Tuesday, June 23, 2015

not good enough.

my before picture is hideous
i’m disgusting
rolls of fat collecting around my middle almost down to my awkwardly skinny ankles.
my after picture is great, but somehow i think it’s just the angle
that i don’t really look that good
i can’t even appreciate my after picture because now i constantly compare myself to it.
i look at myself in the same mirror,
under the same lighting,
in the same position,
in the exact very same spot,
and i think i look fatter now than i did when i took the pic a month ago
and i’m so very disappointed because this is what i do.
i get thin,
i get fat,
i get thin,
i get fat. because i’m
destined to repeat this
disgustingly unhealthy cycle,
to never be satisfied,
to never settle.
but at what cost?
I can’t even appreciate my after picture, because i’m constantly comparing myself to it,
wondering if i’ve let myself go.
i panic.
first slowly, bit by bit,
little drops of fear collecting until i’m lying in a huge puddle of bright red failure, like a scene from CSI Miami, and Callie Duquesne’s about to show up with her perfect body and shiny blonde hair and take pictures of my horribly gory demise from moderately overweight person to thin person who was never totally satisfied with herself to slightly heavier person who’s on her way to becoming fat again.
and i’m trying to figure out when it started, when i first became a person who wasn’t comfortable in her own skin, but the memories are hazy, faded and blurry, strung together at random and mentally photoshopped by years of overanalyzing and my writerly imagination filling in the details that i don’t remember, probably never remembered.

I wasn’t born hating my body
sometimes I get glimpses of it, quick flashes of what it might be like to just enjoy the feeling of the sun on my skin, eyes closed, not a thought in the world, but then
walls of reality slam down around me, ruining everything because for just a second, I wasn’t worried that I look fat from this angle, the stretch marks on my legs are showing, I’ve eaten too many carbs today, and I should sit up straight and suck my stomach in and drink 3 liters of water so no food can fit in me and then lace up my sneakers and run until and I can’t feel feelings anymore and the trees in front of me swim and sway and threaten to swallow me whole

because i’m
not good enough.
no matter how much weight i lose it’s not good enough
i should lift more weights
eat less carbs
cut out processed foods, because gluten is bad! so are things that have more than 5 ingredients! ew!
because we sit here and
judge people’s bodies
judge what food they put in their mouths
and when
and judge
and where the hell has that ever gotten us?

when you strip away
all the things that are supposed to keep you warm and happy and comfortable in your own skin
bulimia is the blanket you choose
you wrap yourself in lies
black is slimming
that’ll look great if you wear some spanx underneath
minimize this, maximize that

[[[and not now, but at some point CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT HOW WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE SO THIN AND STILL HAVE BREASTS? thanks society, for creating an ideal for female beauty that’s LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE for 95% of the population to obtain without plastic surgery, because when you get that thin your boobs go POOF,

but that’s a rant for another day.]]]

swathed in deceit
wrapped in illusion
push it up
suck it in

because it’s still
not good enough
there will always be jeans that don’t fit
there will always be someone with nicer abs than me
even if i make my body the most perfect thing it can be, abs of steel, muscles coiled around my bones like ropes
there will always be someone else who does it so naturally
so even if i finally build myself the perfect body, there will always be someone else who didn’t have to work as hard because they’re not BROKEN AND SAD like me.
so i’ll never be good enough.
i’ll never be thin enough,
pretty enough,
young enough,
have hair that’s
long enough,
i’ll never squat enough,
bench enough,
run far or fast enough.
i’ll never BE enough
so you know what?

i’m done.

and i’ve been trying to write the ending of this poem for a few days now, because i want to to end with hope, even the tiniest sliver of low-carb sugar-free portion-controlled panic-induced hope. but this isn’t a lifetime made-for-tv movie about anorexia. those always end well, with the beautiful girl in the hospital surrounded by loving family, and then they cut to a scene of her playing some sport because she got strong again, and yay, no more eating disorder. but what they don’t tell you is that you never get over an eating disorder. you’re never fixed. you’re just stronger than you were before, and that’s the best you can hope for. so this isn’t the end of my story. i’m going to struggle with this for my entire life.

