Longing and weight gain; best purple cabbage ever

Don't be afraid of the usually assertive allspice. It will not overwhelm the dish, simply enhance the flavor.
Don’t be afraid of the usually assertive allspice. It will not overwhelm the dish, simply enhance the flavor.

Years ago my best friend in the newsroom, the sunniest person I’ve ever known besides our younger grandson, asked if I’d ever been sad for something I’d never had. It’s taken me more than 40 years to figure out that’s all I was!

Not knowing, of course, meant I was always trying to fill that hole (yes, thank you, Dr. Freud, I hear what I’m saying). Almost always with food.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes, the more-interesting-than-expected book-length conversation between Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, explores this territory of “Life, Love, and Loss” with unexpected rigor. She, once known as the “poorest little rich girl in America” had no parenting to speak of. His father died when he was 10, and his brother committed suicide when Cooper was 21.

When Vanderbilt split with her third husband, photographer Richard Avedon said to her, “I don’t know if the kind of happiness you’re looking for exists anywhere.”

She came to realize he was right. “…the kind of happiness I was looking for didn’t exist. It was what (Susan) Sontag wrote of, ‘The inescapable longing for something you never had.’”

Vanderbilt had family money and became a highly successful designer and artist. She looked for what she was missing in multiple marriages. I went for multiple meals and chocolate.

As soon as I hear someone talk about longing for something that never existed, I think of how foolish I always am about Christmas, expecting the perfect Norman Rockwell holiday I’ve never had, sad and angry when it doesn’t show up. (If you’ve read about the artist, you know he didn’t have them either.) I’d take a wild guess that most, if not all, of us struggling with weight issues have longing issues.

Beyond that, I’m still waiting

Cooking apples with burned bits of onion.
Cooking apples with burned bits of onion.

for a couple of wonderful parents to show up in my life. I think, however, I’m going to start taking care of (parenting) myself. It feels pretty good, much better than raging on.

“…don’t do something silly and mess up what you already have because you crave more,” advises Vanderbilt. “there is no amount of ‘more’ that will ever satisfy.”

And no amount of chocolate. But going to bed early, drinking your water, eating your vegetables. You feel better; you feel nurtured. It’s nice.

As is this fabulous recipe from Martha Rose Shulman of The New York Times. I’ve always liked red cabbage but couldn’t find a recipe that wasn’t loaded with sugar until this one. It’s now one of my favorite fall side dishes.

Braised red cabbage with apples

1 large red cabbage, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds, quartered, cored and cut crosswise in thin strips

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

About 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare the cabbage, and cover with cold water while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, lidded skillet or casserole, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until just about tender, about three minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, until the mixture is golden, about three minutes, then add the apples and stir for two to three minutes.

Drain the cabbage and add to the pot. Toss to coat thoroughly, then stir in the allspice, another 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and salt to taste. Toss together. Cover the pot, and cook over low heat for one hour, stirring from time to time. Add freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt, and add another tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar as desired.

This tastes even better after a day or two in the refrigerator. Shulman’s recipe says you’ll have 6 to 8 servings, but we had 4. We loved it, and it’s virtually points-free as far as your Weight Watchers tally.

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