Spicy Ground Pork and Cabbage Bowl + Wedding Dress Blues

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I got a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

–Wendy Cope, from Serious Concerns

DSC_9937 DSC_9952

A couple weeks ago, exactly one year after I ordered it, I tried on my wedding dress for the first time. It wasn’t a positive experience. The dress was ill-fitting–understandably common at a first fitting–but the real rub was the seamstress, who told a distressed-me that while she would try her best, she “couldn’t work miracles.” Guys, she couldn’t work miracles! I felt like an ogre in white.

Clothing, in general, is not my bag. My shopping is largely limited to ordering and returning Asos a couple times a year. And while I adore the dress I chose–it’s timeless and lacy and makes me feel like an old-timey movie star–there are things I care about more: the caterer and I passed hours on the phone, geeking out over local farms and farmers, while I happily bought inexpensive, non-designer shoes. (Apparently, it’s unusual for a bride to care as much as I did about the menu. The chef and I created something original and seasonal, which I’ll write about for their website after the wedding.)

I’m two fittings in now; thankfully, the second was an improvement on the first. Still, I can’t deny the continuing, insistent displeasure I feel about my appearance. This disappoints me. It’s natural to want to look great in one’s wedding dress, but shouldn’t the sum of my detailed planning count for more….pride? Shouldn’t I recognize the likelihood that I’m judging myself more harshly than others will? I just can’t stop thinking about the photos–will they come to summarize and represent my young self in future? The hugeness and finality of that terrifies me.

Ultimately, I’m sulking because a party dress isn’t as flattering as I’d like it to be. I’m being conquered by a piece of cloth. But how much concern is normal and justified, and how much is just silly wallowing? Will I ever come to accept my body as it is–strong, but decidedly imperfect–or will I always find something to criticize? I really hope it’s the former. I really do. I’m working on it. But damn it’s hard.

The wedding is just shy of seven weeks away. The favors have been bottled. The flowers are in order. Some days, I run and lift weights; some days I watch Netflix instead. My meals include, but are not limited to, raw vegetables. Isn’t this called balance? Can’t it be enough?

DSC_9944 DSC_9954

Any leftover cabbage, pork, or rice make for a delicious fry up, with fried or scrambled eggs. I use peanut oil as the vegetable oil, but any neutral oil will do. Also, I went for sushi rice as a matter of taste and convenience, although plain white rice, or even soba noodles, would work as well. (If you use noodles, I might go a little heavy on the cabbage sauce, to coat the noodles.) Cilantro optional. Serves 4

  • ingredients:
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 415 grams (1/4 cabbage, 11 cups) shredded green cabbage
  • 1/8 + 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons mirin
  • 2 teaspoons Gochujang, divided
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 5 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon worschetser sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 6 scallions (or 1 small bunch), sliced on a bias
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, plus more as garnish
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 persian cucumber, sliced into half moons

  •   procedure:
  •      Heat a deep pan over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil to the pan; stir in the cabbage. Toss to coat the cabbage with oil. Saute for 5 minutes, until the cabbage starts to wilt. Add 2 teaspoons mirin,  1 teaspoon Gochujang, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Continue sautéing the cabbage another 10 minutes, until soft and lusty. Stir in the peanut butter and the rice wine vinegar. Keep the cabbage warm on the lowest range setting.
  •      Heat a wide pan–cast iron is best, since you want to get the pan quite hot before adding the pork–over medium-high-ish heat. When the pan is hot, add the remaining vegetable and sesame oil. Add the garlic, and let it sizzle in the oil for 30 seconds. Now add the pork. Use a spoon to break it up, but otherwise, try not to move around too much, so that the pork can develop brown spots; about 8 minutes. When the pork is nearly cooked through, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon Gochujang, the worschesher, soy sauce, scallions, and sesame seeds. I like to overcook the pork slightly, so there are some caramelized bits, but cook to your preference.
  •      Build your bowl: scoop the rice in first. Add the cabbage next, and then the pork. Garnish each bowl with sesame seeds and cucumber moons (and cilantro if you want).