but there is hope.
because today, i’m going to eat something with more than 30 grams of carbs in it and
you know what?
i’m not going to have a panic attack.
maybe i’ll stop when i’m full.
maybe i’ll stop when i’ve stuffed myself.
maybe i’ll obsessively cut it in half and then log it into myfitnesspal.
but maybe not.

and tomorrow, i’m going to lie out and read a book in a bikini and every time i wince and cringe and want to curl up into a ball or go inside or readjust myself so i look better i’m going to remember that
my stretch marks are battle scars
my hair might actually grow long again
my lovehandles are a trophy, not a source of shame
and if what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
if we really believe that
then we shouldn’t hide our scars

and if anyone says a word to me about them
any of the marks 20 years of disordered eating left on my body
if someone says one single disrespectful word
i’m going to tell them the story of the battle taking place inside my skin

i’m going to read them this poem.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Goodbye Skinny Jeans: An Obituary

For a long time I kept a pile of jeans that didn’t fit.

Some, my prized Abercrombie size 2s, were from high school, and after the first time I lost weight on Medifast, I rejoiced in being able to wear them again.

Some I bought during that first Medifast run, or the second. Every so often I went to Hollister and tried on all the jeans on the sale rack. It was a contest to see how small a size I could fit into, a contest I told no one about, because of denial, and then shame. My mother’s voice echoes in my head, saying, “Honey, this is a contest no one wins,” and she’s right, but it didn’t matter at the time. I was drunk on the feeling of buttoning those size 3s, stretchy victory wrapped around my hipbones.

For a long time I loved those jeans… for all the wrong reasons.

I loved those high school Abercrombies because they were high-waisted, and actually fit my body correctly. I have no hips. Well, barely any hips. The difference between my waist and hip measurement is about 2 inches. I loved every pair of Hollister jeans, because they symbolized victory (albeit temporary victory) at the end of one of my numerous weight-loss attempts. They were trophies I’d won in the battle against fat and unhealthy and excess and gluttony and insert more twisted eating disorder imagery here. I kept them because they were expensive and pretty and had low numbers on the tags, but more so because getting rid of them meant failure. Getting rid of my skinny jeans meant accepting that I’d never fit into them again, and that, in my eyes, was accepting defeat.

I know we’re always told to dress the body we have now. It’s in the same book with “be comfortable in your own skin,” “love the skin you’re in,” “take pride in your body,” “you are your own worst critic,” and other advice I agree with but can’t seem to internalize. It’s also logical, because in most situations, you can’t walk around naked. You’ve got to wear clothes. So they might as well fit, flatter, and make you smile when you see your reflection in a store window (which in my case means they are often neon, frequently sparkly, and include very short skirts). If you want to buy an outfit and make your goal to fit into it, go for it – some people swear by it – but owning an entire wardrobe full of clothes you don’t fit into is both unhelpful and alarmingly negative. There’s nothing like starting your day grabbing the one pair of jeans that fits off a pile of 11 pairs that are too small. Plus, since you wear that pair so much, you start to wear through them in the upper thigh area, and though it’s less about the size of your thighs and more about the fact that you’re wearing the same pair every single day, as a result, you spend the entire day hyperaware of your thighs rubbing together when you walk. 

From a financial perspective, dressing the body I have right now would be an expensive undertaking for me because every five seconds my body has a new “right now.” Sometimes, it is completely different at noon than it was at 7 a.m. If healthy bodies fluctuate, consider the bodies of people who have been actively yo-yo dieting since freshman year of college, with disordered eating habits tracing back to sixth grade. Some months every day of my period is a different level of bloat. There aren’t enough clothes in the world to account for the weirdness that goes on inside my body on a daily basis. Even if there were, I can’t afford them, and I certainly have nowhere to put them.

I work at a day camp, and on 70s dress-up day I had a brilliant idea. I rounded up my flare leg skinny jeans and offered them up to the guys as costumes. As I watched teenaged and 20-something dudes parading around in my denim victory trophies, it dawned on me: I’m utterly ridiculous.

