Spicy Ground Pork and Cabbage Bowl + Wedding Dress Blues

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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

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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?

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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).

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22 Comments

  1. Alyce Davis

    You are adorable inside and out and will look smashing on your wedding day!

  2. Sarah

    I honestly didn’t love my wedding dress until the day of my wedding. I bought one, had a breakdown a week later, bought another one, and then had a breakdown at the bridal salon when I had my first fitting. We took it to a woman who completely redid the top and I felt better about it, but until my wedding day, I didn’t LOVE it.
    Then on our wedding day, I realized I didn’t care. My dress was a tiny piece of a perfect day. I love my dress now and sometimes I do want to just put it back on. But I think that’s because it comes with the wonderful memories of our day.
    CONGRATULATIONS! You are more than enough and you will know it on your wedding day he already knows.

    • CristinaSciarra

      Sarah, thank you so much for your sage perspective. It’s great to know that it’s not just me, but equally great to be reminded that the dress is just one small piece of a much larger day. Besos!

  3. cynthia

    I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a hug, Cristina! This resonates so much (and I’m sure it does with soo many others too). The dress just seems so iconic and, like you said, the hugeness and finality of it is so overwhelming! But I have no doubt that you look STUNNING (timeless, lacy, and old-timey movie star sounds incredible!) and your joy will make it look even better. Also, this ground pork and cabbage bowl is right up my alley!!! It looks soooo so good — all my favorite flavors. Thinking of you and sending hugs your way!

    • CristinaSciarra

      Thanks, Cynthia!! I love reading about your wedding updates too! Thank you for the hugs!

  4. Eliza

    From your culinary prowess, your eloquent writing, and your incredible candor, it is clear that you are a beautiful person, inside and out. We all struggle with body image issues at least once in a blue moon, but, regardless, I’m happy that you aren’t letting the wedding dress blues get you down too much. You’re going to have a magnificent wedding – I can’t wait to get a glimpse of the menu!

    • CristinaSciarra

      You are so sweet, Eliza! Thanks for your kind, kind words. And I will definitely post the menu after the wedding! And perhaps try my hand at a few of the recipes..

      • Eliza

        Yes, I most definitely will!

  5. Suzanne

    Cristina; you will look beautiful, I can’t imagine you looking anything but stunning. I am sure your dress will be amazing on your big day. Congratulations. Love the recipe, I am sort of obsessed with Asian flavors right now, this is a wonderful dish.

  6. Shamit Khemka

    ! It looks soooo so good — all my favorite stunning flavors

  7. Simon

    I can’t find Guanchang or Guancheng anywhere…can you point me in the direction? It doesn’t show up when I search on Google…HELP!!

    Simon.

  8. Fiona

    Cristina, I totally feel you, and also I want to hug you. I cried at my dress fitting last month – not happy tears, but because I was so upset about how it was fitting and worried about how I’d look and how the photos would turn out. Who decided that big white dresses were ever a great idea, anyway?!? You looked gorgeous in the picture I saw today, and all I can hope is that our tailors both get everything all sorted out. Bonne chance, et bisous!!

  9. Kristin

    Having had the benefit of seeing your wedding photos BEFORE I read this post (I’m new here), let me just say that you looked simply stunning. And that’s no easy feat, upstaging that gorgeous setting, the wedding party, the colors, the flowers, oh my goodness, that FOOD, but somehow you managed it.

    Much happiness to you.

  10. Alissa

    Cristina, I’m new to your blog and have been binge reading like ya do when you fall in love with a new blog! Anyway I am right there with you on the anxiety surrounding your wedding day look! Me and my fiance (we’re two brides) just got engaged and have decided on a short 4 month engagement. We are both heavier than we would like to be and it’s frustrating to feel so discouraged by it. There’s definitely the feeling of the photos representing your youth for the rest of eternity that really gets your head swimming. Thanks for your honest and insightful words on this! Obviously I looked through your wedding post and you looked truly stunning!! I saw that post first and never would have guessed you had these worries going into you big day. Congrats to you!


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    enjoy life! never worry

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