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Manolo for the Big Girl | Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

Food Friendly May: Mom’s… Fill In the Blank

Ah, Mom’s famous… well, it might be almost anything from Duck a l’orange to ‘call to the Chinese take out.’

Most people assume that part of being a mother is being a really great cook. Funny thing, though, mothers are really just like people sometimes, and each individual one may be better at one thing than another. Some of them really aren’t good cooks. Some don’t have the time. Some don’t have the talent. Some can make fabulous meals out of nothing, and some still couldn’t produce something vaguely edible even if an army of professional chefs stood at her elbow instructing her. Still others are fine within a specific range, but not so good when they venture beyond the borders of what their mothers taught them.

My mother? Well, she was one of those women who have a real gift. The kitchen was her realm and all the foodstuffs within bowed to her will gladly. Sure, she had the occasional disaster, like that Thanksgiving when the cranberry jelly never really jelled. And her pie crust, well, let’s just say that from the time I made my first one, she never bothered to try making one for herself again. If she needed pie crust, she called me in.

But aside from those little wrinkles, yeah, I grew up with a mom whose cooking really rocked.

Still, there are particular dishes that I remember more fondly than others. Her potato salad spoiled me rotten. It involved vinegar in the potatoes, a top layer of sour cream, and decorative slices of hard boiled egg. It was bracing, yet decadent all at once. And at Thanksgiving she made this amazingly delicious cranberry sherbet that was served as a palate cleanser with the meal.

I only wish I had the recipes.

But more than her cooking, I remember spending time with her in the kitchen. From early childhood, I would post myself on a stool at the counter and chat with her while she cooked. Later, she taught me the basics of making a good meal. Sometimes we even worked in tandem. Hanging with Mom in the kitchen is quite possibly my favorite way to remember her.

What about your moms? Great cook or lousy? Did she teach you to cook? Was she an object lesson? Did you teach her? Any particular dishes – brilliant or terrifying – you want to tell us about?

Mother’s Day for the Rest of Us

One of the challenges of having a Big Girl blog that discusses everything from domestic abuse to self-tanner abuse instead of sticking to a niche within a niche (fashion, fat activism) is it’s almost impossible to put my fingers in my ears and go “lalalala” when a certain percentage of my adoring public (just let me tell myself you’re adoring, okay? Sometimes it’s the only thing other than the bars on the windows keeping me from self-defenestration) is having a rough time, even if it’s not exclusively the domain of the Lane Bryant enthusiast.

Mother’s Day in the United States is upon us –it was yesterday here in Mexico– and we’ve been discussing the complex mother/daughter relationship all week.

I know this has been a particularly hard time for some of my readers.

Maybe I’m more sensitive to it myself this year as a close friend lost her mother recently, but for many –myself included– the second Sunday in May is not always filled with the happiest of feelings.

Some of us have lost our mothers through death, and some of us through methods more subtle but possibly just as painful.

I’ve received some emails –the readers have requested anonymity and I’ll respect their wishes, though I’ll never be able to compete with their eloquence– asking for advice on how to deal with mothers who don’t exactly merit the card-and-corsage treatment.

Obviously I’m not a therapist, although I HAVE seen that dishy Gabriel Byrne play one on TV, so I’m not sure how much wisdom I’ll be able to impart, but hey, it’s either that or talking about how I burned my finger this morning (hint: hot glass looks deceptively like cold glass) so let me give it a go:

Sometimes you get dealt a bum hand. You just do. So you rub some dirt in it (by “dirt” I mean therapy, meditation, medication, shoes or a combination of all four) and walk it off. It’s not fun and it’s not pretty, but there it is.

See, as much as we’d like to believe our appearance would be enough to make previously incapable people rise to the occasion, that’s not necessarily how it works. There’s no qualifying exam to getting knocked up and just because your mom or my mom or whoever’s mom managed to get her Ivanka trumped doesn’t mean she’s going to be a good or even loving mother. That’s not something everyone’s capable of; myself, perhaps, included.

I don’t have kids because I don’t think I’d be that great a mother.

I’m a reasonably decent person according to the people I pay to say that, but you know how some people yearn for years about having a baby? Smelling them, washing them, tucking them in at night? The only thing I’ve felt like that about was a pair of green Dior heels, and they didn’t even come in my size.

So I play Auntie Mame and in the evening when I’ve sent those blessed bundles to their respective homes, I say a thankful prayer to Saint NuvaRing and drift off to a gentle, uninterrupted slumber.

But, you know, a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny hasn’t always been as easy or socially accepted as it is now.

Sometimes women who were never suited to be mothers, who never WANTED to be mothers *poof* became mothers.