They’re Abercrombie jeans from 1999. I bought those jeans when people were still worried that Y2K was going to transform all of our technology into steaming piles of gooey red mush (okay maybe not exactly, but forgive me because I just caught up on True Blood). I bought those jeans before I kissed a boy, drove a car, cheated on a Spanish test, or left the country. I bought those jeans before I lifeguarded, taught swimming, and found my calling teaching English. I bought those jeans the year 10 Things I Hate About You was released, but years before I took a page out of Julia Stiles’ character’s book and danced on tables in Munich, Berlin, Rome, Prague, Dublin, Doolin, Amsterdam, and a tiny farming village in Southeast Holland called Well that I was lucky enough to call home for a semester. 
The scene that inspired a lifetime of dancing on tables.

I bought those jeans the same year I bought a pair of platform Velcro sneakers from Costco and wore them under those jeans. PLATFORM. VELCRO. SNEAKERS. FROM COSTCO. I’m going to take a moment and let that sink in.

They looked something like this. Except worse. 

People change. Bodies change. Careers, cities, relationships, and styles change (see above picture: platform Velcro sneakers). Dreams change. Lives change. And so should denim. 

Everything changes, and that’s a good thing. Maybe that means one day, if I work hard enough, my relationship with my body and myself will change.

But I’m starting small.

Goodbye skinny jeans. 


Friday, March 14, 2014

I am dying to play Scattergories WITH GROWN-UPS.

I am dying to play Scattergories.

It’s fun to play the junior version of the game with kids at after school. It’s not quite as fun as the adult version, because you only do one category at a time, but it’s still a very good time. Playing it with a variety of age groups is also great, because on one side of the table are fifth graders valiantly defending “Games” as a point-worthy entry in the category of “Games” (it’s not), and on another side of the table are first graders quietly insisting that “knight” starts with an “n” (it doesn’t, as I’m sure you know), and there I am fuming because they’re all giving me stage 5 judgy face because they think I MADE UP ‘N Sync (I OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T) to get a point in the male vocalists category and even if I didn’t make it up, it clearly would start with an “I” (it should, but I don’t make the 90s boy band rules).

Like I could ever create something as wonderful as a boy band… I’m not GOD, children.

I love Scattergories so much. Every time it comes up, I think of the time a guy friend of mine insisted that one could save up for a duck (are ducks expensive? is that a thing?), or the time I wrote down my boyfriend’s family name for the category “things with balls” (he is one of three boys). Lately, I find my love for Scattergories leaking into other areas of my life. I bring it up at meetings, in the Costco parking lot, and at the doctor’s office. I even find myself thinking of possible categories for a version of the game developed around my life: Reasons why a camper is crying in the shallow end, Moments in my life when I would have benefited from having Veronica Mars around, Songs from the 90s, Pet peeves, Things found in a pilates class, Things that Pashu the cat is terrified of, Possible explanations for why my car smells funny, etc.

I love my students, I do, but it’s getting progressively more difficult to suppress my competitive Scattergories spirit when playing with them. I constantly find myself wanting to shush them for talking before the hourglass is up, and COULD YOU PLEASE STOP USING THE SAME THING FOR TWO SEPARATE LETTERS IN THE SAME CATEGORY? You can’t DO that okay? GOSH. This is serious stuff, okay? And while technically “poop” and “doodoo” are two different words, they mean the same thing, and should not both be used in the category of “things you don’t want to swim in a pool with.” I don’t know if there is a specific mention of this in the directions, because I’ve never read the directions, because one of my roommates (the one who owns Scattergories) is the smartest person on the planet and can basically RECITE the directions. But even if there isn’t a specific ruling against that, YOU DON’T DO IT. It’s like bringing a Happy Meal to Chili’s. There isn’t a law against it, but you just don’t do it because IT’S NOT OK.

And while I love children, and have dedicated my entire career to them, they have this annoying tendency to think that if they haven’t heard of it, it doesn’t exist. If I were playing with my peers, and I wrote down 98 Degrees for the boy band category, even if none of them had heard of it, they would trust me. Although come to think of it, when I DID use that, I didn’t get the point because one of them HAD heard of the band, and knew that the band name was written in numerals instead of letters (I LOVE RULES). Children, there is a whole world out there, full of bands that were famous before you were born, restaurants, brands, foods, animals, books, places, and TONS OF OTHER STUFF YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD OF. Just because you haven’t heard of it doesn’t mean I made it up. I wouldn’t give YOU stage 5 judgy face if you wrote down something I’d never heard of. But just so you know, peloni is not a special kind of pepperoni found only on pizza in France. I don’t know if you made it up, or if you sincerely believe it, but it’s not a thing. PELONI IS NOT A THING.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, will someone play Scattergories with me? All the time? 

