introduced me to good food and the experience that is fine dining in New York City; he taught me how I should not be treated in a relationship so I would eventually learn how I should be treated; and he taught me that I needed to take care of me, that I should be number one to me.  In regards to cooking, I went from knowing only how to make chocolate chip cookies to preparing feasts for my friends.  I continue to experiment at NYC restaurants by taking full advantage of the biannual Restaurant Week and lavish in the spoiling that comes at restaurants like Daniel.  It took four years, but I have finally found someone who treats me the way I should be treated and the way I deserve to be treated, going so far as to call me beautiful.  To this day, nearly five years later, I am still working out and loving more and more how my body looks.  You may remember that I walked into a gym the day we broke up.

Back to the book.  After her breakup with Chef and her move back from DC to Brooklyn, she meets a man she calls “Benito Bagel” and begins dating him.  Their relationship is more of a friendship.  After they split, she writes, “What I learned from our short time together was how nice it feels to be with someone who is simply kind, honest, and dependable.”  Those three adjectives struck a nerve with me.  A person who is kind, honest, and dependable is the best type of person to be in a relationship with.

My overall review: if you’re looking for something quick and cutesy, go for it.  Otherwise, find something better.

Have you read Apron Anxiety?  What did you think of it?  What should I read next?

A Very Paleo Yom Kippur

Every year, usually in September, sometimes in October, the countdown to Yom Kippur comes around.  Considering I eat all day long, I usually dread Yom Kippur and the 25-hour fast that comes with it.  I love the meaning that surrounds the holiday and the traditions and time with family, but I could do without the fast. 

This year, Yom Kippur fell in the middle of the third week of the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge.  What in the world was I going to eat on Friday night that would keep me full for 25 hours?  In the past, I would have matzah ball soup and mashed potatoes and load up on carbs and grains.  By the middle of the holiday, I would be starving.  I thought I needed the grains to help keep me full.

I was very wrong.

My awesome stepmom made the dinner you see below.  Instead of matzah ball soup or plain chicken broth (filling at the time of the meal, not really going to keep you full the next day), she began with zucchini soup.  Then the rest came out: sweet potato fries, roast,  Brussels sprouts, and fried rice made from cauliflower.  For dessert, she made red-wine poached apples.  Everything had so much flavor and tasted so delicious and was so filling.

So that 25-hour fast?  Piece of cake.  I was not hungry at all during the day.  The protein and vegetables kept me comfortably full and satisfied.  I did not feel sick after dinner like I normally do.  The only thing…I was thirsty allllll day Saturday and that is probably attributable to the seasoning (salt) on the food.

When it was finally time to break the fast, my family has a tradition of going to the H family’s house.  This year I represented the family as my father was sick at home with a 102 fever and my stepmom didn’t want to leave him alone.  The break fast had your traditional break fast foods: bagels, challah, cream cheese, white fish salad, pasta salad, lox, sable, white fish, noodle kugel.  I was very limited and ate some of the lox, sable, and white fish.  For dessert, they put out a fruit platter along with all of the “good” stuff I couldn’t eat.  I ended filling up on fruit.  I did not realize how hungry I was until I started eating.

Tell me, Fitters, how do you prepare for a fast and then break it when you’re paleo?

Book Club

Have you ever heard of a website called Meetup?  I joined it in August 2011 with the intentions of getting involved and meeting new people.  It is a great website if you’re sitting home bored, like I was that summer.  There are groups for everything (hiking, cooking, eating out, discussing philosophy) for all genders/sexualities/ages.

Last November, I received an e-mail from Meetup alerting me to a book club in my area (kind of) for young women in their 20s and 30s.  When I saw the e-mail and read the description of the group, I thought it was perfect.  I had been looking for a book club near me but everything either met during the day or the attendees were much older.  This book club was the mama bear of book clubs (refer to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears for the metaphor).  By the time I joined, they had already met for November and were skipping December because of the holiday season.  I went to my first book club meetup in January and had such a good time with the other women eating and discussing the books we had read – The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (good if you’re looking for a long easy read that could easily be half its length) and After Her by Joyce Maynard (I couldn’t get past the first chapter) – that I decided to keep going to each meeting of the book club.

