Iranians Prefer Blonds

One of the biggest compliments an Iranian can give regarding someone’s physical appearance is this: “Boo-reh.” As in, he or she has blond hair. Or a fair skin tone.

The term “blond” is used rather loosely here. It can run the gamut from Nicole Kidman level of fairness to Penelope Cruz level of fairness. (Why I chose two former Tom Cruise flames, I have no idea.)

Wait a second, you’re thinking. Penelope Cruz isn’t blond! Or fair! Well, sometimes she gets highlights. And even those count as blondness in the Iranian realm of “boor.”

Iranians are obsessed with blonds. Italians are a bit better, but not by much.

A and I are by no means strangers to this phenomenon. Before we were married, everyone we dated was blond. Before I met A (definitely a brunette), I was pretty sure that my husband would be 6’0”-6’3” tall, blond, with green or blue eyes. Our children would have brown hair and green eyes.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my sister and I learned to speak English by watching CHIPS. While everyone drooled over Panch’s tall, dark, and handsome looks, we were completely in love with John’s floppy golden hair. When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with Stefan Edberg and Darien Hatcher, two athletes who are as blond as you can get. A Swedish flag adorned my school binder, and I even convinced myself that I loved Wasa crackers (aka tree bark).

So far, P doesn’t seem to be immune to this infatuation with blondness. When she was a little over six months old, we took her to a bar in the middle of the day to watch a World Cup game (get all the judgments out of your system now). We were sitting next to a blond woman, who was also watching the game. Most of the 90-minute game was spent trying to pry P off the poor woman, who was being subjected to aggressive caressing by a six-month old. Time and again, P would start attacking the woman’s hair.

Has she inherited our fascination with blondies? It’s very little evidence to go on, but interesting to note nonetheless.

Once in a while, when we’re outside and the sunlight is hitting her at just the right angle, P’s brown hair shimmers with shades of red, undoubtedly inherited from A, who had white blond hair as a baby. And when I see P in those moments, I think to myself, “Boo-reh.”

An Italian Thanksgiving

I’ve already written a fair amount about my least favorite American holiday. So it’s only fair that I dedicate as much blog space to my favorite one: Thanksgiving.

What’s there not to love? The whole holiday is about food (and that whole being thankful thing). I love it all: the Brussel sprouts, the green beans, the various pies, mashed potatoes, the stuffing (oh, the stuffing), and of course, the turkey.

Thoughts of Thanksgiving are always associated with food and family. The special recipes that are passed down through the generations, everyone’s special place at the table, and the kitschy keepsakes that decorate the table are stuff of family lore.

Now that I’m a mom myself, I can’t wait until P has enough hand-eye coordination to help me in the kitchen. But even those Thanksgivings that can’t be spent with family are memorable.

One of the most unforgettable Thanksgivings I ever spent was during my study abroad year in Venice. Italians are fascinated with all things American (although the details are a bit blurry…every Fourth of July my father-in-law asks if we’re eating turkey). So I figured that it would be really cool for my Italian roommates to experience a completely American holiday.

At the time, I was living in a house with four other Italians—all of them male. Not one spoke English, since our study abroad program was adamant that we live with locals to really experience the language and culture. It was, to say the least, fun.

I prepped them in advance, telling them that we’d be having a big American-style meal with turkey and all. Like in the movies, they asked? Oh yes. Just like the movies.

When I thought up this grandiose idea, this Italian Thanksgiving, I didn’t realize just how easy Americans have it: frozen Butterballs in every grocery store, canned pumpkin, already prepared pie crusts, etc. Once I actually started looking for all the ingredients, I saw that it was going to be a bit more of a challenge than I anticipated.

At a store that catered to ex-pats, I found some cranberry sauce (I believe it was the jelly kind, the one that leaves the form of the can imprinted on the sauce) and a turkey baster. At home, my roomies immediately dubbed the baster my “instrument of pleasure.” Really, what did you expect with four guys in their 20s who’d never seen a turkey baster before?

At the grocery store, I soon found out that Italians don’t eat whole turkeys. Nor do they have canned pumpkin. (To be honest, I had balked at paying a gazillion lire for the canned turkey in the ex-pat store.)