Monday, January 20, 2014


It was really difficult for me to hear that steady state cardio was not going to make me lose weight. I mean, it shouldn't have surprised me. I trained for a marathon and didn't lose a pound. I was overweight for years while running over 30 miles a week, and only when I stopped running 6 times a week and started boxing twice a week did the pounds start to creep off me. But despite all the evidence proving this, I still didn't want to believe it. 

But I stopped running, and started lifting. A lot. Well, Body Pump three times a week a lot. And I shouldn't even say 3 times a week because I'm not even done with the first week, but I know that this time, I'll actually continue lifting, and it'll actually make me stronger and healthier. If not, I'm going to return to this blog and yell at myself repeatedly. 

BUT ANYWAY... I feel better. I love this feeling. Every time I move several muscle groups hurt, but I love it. It's a constant reminder that this week, I GOT OFF MY ASS. And I'm definitely hallucinating, but in these hallucinations, I see that my body has begun changing after 2 weight lifting classes. I swear if I squint I can see muscles that weren't there before.... 4 days ago. And yes, I'm 100% full of shit, but this is one instance where I'm totally buying into the bullshit, because while I may be seeing muscles that aren't there, THEY WILL BE THERE, so I'll keep imagining that they already are. 

I do want to go running, and eventually I will. I also want to run another marathon, and I'm sure I'll do that too at some point. But I'll wait until my clothes fit, and my squat weight is more impressive. And even then... LOTS OF INTERVAL TRAINING. Plus Body Pump. And yoga, barre, HIIT, biking, pilates, and more. Can't I just work out all day? Can't that be my job? Please? 

I'm off to ice my quads. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

an open letter to the BC boys downstairs

Dear BC Boys,

We need to talk. About the bass coming out of your subwoofer. Now I love bass. I always have. But there is a time and a place for booming bass lines. When you foolishly decide that the time and place is ALWAYS and IN THE SAME HOUSE WHERE I LIVE, you violate the order of things, and ruin the bass line experience for the rest of us. So here are some things you need to know:

1. The songs you're listening to are terrible. All I hear is repetitive, unimaginative garbage. Get some taste. Expand your musical horizons. And for the love of GOD, if you're going to listen to a song on repeat while salivating over how wonderful the bass sounds, PONY BY GINUWINE IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE CHOICE.

2. It's currently 12:15 p.m. on a Saturday. Outside it is snowing. Our street, despite being the craziest BC party street in this area, is silent. All the other BC juniors are still sleeping off their hangovers. No one else will be awake until at least 2 p.m. to begin the process of rehydration and scrubbing Sharpie genitalia off their faces. WHAT ARE YOU DOING shaking our house with bass at this hour? Gatorade will rehydrate you. Nail polish remover will rub the Sharpie off your face. You would know these things if you'd spent the night partying like a normal undergrad instead of sitting alone in the living room being proud of the bass coming out of your subwoofer. And while you're at it, buy some blinds or curtains so the whole neighborhood can't see you all the time. It's weird that you wave at me every time I walk inside from parking my car.

3. You're scaring the crap out of my kitten. The wood floors vibrate through her little white paws, and she looks at me like the world is ending and will I please save her. Despite being a cat, not a lot scares my kitten. She's the kind to walk up to a brand new person, snatch an ice cube out of his drink, and proceed to play hockey with it for 10 minutes. DON'T SCARE HER.

4. Do not play anything by Florida Georgia Line. That's strictly girl music, and it's weird when you try to appropriate it into your world.

