Embracing In-Betweenness

As many have noticed (and have gracefully pointed out), I have been slowing down on my blog in these past couple of months.  I have been in the process of finishing up my Master’s thesis, which I successfully defended at the beginning of this month.  If you would have asked me a few months ago what I thought of my thesis, I’d have told you that it was the worst thing I have ever written and I just wanted it to be over with.  In fact, on the day I defended I knew I hadn’t said all of the things I really wanted to say; luckily, my amazing committee knew this and gave me a chance to get it all out there. To date, my thesis defense was the BEST experience of my academic career, and I could not be more proud of the finished product that is taking shape as a result.

What I do when I'm not blogging or in the gym...

What I do when I’m not blogging or in the gym…

And what is this thesis about?  Short answer: bodybuilding.  My stuffy elevator pitch involves such keywords as gender, transgression, subversion, normativity, categories, femininity, masculinity, and opposing binaries.  But really, my thesis is about in-betweenness.  Stuckness.  That feeling of never quite fitting, despite pressure to fit.  Sound familiar? You don’t have to be a fitness competitor to understand this theme.

My research points out that, no matter how hard we try, we will never fit neatly into a category.  But we already knew this, right?  The question we are left with, however, is what to do with all of the people who don’t fit.  As the sport of bodybuilding demonstrates, but which happens all the time, the tendency is to simply create new categories.  But what do we get when we make new categories?  New spaces between categories.  The more categories we come up with, the more gutter space we create.  My research zooms in on these gutter spaces, examining how they can be useful to the people who inhabit them.

My daughter defines a rainbow as being a perfect mix of sun and rain.  In-betweenness at its best!

My daughter defines a rainbow as “a perfect mix of sun and rain.” In-betweenness at its best!

In the sport of bodybuilding, we navigate these in-between spaces constantly—it can mean being too big for Figure but too small for Women’s Bodybuilding, or having a perfect physique but not having the right hairstyle (really!).  For my non-bodybuilding friends out there, however, we can look at much more practical examples.  How many of you find that jeans never fit your waist and your butt at the same time?  Or that you are healthy and fit but still not thin?  Or very thin but not fit?  Has anyone noticed the pressure to be thin and fit, but also a social drinker/eater?  Or that to be successful in sports, women must un-learn how to be ladylike?  We are surrounded by labels, categories, classifications, and contradicting expectations—and we can never fit perfectly.

The way I see it, we have two choices: we can live in the pursuit of molding ourselves to fit a category, or we stand firmly in the gutter.  Which you choose depends on how hard you want to fight, and what you consider “winning.”  Some people go to unhealthy extremes to be thin, just to look good in a picture.  Bikini competitors often get breast implants because it will help them win a trophy.  They can have that.  Personally, I suggest we willfully inhabit the gutter!  Embrace not fitting.  By doing so—by remaining in the gutter space ON PURPOSE—we face frustrations, but we don’t sell ourselves out for a trophy, or a compliment, or some other meaningless recognition.  We stick it to the man.  We own that gutter.

I am learning to love being muscular and feminine at the same time.  I love embodying multiple dualisms (translation: being two opposites at once): feminine and strong, physical and intellectual,  small and big.  It makes me feel sneaky…

Embrace your in-betweenness!

Speaking of things that are in-between, this recipe for pumpkin pie is perfectly situated between “sweet” and “healthy.”  That is, it satisfies the sweet tooth and is a healthier alternative to traditional recipes.  I am especially happy about the quinoa flour, which was an excellent way to increase the protein content.   And, best of all, it passes the kid-test!

Filling:

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup splenda
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • cinnamon

Crust:

  • ½ c oat flour
  • ½ c quinoa flour
  • ½ c oats
  • ¼  cup honey
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • pinch of salt

For crust:

Mix dry ingredients in bowl; stir in honey, oil, and milk.  Mix well with a fork or your fingers, until the mixture begins to stick together.  Press into a greased pie pan.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350.

To make the pie:

Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Add to pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cover with foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

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Clean[ish] Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s FALL, my favorite season, and that means PUMPKIN! I am basically in love with all things pumpkin flavored—coffee, soups, and anything baked! Pumpkin itself is a fantastic food—rich in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium, pumpkin is a tasty and nutritious addition to just about anything you can think of.  In baking, pumpkin adds moisture and density, and its texture is unmistakable.  I love to add it to my oatmeal pancakes, protein pancakes, smoothies, curries, cookies, breads, and just about anything else I can squeeze it into!

Last year, at the very beginning of my Unwrapped adventure, my daughter challenged me to baking a pumpkin pie.  At the time, I was in the process of working through my list of taken-for-granted packaged foods in an attempt to learn how to make everything from the source.  Her request threw me for a loop—I had absolutely no idea how to derive pumpkin puree from an actual pumpkin, and it hadn’t even occurred to me that it might come up.  I felt intimidated and completely unprepared to turn jack-o-lantern material into food!  Somehow, though, I figured it out and through trial and error I learned the ins and outs of preparing pumpkin.

Did you know that many “pumpkin” foods, including pies, are made with sweet potato or squash instead of pumpkin?  I did not!  Imagine my surprise when I cooked my first pumpkin and ended up with a pile of yellow mush that looked nothing like the brown puree that comes in the can!  I learned to look for certain varieties of pumpkins, such as sugar pie and baby bear (sounds like pet names, no?), which are smaller and tastier than your typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin.  I have also found that to get a sizeable amount of puree, I need several of them.

For pies and baked goods I actually prefer to mix pumpkin and sweet potato.  Sweet potato is not only an optimal carbohydrate that is preferred by most bodybuilders—it is also much easier to work with and is sweeter than pumpkin, which eliminates some of the need for additional sweeteners.  And honestly, it looks much more like the canned pumpkin we’re all used to seeing.

Today, I had a brown banana and a small pumpkin on my kitchen counter, and I had to do something with them before it was too late.  I came up with a pretty impressive recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, if I do say so myself!  As always, my challenge is to create recipes that are not heavy in butter, sugar, oil, or gluten—while passing the kid test.  This one passed–my seven year old daughter loved them!

To avoid gluten, I use oat flour.  You can use a food processor to make your own if you don’t have any handy—simply pour some oats in and chop them up.  If you don’t mind the extra fats, you could also use almonds or almond meal, or some combination of oats/almonds.   I also used splenda.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies:

  • 1 cup pumpkin/sweet potato puree
  • 1.5 cups oat flour
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 egg
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg  (I have no idea how much I used of either spice)
  • 1/2tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ cup splenda

Preheat oven to 350.  Mash banana until it is nearly liquid; stir in the splenda until the mixture is smooth, and then stir in egg and pumpkin.  Add the remaining ingredients to the pumpkin mixture.  Spoon onto cookie sheet—these cookies are dense and will not spread out, so I recommend making smaller cookies.  Bake for 14 minutes.  This made about 20 cookies.