Passing a toaster through a light socket doesn’t automatically bestow a woman with magical Donna Reed powers. Some women don’t have the parenting tool in their toolbox and yet they’re still expected to fix that leaky toilet (oh what, like comparing a child to a leaky toilet is the worst analogy I’ve ever made? It’s not even the worst analogy I’ve made in this post.)

And sometimes your mother simply is, to quote the great French Age of Enlightenment thinker François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, “crazier than a sack of ferrets.”*

But fear not my friends, plenty of respectable people have socks on wire hangers for mothers, challenging maternal situations. The key is to remember there is just as much to learn from a bad example as a good (see also: hot glass v. cold glass): It’s just a lot more painful.

Many of my best qualities –not that there are all that many to choose from– were developed as an equal and opposite reaction to those things I saw as a child and said “That’s not gonna be me” including:

  • my feminism
  • my general disinclination-to-the-point-of-revulsion to willful neediness/helplessness
  • my independence
  • trust in my own critical processes (my definition of right is not “anything opined by someone with balls”)
  • my refusal to believe beauty hinges on a number
  • my understanding that approval can be nice but is rarely necessary
  • my unwillingness to spend a lifetime as Professional Victim (and distaste for those who do)

…and most of all my unshakable, unerring knowledge of my own worth that has allowed me to walk away from bad relationships, friendships and situations (or, you know, not get into them in the first place) before they sucked me in, took me down and just generally screwed me up.

So, dear readers who eat cold spaghetti out of the container when the rest of the world is at mediocre prix fixe brunch drinking watery mimosas and eating wedge salads even though it hasn’t been 1972 for some time now, I invite you to write your own list.

Don’t dwell on what they did wrong, focus on what you do right. Write it down, keep it in a safe place and revisit it each year.

I invite you to share your lists here, if it helps, and remember…don’t touch hot glass twice!





*He probably didn’t actually say this


A Little Compassion

I’ve often wondered whether it’s more difficult to be the overweight daughter of a naturally slim mother or one who is prone to plumpness.

With the thin mother, I could see the struggles that come with obliviousness. Their slim bodies act a certain way when fed and watered normally, why shouldn’t it be the same for their daughter’s young form? I can also imagine a mother whose tiny dress size has always been a point of pride being disappointed or embarrassed at their daughter’s less-than-svelte body.

On the other hand, if you’re a chubby kid and big momma is constantly complaining about her fat thighs and bouncing from cabbage soup this to meal replacement shake that in an effort to drop “the weight”, congratulations:  odds are you’re going to be her de facto diet buddy until you finagle your way to an out-of-state college.

Sometimes it’s difficult to have empathy for these characters.

After all, I’m going to venture onto a very sturdy limb and say many if not most big girls who struggle with disordered eating patterns learned it at the feet of their fad dieting mothers. And let’s not even get into the body hate projection, the screwed up approach to self-worth and all the rest of the stuff that’s put our therapists’ kids through private school.

Still, a little compassion is in order.

Our mothers didn’t have the size-acceptance community we do for support. They might not have even known liking themselves just as they are was even an option, much less have a place where they could rage, share and occasionally get some sense lovingly –if virtually– slapped into them.

Besides, their mothers might’ve been pieces of work themselves, this stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum you know and it wasn’t too long ago that most of the western world was on food rations. I know my grandmother very nearly starved during the Great Depression and she kept a lifelong eating disorder and a raging case of fat hate as unfortunate souvenirs.

I’ve got nothing but sympathy –okay, almost nothing but sympathy– for women whose sense of personal value is so tenuous that a swing of the scale can make a difference between love and shame. I can only imagine how difficult it is not to pass it on to their children.

I do believe most mothers truly want the best for their children. For every Joan Crawford doppelganger, there are hundreds of well-intentioned moms who inflicted harm not out of cruelty, but out of their own human brokenness. They did what they thought was best using the tools they had at the time and although I’m sure we could spend ages comparing ridiculous and painful war stories, the best WE can do is forgive our mothers, learn from them and not make the same mistakes.

What do you think? I know it’s a sensitive subject, but I’m particularly interested in hearing how those of you who’ve struggled over size with your mother have forgiven, moved on and developed a new, healthier relationship…or not.


The Big Question: Be Nice To Mothers Edition

Happy Monday, gang, how’s every little thing?

Me? I’m fab. Signed the lease on the teensy new Plumcake Cottage in my equally teensy new village where my neighbors are the Pacific ocean, a motionless shriveled man who is approximately 300 years old and looks like Voldemort’s granddad (but, you know, in a nice way, although if he doesn’t move soon I’m going to have to check if he’s dead) and about three dozen dusty old trail horses who seem very interested in what’s going on with their new neighbors and ohbytheway was that a bag of apples they saw being loaded into the kitchen?