5. Some of us have jobs. Some of us have class. But all of us have things that we need to do on a semiregular basis that start at specific times, which means we have to go to bed at certain times in order to be conscious. I'm not asking for you to go to bed at 10 pm because my roommate does. I'm just asking you to turn to bass down so she can put on headphones at 10 pm and not still be kept awake BY THE FACT THAT HER BED IS SHAKING FROM YOUR BASS.

6. We've knocked on the door and asked you to turn down the bass, and you've been quite receptive to this (when you can hear us knocking, which is rarely, given the bass). But I think you're missing the point. Your bass should never be up that high. Your stereo should never be up that loudly. It's unnecessary. My roommate has a super nice subwoofer, and when she blasts music, it sounds LOUD and INCREDIBLE, and I can feel the floors vibrating... IN HER ROOM. On the second floor of this house. When I go upstairs to my room on the third floor, I can't hear it or feel it. If I can hear and feel your music from 2 floors away, you have it on so loud that YOU can't even really hear it because the bass is rattling all your dishes and the melody is reduced to a whine at a frequency only some animals can hear. That is completely unnecessary. Who are you trying to impress, playing music so loudly that you yourself can't enjoy it? You're missing the point. We shouldn't have to ask you to turn it down. You should be checking with us before turning it up for the occasional party, because COLLEGE. We went to it. We get it.

7. You're probably going deaf by this point. Get it checked out.

8. You now have the bass on in the house, as well as in your jeep, which is parked in the driveway. Now my ears are melting at the double assault of this unintentional mash-up of epic douche proportions. CUT. THE. SHIT. And watch Pitch Perfect, so you know how to do a mash-up correctly.

I hope this helps educate you on the acceptable way to enjoy bass. You just put on a Guns'n'Roses song, so perhaps all hope is not lost.

XOXO- Your upstairs neighbor

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What Would My Mom Say: Gossip Girl Edition

My mom’s pretty awesome. She’s witty, brilliant, articulate, and able to effortlessly deliver authentic one-liners with perfect comedic timing. Interestingly enough, that sentence describes my father just as accurately (stay tuned for a later blog post, titled, “Daughter of mine, your skirts are too short: a collection of one-liners where comedy meets overprotective father”).

But back to my mother. We’re super close, and we talk constantly, but even when I’m not with her, I find myself thinking of how she would comment on a given situation. Halfway through an episode of CSI: Miami, when Calleigh Duquesne steps onto a crime scene, before I can stop myself, I’ve blurted out, “What is she wearing? They’re in a salt marsh and she’s wearing a white pantsuit? And is that decolletage really necessary? You’re examining a dead body for gunshot residue. What’s with the breasts on display?” (See examples below).

Frantic, I clap my hand over my mouth and sneakily side-eye everyone in the room. Did anyone else notice that my mother’s words just came out of my mouth?

Someone usually says, “Why are you looking at me funny?” because my side-eye is not sneaky or subtle at all, despite my efforts. Then I explain that I was wondering if they noticed that I just channeled my mother so eerily, hence the awkward side-eye, and of course no one cares because my mother and I speak and gesture identically, use the same voice, and say many of the same things, so there’s not really much of a difference between us, and everyone here knows my mom and loves her anyway so it isn’t weird that I’m channeling her, until I make it weird by explaining it in excessive detail when no one would have noticed in the first place because the only person who knows I’m channeling my mom is me because I’m inside my head and I know that I 100% don’t care what color suit Callie wears or if her tatas are hanging out of it. Then I make things worse by writing about this experience using a Law&Order SVU-style heinous run-on sentence so now when my mother DOES read this blog, she’ll call me, and judge me for my terrible sentence structure.

Looking forward to hearing from you Mama!

Long story long, I sometimes hear my mom’s hypothetical commentary at the most random of moments. I am currently binge-watching Gossip Girl (season 3 NO SPOILERS), and the following is a synopsis, then a list of things I think my mom would have said had she been watching this episode with me.

