It’s been a long time since I read a book that I couldn’t put down, well, that wasn’t a cookbook. The last one was Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee.
Just last Friday I received my copy of It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell. I finally ordered it on Amazon and I read more than half of it that first night and finished the book the next day. I love reading memoirs. Something so pure, honest and vulnerable about them. And when you can relate to the author, in all her pain and tears because you were a fat kid too. It’s unexplainable.
My parents (separately, before they had even met) moved to the United States, my father for graduate school and my mother moved here to work as a nurse. They met in Chicago through mutual friends and were married soon after . . . my mom got pregnant right away with my brother and my dad had to find a career that would support a family. He had graduated from East Texas State University with a masters degree in journalism but had to find something that would pay the bills and support a family. I don’t know how but my father opened up a small Korean grocery store that would grow, after a few failed attempts at other businesses, into a larger, more successful business and then he started opening up Korean and Japanese restaurants in Dallas, Texas. Somewhere along the way, my mother gave up her career in nursing to help my dad and his businesses. My parents worked all day long and the only times I remember being together, as a family, when we were little was on Sundays at church and when we were eating together. Every meal was a feast. My father loved to eat. And we learned to always clean our plates and we always ate well.
Because my parents were working all the time, my brother, sister and I were latch-key kids. When we were little, we did have a live-in nanny who took care of us (her speciality was Kraft macaroni and cheese which I think she made three times a week) but when we were old enough and didn’t really need someone watching us, she retired. We walked home from school (2 miles?), let ourselves in the house and turned on the TV. We had each other, my siblings and I, which was nice, and I had my tub of creamy peanut butter. I seriously would grab the container and a spoon and go to town as soon as I got home from school. That, or I would make myself a HUGE sandwich and eat it. Sometimes, I wasn’t even hungry. I just did it because it was my routine when I got home from school.
Needless to say, I was fat. I was over weight, probably 20 lbs more than my recommended weight. I was made fun of at school. Kenny McClain, the class clown and jokester, always made a point to make fun of me during recess. I hated him. He was a mean kid.
He made up this phrase that he would chant to me, screaming. . “Alice the palace that lives in Dallas.” It rhymed. He thought it was brilliant. He called me a “palace.” He would chant that, other kids would join in and laugh at me. The other one was, and he would say this in a sing-songy kinda voice .. “Alice Lee! Please don’t sit on me!!!” He did a good job of making me feel worthless and miserable. All the time. I already knew I was fat. And hated myself for it. All of this during elementary school does not help a kid’s self esteem.
My eyes got a little watery writing this post. Some wounds are deep. Even years later. Shit, kids can be mean. It’s terrible. You guys, can we teach our children to use kind words? to be nice? to stick up for kids? to befriend the friend-less?
I think I heard that Kenny either grew up to be a criminal and went to jail or he moved to California and became a professional video game player. I’d like to think the first. Whatever.
It wasn’t until middle school, I think, where I dieted and started to lose weight. I think I just got to a point where enough was enough and food couldn’t be my comfort anymore. I was seriously on some kind of diet all of my adolescent years. I joke that this is why I am only a little over 5 feet tall. Because during the years where I should have been growing, I was dieting and depriving myself of essential vitamins and nutrients. Every diet out there. I tried it. And my parents were always very supportive and helped me when I was ready to try to lose the weight. I remember the diet I was trying . . it required you to drink 6 or 7 glasses of water before every meal and then you could eat a light dinner. My mom had heard about this from a friend or read it somewhere. . The water was supposed to make you feel full but that didn’t work on me. I just chugged those 7 glasses of water, ate my dinner and was still hungry. There were many nights I went to bed hungry but I guess it kinda paid off.
Because then, something crazy happened.
In high school, I made the drill team and slimmed down to what would be my thinnest weight ever. Compared to the other girls who were stick skinny, I was still maybe 10 to 15 lbs. heavier but not necessarily fat.
Throughout college, I still struggled with my weight. On the plus side, I did not gain the freshmen 15 that everyone tends to gain when they enter college and go crazy at the dorms just eating anything and everything with no parental supervision. And I exercised. Something I never really did as a kid. But I was still chubby for my 5′ 2″ frame at 130 lbs.
It wasn’t until I graduated from college, moved to San Francisco that I would finally feel comfortable in my own skin. . and actually like myself. A bad break-up, and some events at home caused me to move back to Dallas for the summer and then to Los Angeles. But before I left SF, I ran my first half marathon and was probably in the best shape ever. This was in 2001. Running saved me. It was my therapy. I loved it and still run today.
My weight would fluctuate here and there, but from that year on (2001), I have always exercised on a regular basis, watched what I ate (to some degree) and have managed to stay at a consistent weight (110 lbs.) since I got married back in 2006. Yes, even after having two kids, I am still the same weight as when I got married. I’m pretty proud of this but have worked my butt off to stay this way. There were days where I would eat 3 slices of pizza in one sitting which might not sound like a lot but it was. But I have learned portion control and exercise. This is what has worked for me.
I’m a woman and will always be self conscious. I will probably always wake up in the morning and weigh myself. I will always wish my thighs were smaller.
But now, I am a mother. I have two impressionable young, sweet girls. I want them to believe in themselves, know that they are loved and love their bodies, at any size.
It Was Me All Along brought back so many memories and tears and I loved this book so much. In Andie’s introduction, she bakes a cake similar to this one for her 20th birthday party and . . eats the entire thing, well, all but one slice, herself.
This book is moving, poignant and a must read for anyone who has ever struggled with weight issues. Get it. Buy it. Read it. It’s inspiring, thought provoking and will make you really look deeply at yourself. I loved reading this book and will probably read it again next week. I also loved Andie’s relationship with her mother. This is probably why Andie is the woman she is today. Mothers, man. They are everything.
Life is not about looking perfect or being skinny . . but living life and appreciating as much as possible. Loving yourself, people and being loved.
And eating cake! For the love of God, eat the cake! Maybe not the entire thing but you know what I mean. I love you guys.
And Kenny McClain, if you somehow read this post, I forgive you. I forgive you for all the tears and torment. And well, if you are in jail, what goes around comes around, yo.
Andie’s cake is better . . but this one is pretty darn close. She adds something that I absolutely love when I bake chocolate cakes. You need to buy the book to get her recipe.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- ⅓ cup water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1⅓ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup whipped cream cheese
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2½ cups confectioners' sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease or spray two 9-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper on the bottom of each cake pan.
- Using a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, water, and vanilla.
- Using your stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches alternating with the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until the batter is blended well.
- Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops. Bake the cakes in middle of oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on racks for about 10 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely.
- In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the melted (but cooled) chocolate, vanilla and the confectioners sugar (1/2 to one cup at a time) and beat until combined well.
- Place one cake on cake stand or plate and frost the top. Place second cake on top and frost the top and sides completely. I just used an offset spatula. Slice and enjoy!
Recipe from epicurious.com