Nice work if you can get it.

Back in the states several of my friends still act as if I’ve moved into an uncharted, cannibal-filled area of New Guinea instead of a blissfully bucolic seaside village where, okay, the closest gas station is 20 miles away and if you want eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast you find the tree with the hand-painted wooden sign reading “Huevos Aqui” and follow the shakily pointing arrow to your cholesterol-laden destiny; but it’s also a place where you can walk for six miles on a white sand beach without meeting anyone except an escaped horse and and –at low tide– plump old women peeling mejillones (marine mussels) off craggy semi-submerged rocks.

Still, it’s a long way off from the hipster haven of Austin, Texas or the international moving and shaking of Washington, D.C.. So why the drastic move?

Simply put, I never thought I wouldn’t live in other countries, especially developing ones, and that in a large part has to do with my mother.

Born in Hong Kong, her formative years were spent moving all over Asia.

All her brothers and sisters were born in different countries and as a child I would delight in hearing their stories of cobras and monsoons and peasant revolts…a life totally different than anything I could know from the Benneton-diverse (you can be any color you want as long as you’re rich) confines of privileged suburban D.C..

Love and luck took me to Mexico specifically, but I’ve always been jealous of my mother’s experiences and believed a life lived entirely in your native country is something to be mourned, not cherished.

Although she’s no longer a part of my life and the tell-all fodder far outweighs the Hallmark moments, I thought we could take this week to discuss and yes, even appreciate, our mothers.

Since mother-daughter relationships are so complicated, especially when there’s a weight issue involved –raise your hand if your mother put you on a diet as a child because she couldn’t control her own size so she’d at least try to control yours– we’ll get into the deeper stuff later, but I thought it might be nice to start out on a generous foot.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

What’s the most valuable gift your mother gave you, not by being a bad example, but through positive influence or personal inspiration?




Food Friendly May: Sci-Fi Vs Food

As a child, I read a lot of science fiction novels. I watched a lot of science fiction TV shows and movies. I still dabble in the genre here and there. But there was one thing that kept striking me about those books I read and quite a few of the films I watched – particularly the sort that would go on to be ridiculed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but some better ones, too – was that there was no food.

In fact, there seemed to be an all-out war on eating. In most of the futuristic Utopian visions, food had been replaced with a handful of pills that magically provided all one’s nutritional needs with a swallow of water.

I get where the creators of those worlds were going with that idea. After all, if taking half a dozen pills every day means nobody ever has to starve to death again, well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Okay, I can’t argue that people starving is a good thing on any level, ever. I won’t attempt to say anything so hideously offensive to my entire world view. I’m against people dying of need in the midst of a world of plenty, period.

On the other hand, I’m firmly against throwing out babies with bath water, too. No point in wasting a perfectly good baby you just cleaned and everything.

A world with no actual food always struck me as far too extreme a solution.

Maybe that’s why I found myself so drawn over the years to the world of Star Trek. There’s food. People in some cases actually care about their food. Captain Kirk finally goes ballistic over that whole Tribble situation not when he sits on one in his Captain’s chair on the bridge, but when his order of a chicken sandwich and black coffee from the replicator comes out a plate and cup overflowing with Tribbles.

On Deep Space Nine, the appreciation for a basic human delight was everywhere. The Promenade Deck had not only a Replomat, but several speciality restaurants, as well. Most of the crew started their day with Klingon coffee, and the Captain was famous for his Aubergine stew.

I didn’t care for Voyager… but one line spoken by Captain Janeway has stuck with me over the years. There was a nebula to be explored, and any crew in their right minds nearly a hundred years from where they started would have said ‘the hell with an unexplored nebula!’ But then it was pointed out that this nebula might be a good source of a substance much like Earth coffee. I recognized that cry from the heart when Captain Janeway announced they were going in because: “There’s coffee in that nebula.”

No, those cheap novels I read all those years ago had it wrong. A handful of pills may one day be created that can stave off starvation and malnutrition. When that day comes, that will be great news for people living in the midst of disasters, whether natural or man made. A handful of pills is certainly better than starvation.

But for the rest of us? For the long term? Taking a few pills can never replace the delight of the first bite of a perfectly crisp apple. It can never stand in for the sense of community many of us derive from the Thanksgiving turkey. It won’t bring the comfort of Mom’s chicken noodle soup… or samosas… or empanadas… or whatever your Mom made that made you feel safe and loved.