Season 3, Episode 15: The 16-year-old Virgin

My synopsis: 

Vanessa and Dan try to navigate the murky “best friends who slept together” waters with about as much success as any of us had in that same ocean in high school/college. Jenny contemplates losing her virginity to a drug dealer, and Serena, Rufus, Lily, Blair, and Nate conspire to show her that he’s a bad guy and to stay away from him. Lily and Rufus deal with relationship stuff that no one cares about because they’re old. Chuck’s mom resurfaces from the grave, bringing with her his abandonment issues and Blair waxes sad poetic that he’s not confiding in her. Serena tells everyone she was a slut at age 16, and is surprised when no one says, “No you weren’t.” Female employees accuse Chuck of sexual harassment, and clearly it’s unfounded because it’s not harassment if it’s CHUCK BASS because everyone wants a piece of that. Everyone. Man. Woman. Chimpanzee. Chuck Bass love knows no bounds. There is a party for some reason. Everyone awkwardly congregates in Brooklyn. Greek food. Couture. Picket lines. Smoldering Chuck Bass stares. THE END.

What Would My Mom Say? 

It's a weeknight. Don't they have homework? 

Don’t they go to school? They show the dorm room, but couldn’t they at least have them leaving a lecture hall once an episode? Is it that difficult to allude to learning taking place?

So all of these characters have dated each other? How many times? Don’t they know anyone else? Was high school/college like that for you honey?
*Answer: Yes.

Look at that cropped coat Serena’s wearing. Why won’t you wear anything like that?
*Answer: Because I have no torso or waist. Duh.

It’s nice to see some women with smaller chests on television.


Look at that flower arrangement. HEINOUS.

Are any of the characters Jewish?

That’s funny. The Humphreys are supposed to be the ones without money, but that Brooklyn loft costs a fortune.

See honey? Their skirts aren’t all short. Learn from them. Please.

After Blair says, “Serena you haven’t eaten bread since middle school!”
FINALLY! Reality! I’m tired of all these shows portraying these skinny minnie women eating deep fried carbs all the time.

Everyone is wearing too much makeup. Absolutely everyone. Awful.

That coat is to die for. To. Die. For. I think it's Burberry.

Chuck Bass is definitely more attractive than Nate Archibald. Nate’s so girly. He has petite features. Kind of like every man you ever dated from age 14-20. Why did you pick all of these girly men? Thank goodness you’ve moved on from that phase.

A dorm-sponsored party for freshmen would never allow alcohol and would never be that nice.
*She’s 100% correct on this one.


What does Serena.. do.. exactly? Other than being a yienta (Yiddish for busybody).

Honey, you’re prettier than any of these women. And I’m not just saying that because I’m your mother.
*False, but I’ll take it.

I’ll be right back.  

Twenty minutes later, I’d find her in another room of the house, having started a completely different activity because she couldn’t sit still through 40 minutes of a teen drama from 2010. Fact.

SO there you have it. What do you think? Have you ever thought about how YOUR mother (or father) would comment on one of your beloved TV shows?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spicy Vegetarian Pho Recipe

I love Pho. I do. As a child, my mom used to bring me to an occasional lecture at University of Texas at Dallas (she taught grad school marketing) and on the way home we’d always go to Pho Huy. Even then, I was a picky eater, and she’d give them Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally-esque directions to the waiters so they’d make something I would eat. Eventually, they memorized it. Eventually, vegetarian pho became a thing. 

This recipe takes awhile to make. Sorry. I’m going to be up front about this. If you want something that is quick, easy, healthy and tasty, look elsewhere. This takes time. And it’s one of those recipes that actually gets shittier if you don’t take your time, because the flavors don’t set into the broth enough.

This recipe is different from many pho recipes I've found for a few reasons. I use more garlic, onions and ginger. I also add the peppers, which gives is a kick. I also cook the vegetables in the soup on the stove, which I suppose you could avoid by blanching them beforehand, but I already use two pots, and I didn't feel like using another. However, if you do blanche them, cut out step 2 and add all that into step 3. 


FOR STEP 1: the broth

½ of a large onion (any kind will do).
8 garlic cloves, halved
several slices of ginger (just hack away at a frozen piece of it with a knife. Whatever you can slice off in 30 seconds will be enough)
1 cinnamon stick
2 pods of star anice
6 cloves
1 poblano pepper, cut into chunks
1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded, cut into chunks.
soy sauce (a couple tablespoons will do)
32 oz of vegetable stock (I use two boxes from Whole Foods. Sometimes I switch brands and the amount of ounces changes. It’s not a huge deal).

