Espen and Joel Xmas

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.

Emily and Espen 1

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!

pork chops dates and orange

Pork chops with orange-date sauce
Serves: 2
  • 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
  1. Heat your oven to 450F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.



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19 Responses to Pork chops with orange-date sauce

  1. Mimi says:

    Stop it! It’s hard work! Anyone who says it isn’t is lying. Beautiful recipe, and baby!

  2. molly yeh says:

    was just playing with dates this morning… i’m so glad i have some left over because this recipe looks delightful!

    and can i just say how cool it is that you’re opening a distillery?! SO. SO. SOOOOO COOL.

  3. Jen says:

    Thanks for all of your wonderful and honest writing on becoming a parent. I’ve been impressed with your clarity over the past four months as you describe all of those new parent emotions. I have a 2 and 4 year old and your writings have brought me back to those first days/weeks/months when it is SO hard to figure it all out. Thanks for sharing! You have a beautiful little boy! Congratulations!

  4. Brianne says:

    Baby in a tuxedo shirt!!! He’s so big! I cannot even fathom finishing a dissertation with a newborn (although I dream about it a lot these days…probably shouldn’t throw that out there, but it’s true). And opening a business! And that cold! The fact that you’re doing all those things and still cooking and blogging is amazing. And this recipe sounds great. I haven’t done much with dates, but this is definitely something I should try. You continue to inspire me, Emily!

    • Emily says:

      Isn’t the tuxedo onesie amazing!? A friend gave it to me, and of course we had to put Espen in it for Christmas and New Year’s. So cute! And yeah, I can’t believe how big he is now compared to when he was born. Thank you so, so much Brianne!

  5. Gloria says:

    We women all tend to be way too critical of ourselves. (My husband says “Guilt” is my middle name.) Love your blogs and your recipes!!

  6. Kathryn says:

    I can’t even begin to imagine how you juggle all that you do – you’re a total inspiration!

  7. Viviana says:

    Honestly, you are perfect. I think your mother is right. Maybe because Ive been a mother myself for a while now and my own perfect babies are two beautiful, wholesome teens. Just enjoy what you have right now with your family, its the very best anyone may aspire to have and its so good that you realize it is the top priority. Your blog and work are a real inspiration and your recipes are truly wonderful! Thank you for sharing them! Enjoy this time!

  8. Emily,
    I don’t know how you do it, but when you get to be almost 80 (like me), you’ll wonder that too! Your energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and honesty coupled with youthful wonder will keep you going, and if you have to put five-and-spice on hold for the time being, that is totally okay! You inspire me – as do your mom and dad!
    Thank you, and don’t miss these precious days with Espen!

  9. Sophie says:

    Oh, oh he is too much. He is just squishable! What a guy 🙂

    I am familiar with your feelings of self-criticism….. I am on a bit of a journey in my own life to try to fall in to bed each night feeling content with my productivity, instead of paralyzed by how much more I wish I could have fit in, no matter how exhausted. I’m about finding myself Good Enough even though my ambitions are so high. Dear, you’ve got a brand-new baby, a rockin bod, a food blog that hasn’t even died in the sleepless nights and new-life-adjustments, and about a billion other things going on….. You are Superwoman! Try to give yourself grace, try to find time to relax, and rest….. and your mother is right 🙂

  10. kate says:

    You are an AMAZING mother, wife, and friend, Emily. Don’t let those voices in your head tell you otherwise. A friend recently shared this with me. She told me to print it and tape it on my wall. Its a good reminder that we are human, trying our best and sometimes that’s just good enough. Teach Espen compassion by first practicing it with yourself! xxx

    The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto By Brene Brown:

    Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions–the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.

    I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

    We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.

    We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

    You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

    I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
    I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.

    When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

    Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

    We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.

    As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.

    I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

    • Emily says:

      Kate, this is amazing. Thank you for sharing. I’m printing it, and keeping it, and am going to try to read it everyday. Or at least weekly!

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