My dear friends, you’re so patient with me! Or maybe really I’m the only one who expects myself to be totally pulled together and productive at this point with a 4 month old. I know I’m my own worst critic, and yet I still totally fall for the critical voice in my mind because it disguises itself so well, disguises itself as others’ voices, or worse yet, the voice of some sort of absolute truth and authority.
Lately it’s been on my case for the fact that I’m not somehow doing “better” (whatever that actually means in this context) at balancing having a 4-month old and work and keeping up the house and remembering to brush my hair and buy groceries… It’s all like “geez, Emily. You’ve been doing this for four months now! Shouldn’t it feel easy breezy at this point to get your writing done, return all those emails, play with the baby, and then go run errands with the baby in tow? Remember, you’ve had four months to practice. Why aren’t you doing better?” But, I’m not doing better. I’m doing how I’m doing. And to be honest, I’m afraid I feel rather like a half-crazed bag lady whenever I try to get out of the house because I’m always carrying four or five bags, plus the baby – bundled in 800 layers because it’s been minus 20 – and the dog. Oh well, my arms are getting totally toned!
What’s funny is, in the midst of my usual self criticisms, I’m suddenly understanding on a whole different level all of our perfection within our imperfectness. It’s one of the most amazing things about having a baby. Espen is just 100% himself. He doesn’t sleep well, he spits up a lot still, he constantly has spit dribbling down his chin from proudly blowing spit bubbles, he’s obsessed with grabbing his toes, I can barely get him to eat when he’s hungry any more because he just wants to look up at me and tell me about all he’s thinking in “ohhhs” and “bwehhs,” his laugh does sound like it could turn into fairies, he sometimes gets really grumpy and scream-y because he’s sensitive to stimulation. He is who he is, and I look at him and I think he is utterly, utterly perfect. I find myself wondering how such a perfect creature can even exist in this crazy world. And I want him to know that I think he’s perfect.
I want to tell it to him over and over and over again because I know at some point in his life, something I say or someone else says will make him think that he isn’t perfect, that he’s only as good as his achievements or his performance on something. At some point I’ll yell at him because he’s behaving badly or tell him to pipe down because he’s being exuberant but we’re somewhere we need to be quiet, and he’ll interpret it to mean he can’t be himself, he needs to be something the world wants. I know this will happen no matter how hard we try as parents. It happened to me; it happens to all of us. But, in the midst of the ups and downs of life, I want to remember to say out loud to him over and over, “you are perfect. You are perfect. You are perfect. You may have screwed up on this thing, you may need to work on that one, but you’re perfect.”
A couple days ago, I was criticizing myself, my mothering skills, my current inefficiency at getting any work done, the number of days it’s been since I worked out, and my mom told me that I was doing perfect. Finally, finally I understood what she meant when she told me that, and I was able to finally start believing her. So, be gone mean voice in my head! And, hello dear friends who are here for me when I’m able to show up!
Speaking of showing up, I’m having to come to terms with how much too much I’m trying to do right now. The truth of the matter is, I’m a little bit addicted to doing too much. I love everything I’m doing, but for a while something has to give. I’m being a mom, writing a food column and a blog, Joel and I are opening a distillery and we’re trying to release our first spirits (gin!) in February (eeeek!!!!), and I really need to finally finish my dissertation – I’m shooting to defend in the end of February or start of March. So, for the next two months while we scramble toward the grand opening of the distillery and I finish my dissertation, I’m going to step back from blogging. I’m still hoping to share an easy weeknight recipe here and there with just a brief description of it, though (more food, less philosophizing! It’ll be good for us all!). Let’s start with these pork chops.
I saw a recipe for pork tenderloin with a date and orange juice relish, and I had intended to make that. But, a pair of pork chops sort of fell into my lap, and dinner did a quick morph into pork chops with an orange and date pan sauce instead. And what a good morph it was! The orange-date combination is intensely sweet with a little tang, but mixed with some salt and the meaty pan juices of the chops, they become wonderfully rich and flavorful. These were perhaps the best pork chops I’d ever eaten!
- 2 Tbs. butter
- 2 bone-in pork chops, each about ½ or ¾ inch thick
- salt and pepper
- ⅔ cup finely chopped dates
- 2 small oranges, peels and pith cut off and cut into rounds
- 2 Tbs. chopped shallot or red onion
- Heat your oven to 450F.
- In an oven-safe skillet, heat the butter until foaming. Generously salt and pepper the pork chops on both sides and add them to the pan. Cook them, undisturbed, until the first side is nicely browned, a couple minutes. Then, flip them and transfer the pan into the oven. Roast until the chops are just cooked through - about 6-8 minutes, then remove from the oven and transfer the chops to a plate to rest.
- Put the pan (remember the handle is hot!) on the stove at low heat and add the shallot/onion and cook for a minute or two, then add the orange slices, chopped dates, and a Tbs. of water. Cook, stirring, until the oranges have softened and become juicy and falling apart, about 2-3 minutes. Add in any juices that have accumulated while the pork chops rested, then taste and add any salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the chops and serve.