Since that first fateful meeting, we have read, in order:

  • Serena by Ron Rash – gave me nightmares but I couldn’t put it down
  • The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson – I stopped reading somewhere around page 50; it was too unrealistic
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – This is the same author as Gone Girl, which I have not read.  This book was very disturbing and I had to fight to finish it.  I won’t read anything else by her.
  • While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell – I read three-quarters of this book in one night; it’s a very easy, enjoyable read with some slightly disturbing imagery
  • Missing You by Harlan Coben – I couldn’t put it down.  It’s a wonderful mystery but will make you wary of online dating
  • Bared to You by Sylvia Day – Like the 50 Shades of Grey series but better; the sex scenes aren’t as fetishistic and the writing is much more enjoyable
  • The Long Walk by Stephen King – I did not read this one based on how scared the reviews on GoodReads made me
  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – If you like historical fiction, read this.  The twists kept me engaged as they were never expected

This month’s book is The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.  I am having a difficult staying focused with it but I will push myself to finish it.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  What do you suggest we read for November?

Vacation Time: Aruba

Enough with the vacation prep already, right?  How about the vacation itself?

Boyfriend D, his parents, his sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and I spent a week in Aruba.  Island time is real and it is glorious.  We were finally able to relax and take a break from the stressful hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.  We had family time shared with everyone.  He had guy time and I had girl-time.  And we had our alone time.

Day 1 – Saturday

Boyfriend D and I were on the same flight as his parents.  We arrived in Aruba Saturday afternoon and went straight to our hotel.  We ate lunch at the hotel, went grocery shopping, and spent the afternoon relaxing.  Boyfriend D and I ate dinner on the beach then took the first of what we became our nightly strolls on the beach.

Day 2 – Sunday

Boyfriend D had a golf outing in the morning with the men.  The women stayed in while the baby napped.  We ate lunch together on the beach then lounged in the pool.  We ate dinner with his parents and went for our nighttime walk on the beach.  We discovered it was easier to walk in the shallow water than on the dry sand.

Day 3 – Monday

Boyfriend D and I began our day with a WOD at CrossFit A297, the only box on the island.  When we first walked in, we saw this on the door:

Once we walked inside, we saw:

The WOD was on a computer screen, but first, this:

I just love all of the positivity, don’t you?  Anyway, the WOD:

The running was outside in the sun.  We completed the WOD using much lighter kettlebells for the box overs.  CrossFit is all about “beating the clock” where the goal is to finish before the clock runs out.  In Aruba, it’s all about beating the heat as the running outdoors in the sun was brutal and there was no AC inside the box.

We met Boyfriend D’s family for lunch in town and walked around the shopping area.  I napped when we returned to the hotel.  That night was our night to stay in and baby-sit.

Day 4 – Tuesday

The men played golf in the morning while the women stayed in and the baby slept.  We ate lunch as a group when the men came back then lounged by the pool.  That night, we ate dinner at Simply Fish as a family on the beach and watched the beautiful sunset.

Day 5 – Wednesday

Finally!  Boyfriend D and I had the day to ourselves.  We went off-roading in UTVs in the morning, ate lunch with the family, and went to Screaming Eagle for dinner.

Crab:

They gave us the bandanas to cover our noses and mouths because the trail became very dusty:

Church:

California Lighthouse:

Boyfriend D pointing out the golf course from the lighthouse:

Day 6 – Thursday

Yet again, the men went off to play golf.  This time, we women were pampered with facials and deep tissue massages.  Like the other family days, we ate lunch together, lounged by the pool, then went out to dinner as a family.

Day 7 – Friday

Boyfriend D and I had the whole day to ourselves.  We spent the morning off-roading on the jeep tour, ate lunch just us, frolicked in the sea, and went to the Flying Fishbone for dinner (a MUST if you go to Aruba – make sure your reservation time is early enough to watch the sunset).

Our first stop was the Natural Pool:

Natural Pool itself:

Next stop:

The original Natural Bridge aka “Mother Bridge” (it collapsed after Hurricane Katrina’s winds passed):

The Natural Bridge still remaining aka “Baby Bridge”:

Goofing off wearing Boyfriend D’s backpack:

Yes, I know I’m white.  My goal was not to burn.  As a consequence, I didn’t tan either.

Moving on…The blow hole:

Day 8 – Saturday

We came home to snuggle with Finn (because you know there has to be the obligatory picture of Finn):

Have you ever been to Aruba?  What did we miss that we must go to next time?  Where should we go next?