Toning Our Trouble Spots, With Food

If there were two things I’d like to improve on, they would probably be my patience and my arms.

One would think that living in a big city – where the subway cars are always late or drafty or full of sweaty Cubs fans, or where there’s a 50% chance of your Saturday jog being interrupted by a bridge going up to let a sailboat pass – you’dIMGP4892 develop a sort of 5 minute delay that lets these small inconveniences roll right over you.

This has not been the case.

Instead, the stop-and-go afternoon bus commute feels jerkier, the young, blue-smocked charity volunteers begging for your minutes seem more brazen, and the middle-aged men on scooters ride more recklessly as I carefully attempt to make it into the office on my new (maybe ambitiously tall) wedges.

The patience problem is compounded when confronting certain truths, such as the fact that, no matter how many tricep extensions I do on Jillian Michael’s command, Jennifer Aniston shoulders remain an unfortunate fantasy.

Impatience and flimsy arms don’t mix well with most contents in the kitchen.

It’s more unnerving than exhilarating when you can’t carry the pot of boiling pasta all three steps to the colander without a quick vision of burnt thighs and a starchy floor.

And I think we’ve all had the pleasure of baking a cake for the recipe-designated length, only to fail the toothpick test (worse than any high school chemistry quiz)…and fail again after giving it an extra 5, 10, 15 minutes of oven lovin’.

Now, I know I’m not going to wake up any particular morning with beautiful biceps, and the chances of me suddenly staying serene at the clusterf*^# that is the Jewel-Osco deli counter are quite slim. But that doesn’t mean some conditioning isn’t in order.

As Jillian might say, ’tis better to do one Chaturanga push up than none at all. So I’ll keep doing the tricep extensions in a squat position (very feminine). And I’ll practice patience in the grocery store check-out lanes instead, where the cashiers seem to be doing a slightly better job of not unleashing their frustration on my oat-nut bread and Tostitos.

Better yet, I’ll start making risotto more. Because nothing demands equal parts saint-level composure and upper body fortitude quite as much as a pot of creamy, delicate, stubborn rice. Sure, it may bear an eerie resemblance to Pavlov’s dog/bell/drool experiments, but if I have to make bowls of Italian heaven to learn my lessons than I guess that’s something I’ll learn to accept.

Risotto, no shortcuts
Makes ~4 full-sized servings. Adapted/integrated from Food Coma Blog & Smitten Kitchen.

1.5 c arborio rice
1/4 c olive oil
1 medium onion (or around 75% of a mondo one), chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 c dry red or white wine (both work, both are delicious)
6 c chicken stock
3 tbsp cold butter, chopped
1/3 c parmesan cheese

In a large pot, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and garlic, being careful not to burn either. Once the onions are translucent (around 8-10 minutes), add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted.

In a separate adjacent pot, heat the stock and wine; keep this at a simmer. Add a ladleful of the liquid mixture to the rice, stirring until the rice absorbs almost all of it before adding more.

And now begins your ultimate test of arms and patience.

Add one ladleful of liquid. Stir and stir and stir and stir. Add one more ladleful. Stir stir stir. No sitting; no checking to see what Wolf Blitzer is Tweeting about. Add liquid. Stir. Absorb; repeat.

Relish in this wonderful monotony until the rice seems tender, around 20 minutes or so. Don’t freak out if the rice seems perfectly tender, but you still have liquid left in your stock(pile) pot. It’s fine. Ya done good.

Once it’s ready, remove the rice from the heat and mix in the butter and cheese.

Serve with more cheese and more wine.


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