There are many things I love in speculative fiction, and there are many ideas to be explored. But don’t try to take away one of the most powerful ways in which people bond. Don’t tell me it’s better to never really taste anything again.

For me, the lure of coffee in that nebula and aubergine stew with alien friends is far too powerful.

Twistie’s Sunday Caption Madness: The ASPCA’s Nightmare Edition: The Result

Heigh-ho, camperinos!

Last week I smacked you all across the kisser with this deathless image:

And you all came back swinging with six hilarious ripostes.

It wasn’t easy picking a winner this week, but in the end there can be but one. This week it’s the ever-pithy Rebekka for this nugget of parenting Truthiness:

And behind door number three we have what happens when mommy runs out of gin.

Congratulations, Rebekka! And thanks to everyone who played.

It Doesn’t Get Better: A Note to Fat Kids, Former and Present.

It Gets Better is a noble sentiment, and maybe for some people part of a stigmatized group it’s true. I certainly hope it is.

But I’m not convinced it’s an accurate statement for the fat kids out there; especially not those who grow into fat adults.

For people of size, I’m not sure it does Get Better, at least not naturally.

Left to its own devices, the Western Beauty and Culture Machine will happily crush you underfoot –for your own good, of course– for being too big for their britches.

Everywhere you look there will be pop-up ads and billboards and interchangeable vapid reality TV “stars” admonishing you from photoshopped pages to change your body into something society deems acceptable. Only then will you get invited to the cool parties, have a partner who loves you and finally be worthy of full human status.

Oh, and don’t you dare be angry. They’re just doing it so you’ll feel better about you! They’re “just worried about your health”. Did they mention you have Such A Pretty Face? Did they make the Pointed Sigh?


It’s not like people really need much of a push to treat fat people as sub-human anyway. We’re manifestations of weakness, of the laziness and sloth they fear in themselves, we deserve our bad treatment because really, we’ve brought it upon ourselves. (You can try pointing out science refuting the claim that size is more than just a case of calories in vs. calories out, but be aware it’s dancing-with-a-pig futile in many if not most cases.)

Nope, you’re a lazy cow and there’s nothing sacred about cows in this culture: They just get slaughtered…or worse, slaughter themselves.

Bullying is now news, after too many –one is too many– kids, perceived or identifying as something other than cut-and-dried hetero, committed suicide.

But bullying, we all know, is not new news and it’s not solely the domain of gay kids.

Yet how many front page human interest stories do you hear about the plight of the fat kid being bullied in school?

Whither our tearful congressmen? Where’s the garment-rending when a bullied fat kid commits suicide?

More importantly, where are our 24-hour specialized hotlines to stop those suicides before they happen?

Tormenting fat kids is less of a headline and more of a forgivable rite of passage, swept neatly under the Children Can Be So Cruel rug (Children Can Be So Cruel, a fully-licensed subsidiary of Boys Will Be Boys and She Was Asking For It In That Skirt Partners, International)

Yeah, children can be so cruel.

Is it a newsflash that adults can be too?  The “War on Childhood Obesity”, however good its intentions might be, is just another way to codify and institutionalize size discrimination against the people least capable of defending their own interests: children.

Regardless of age, if you’re fat, Society, either openly or covertly, wants you to hate yourself thin. Except we can’t hate ourselves thin, at least not in the long term. Sometimes only thing that sticks from years of being hit in the head with the anti-fat hammer until our ears ring with self-hate is…guess what? Self hate.

So it’s hard to say It Gets Better because really, it’s going to get worse. Subtler, to be sure, but worse.

What’s the solution? We can’t wait for it to GET better. We have to MAKE it better.  Individually. Put on your own oxygen mask, then help your neighbor.

Make it better by applying a critical eye (and okay, sometimes a critical finger) to anti-fat bias.

Surround yourself with positive, thought-provoking friends and resources. Read The Fat Nutritionist. Understand Health at Every Size.

Reject any media that celebrates a culture where our bodies are punchlines and our feelings don’t count but still want our precious, precious dollars. I’m not the smartest girl on the block (and it’s not even a very big block) but even I have a problem with giving companies money to insult me.

Stop watching E! and its equally abysmal coterie (Those channels make you stupid. They just do. Read a book. Watch a documentary. Just step away from the “Reality TV” before mindless describes more than just your choice in entertainment).

For the love of all things holy, stop buying women’s magazines.

Watch the runway shows if you want to be up on fashion, at least you’ll only subject yourself to the models and not hot pink headlines offering quadruple chocolate fudge bombs, plastic surgery tips and “630 Ways To Drop Fifty Pounds By Thursday You Pathetic Spinster Cow!” on the same cover.

Find your own path, define your self BY yourself.

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