Sidenote: Use gloves when dealing with the jalapeno. I wish my mom had told me that sooner, before I couldn’t take out my contacts for 2 days because my hands still stung my eyes.

FOR STEP 2: COOKING inside the soup:

8 ounces of tofu, sliced thinly and pan-fried in as little oil as possible
1.5 cups edamame

vegetables: choose up to 3 cups of the following, in any combination:
onion, sliced thin
snow peas
broccoli, sliced thin
carrots, sliced thin
zucchini, sliced thin
yellow squash, sliced thin


hoisin sauce
limes, sliced into wedges
sririacha chili paste
beans sprouts
cilantro or basil


STEP 1: 

1.     Put onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, poblano and jalapeno in a big pot. Spray the bottom with a tiny bit of olive oil spray (so cleaning this pan isn’t a stage 5 nightmare), but for the most part, dry roast them on high heat until they start to char. Stir frequently. Be prepared. You will cough. Your eyes will tear. This happens when onion, jalapeno, and poblano have an orgy at high heat on your stove. Your roommates may yell at you, or pretend they spontaneously came down with a chest cold to explain their sudden coughing. Let them get away with it. They’ll probably enjoy the soup later.
2.     When you can’t take it anymore/the veggies are charred, add the broth and soy sauce and bring to a boil again. Once it’s boiling, turn it down and let it simmer for 25 minutes. I recommend watching an episode of New Girl on Netflix, because it’s the perfect amount of time.

3.     If you’re using tofu, now is a good time to pan fry it. You can do this with regular tofu, tofu you’ve pressed for 24 hours, or tofu you’ve pressed in a half-assed way by wrapping it in cloth and stacking your knife block on top of it for an hour. Slice it. Spray the pan. Go nuts until it turns a nice, golden color and gets crispy on the outsides. Then slice it into tiny strips and place it aside.

4.     Taste it. If you feel like the flavors haven’t sunk into the broth enough, let it simmer for longer. If it’s too spicy, add more broth and let it go for another 10 minutes. Your call.

5.     Put a strainer over another pot and pour the soup into it. You’re done with all those mushy vegetables, but I recommend eating some of the onions if you’re hungry/impatient.


6.     Put the strained soup back onto the stove. Turn the heat on low. Toss in all the ingredients for step 2: whatever vegetables you’re using and your choice of protein. Let simmer for 10 minutes or so, depending on how much you want the vegetables to cook. The purpose is to let the flavorful broth cook the vegetables.

: When I get Pho in a Vietnamese restaurant, they don’t do this. They just give you the veggies, which appear lightly cooked if cooked at all, and then when I put them in the soup they magically cook. Somehow, when I do it this way at home, the veggies are way too crunchy and it’s weird. My preference is to cook them for awhile, just to let them soften slightly. They won’t be as soft as the veggies you used to flavor the soup.


7.     Add cilantro or basil (not both, just pick one), sprouts, and thin noodles if you want to. I didn’t really include them in this recipe because I’m very carb sensitive, but if you want to, cook them while the soup is simmering during step 2, drain, and toss them in now. Use anything but regular noodles… rice noodles, buckwheat noodles, pad thai noodles, whatever. Regular noodles might work if you get angel hair actually.. But once I used spaghetti and it was extremely awkward.

8.     Squeeze at least one lime’s worth of juice in there. If you want, toss a tablespoon of hoisin sauce. I included the sriracha because you get it with pho at restaurants, but I find I don’t need the spice since I use the jalapeno and poblano to flavor the broth. Your call.

9.     Let it cool, then dig in.

Final Sidenote: You can adapt this recipe in so many ways. I just made it with zucchini, edamame, and onions as vegetables because I literally had nothing else on hand. I also couldn’t find my star anise, and I was out of hoisin sauce (though at this point I should just start buying it from Costco). I also didn’t have bean sprouts, because those require forethought and I thought of this soup when I was already in pajamas (at 5 p.m. don’t judge) and wasn’t about to dig out my car keys. I missed them, but otherwise it was fine.

PICTURES TO COME! My phone is acting weird. :(