Self Love, Actually

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“Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.”    William Shakespeare

For as long as I can remember, I had this silly idea that I was overweight, unattractive and unloveable.

I grew up during a time when size negative zero white models and pop stars were idolized. I grew up thinking I had to look like that in order to be seen as attractive. I was never a size 0, and as a multiracial woman, have never looked like Kate Moss or Britney Spears. I was teased for being “fat” throughout elementary school, and when I was in high school I weighed (an apparently obese) 125 pounds! I remember upon turning 18, a friend of mine at the time bought me a sexy bare-midriff halter top for my birthday and said to me something like, “Now that you’ve lost weight, I got you this sexy top you can wear.”

You guys, I was a mere 120 pounds! Great friend, huh? 

That shit stuck with me. Like ever since I was 12 years old my mom would tell me not to smile too wide because then my big nose would stretch out even more. Or that as my weight went up and down that I looked “better skinny.” Or when a friend suggested I get breast implants. Or the time a guy in high school joked in class that I was “as big as an elephant”.

WTF is that?! Like, that’s not even proportionately possible, but it still made me feel all the more insignificant and unattractive. 

My insecurity continued to affect my relationships and my inability to be confident in how I looked at myself, anything I did, or the types of people I attracted. 

Into adulthood and at 30 years old, I suffered from a serious eating disorder after I found out that a boyfriend had cheated on me. In a matter of three days I had lost 11 pounds. In a matter of months I went from a size 8 to a size 2. I was swimming in the bridesmaid dress I was supposed to wear for my friend’s wedding, even though I had been fitted for the dress just months before.

I didn’t eat. I didn’t want to. And this is coming from a woman who graduated from culinary school. Who loved cooking as much as she loved eating. 

What really sucked was that I would post photos of my incredibly shrinking self on social media and would get tons of compliments like: “Omg you look so good!” “You look amazing girl!” “Hottie!” 

It sucks because I was really sick, and those “compliments” were just feeding the disorder. Feeding my desire to lose more and more weight to the point to where I was almost unrecognizable. 

Looking back, I know now that the reason why I punished by body so much during that very dark time was because I wanted to disappear. I didn’t feel that I was pretty enough. Thin enough. Desirable enough. I spent over 3 decades thinking and feeling that I was not enough. That if I was thinner, I would not have ever been cheated on. How fucking stupid is that? I was conditioned to believe that my ex, (who I discovered later on was a legit sociopath) would want me more if I was thinner. Again—how fucking stupid is that?

It wasn’t until later, after more heartbreak and years of getting over all of that baggage, I then started dating myself. Loving myself first. When I finally learned to love and appreciate myself, I discovered something incredible, life-changing, really. I learned that I’m pretty fucking awesome. Just the way I am.

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Call Me Miss Honey Lavender Stracciatella

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I’ve been binge-watching LogoTV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race for the past month. All seven seasons. It’s an addiction I’m very happy to admit. I love me some drag queens and especially love me some RuPaul.

(PS: How has she not aged an ounce?! Get it, mama Ru!)

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I remember watching RuPaul’s talk show (The RuPaul Show) on Vh1 in the late-90s. I was in middle school when it aired, and was so enamored by Ru. What a talent, I thought; you couldn’t keep your eyes off her. I was a fan of hers then and am an even bigger fan of her now. The Drag Race competition show is such a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch it while I’m getting dressed for work, while I’m cooking, and when I unwind after getting off from work. And while most shows lose their luster after each season, Drag Race does quite the opposite: it gains more fans and attention with every year.

When I was deciding to make a new ice cream for this week’s post I immediately turned to my mini garden I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. One of my favorite things I’m growing right now is lavender. The aroma is so soothing and delicious; I so desperately have been wanting an excuse to cook with it.

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My idea was to create a honey lavender ice cream with a twist–add some chocolate. Dark chocolate and lavender go so well together, I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to pair these flavors for this ice cream flavor. And instead of simply adding chips, I wanted to make a stracciatella-type ice cream. The soft, mellow taste from the lavender ice cream immediately reach your taste buds, and then these quick yet small bursts of chocolate melt in your mouth and add a lasting finish. Both flavors are undeniably perfect together, much like RuPaul and Michelle Visage!

And how great of a drag queen name is Honey Lavender Stracciatella? It’s mine now!

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Honey Lavender Stracciatella Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart

INGREDIENTS
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 Tablespoons lavender buds, dried
6 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup 60% dark chocolate chips (or bar cut into chunks)

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METHOD
In a small pot, heat 2 cups of the milk till just-scalding.

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Place the lavender buds in a separate medium-sized pan (preferable shallow).

When the milk is scalding, quickly remove from the heat and pour into the shallow pan with the lavender buds. This will “shock” the lavender and immediately extract all of the essential oils you want to obtain to get the greatest amount of flavor. Turn on the heat to medium-low and whisk occasionally to avoid scorching. Add in the honey and salt. Allow flower buds to steep in the heated milk for about an hour, adjusting the heat if it gets too hot or cool.

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In a separate mixing bowl, place the egg yolks and whisk rigorously till thickened. Add in the sugar and continue to whisk to thicken.

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After the lavender/milk mixture has steeped for about an hour, strain the milk with a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the flowers. Return half of the milk into the shallow pan, turning the heat up to medium. Place about 1/4 of the strained milk slowly into the egg/sugar mixture. This is called “tempering” the eggs. You’re essentially heating up the eggs very slowly avoiding to curdling them. Whisk and slowly add in more of the lavender/milk liquid until the mixture is warmed.

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Then add the egg yolk/milk mixture into the shallow pan, incorporating it with the rest of the heated lavender/milk base. Whisk the mixture constantly, making sure not to overcook the eggs. Adjust the heat and/or remove the pan from the heat to maintain an even cooking temperature. Once the mixture has thickened to the point where the mixture coats the back of a spoon, it’s done. Immediately transfer to a shallow bowl and place on top of an ice bath to cool down.

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(Cook’s note: If you see the sides of the pan start to “cook” you’ve overcooked your eggs and must immediately remove from the heat and strain the mixture and place in an ice bath to cool down. When you overcook the mixture you’ll end up with a scrambled egg-tasting ice cream base, or even worse, scrambled eggs!)

Once the mixture has cooled down, remove from the ice bath. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator to cool down for an additional 3 hours, overnight if possible.

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Pour your ice cream base into your ice cream maker when you’re ready to churn it. Follow churning process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When you have about 30 minutes left of churning, set up a double boiler, and place the chocolate chips into a heat-resistant bowl to melt the chocolate.

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While the ice cream is churning, slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate. The circular motion from the churning will create “shards” from the chocolate once it’s frozen. Which is exactly what “stracciatella” means in Italian:,“little shreds” or “little tears.”

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Cover and place the ice cream into the freezer and allow to firm for at least 3 hours.

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(Editor’s Note: All TV show screenshots in this story are property of World of Wonder Productions.)