I bought a whole pumpkin and some cookies that most resembled graham crackers. Thankfully, all the sides were easy enough to find—and I headed home with bagfuls of potatoes and green beans. The turkey situation was solved by stammering an order to a grumpy butcher near our apartment. He asked me three times if I wanted a whole turkey (un tacchino intero signorina? E’ sicura?) before finally shrugging and telling me it would be ready Thursday morning.

I received my fair share of stares as I lugged home a whole turkey up and down the bridges in Venice.

I believe my roomies thought I was insane as I started whipping the meal together. What 19 year-old makes an entire Thanksgiving meal, from scratch (as in really from scratch) no less? Apparently, a very homesick one.

But once I started cooking, the rhythm of it took me back home to California. I rubbed the bird inside and out with olive oil and seasoned it, stuffed it with a mixture of old bread and veggies, and basted it to death. I called my parents at home to figure out how long I had to bake the thing—all this was done before Google was invented. I roasted the pumpkin, scooped out the pulp, made a makeshift crumb, and put together a pie. I only made two side dishes, justifying the low number by telling myself that Italians had no idea how many side dishes were actually served at Thanksgiving.

There were seven of us at the meal: me, my four roomies, an American friend also studying in Venice, and the cute lifeguard I was seeing at the time. The meal was a resounding success: the Italians loved the American-ness of the whole thing, and the two Americans in the bunch felt a little less homesick. The wine flowed freely, and the evening ended with a rowdy stroll through the streets of Venice.

And the turkey baster? I left it for the roomies. They long ago moved out of our cute apartment in Campo S. Barnaba, but the “instrument of pleasure” has puzzled a long line of Italian students in the past 15 years.

Guest Blogging on Today

If you’re a parent to a daughter, you probably already dread the day she’ll come home with her first boyfriend. You’ll probably have some sort of a speech ready, and steel yourself to the eye-rolling that follows.

But at least you may still be qualified to give your daughter relationship advice.

Click through to Scary Mommy to read my post about why A and I will never be able to give P any sort of credible advice when it comes to boys.

A word about Scary Mommy, Jill Smokler. In a world of bloggers and Bloggers, Jill is a BLOGGER. She is a force of nature—a gazillion Facebook fans, advertisers clamoring for space on her site, and an upcoming book, Confessions of a Scary Mommy.

Needless to say, I’m flabbergasted to be guest blogging Scary Mommy today. To put it in Northern California foodie-speak (the only language some of you—you know who you are—speak), it’s like I opened a food truck, and after five months Alice Waters asked if I wanted to whip up a meal at Chez Panisse one night. Yeah, it’s like that.

Anyway, take a sec to click through and read “True Love.” And feel smug in knowing that you’re not us.

Marathon Pants

My marathon pants are one step away from total disintegration. And it makes me sad. The pants in question are not pants used to run a marathon. They’re the jeans that I fit into after I completed my first (and so far, only) marathon. That was almost three years ago, or more than a lifetime—my daughter’s lifetime, that is.

The pants were also my post-preggo goal pants. The ones that would confirm that I had pretty much lost all my baby weight.

When I was pregnant, I gained a whopping 55 pounds. I was so completely horrified by this number that I uttered this fact for the first time a couple of months ago, when I took a mini-vacation with good girlfriends in Southern California.

I felt strange telling them, my closest friends in the world, about the horribly large number. Fifty. Five. Pounds.

That is a lot of weight. I can assure you that I eat well (I can see all the judging “Yeah, rights” and eye-rolling now—but no matter, I know how I eat). I wasn’t eating entire boxes of sugary cereal of a dozen donuts at a time. I’m the type of person who doesn’t believe in shortcuts in the kitchen—no processed foods, no canned products other than tomatoes, no frozen meals.

I make my own pizza dough. I cook dried beans. I make my own stock. Heck, I’m even growing vegetables.

When I was pregnant with P, I was eating the same home-made balanced meals that I always make, and swimming a couple of times a week (up until week 34). But the weight just coming. And coming. And coming.

Anyway, after I gave birth to P, I lost about 30 pounds in a few weeks—which would have been fantastic had I only gained the recommended 30 pounds. The remaining 25 pounds decided to stick around, laughing at me every time I looked in the mirror, and practically jeering when I dared to think about those marathon pants.

When P was born, I was only employed part time. In those early weeks, I would go for walks around the neighborhood to get fresh air and get used to moving again. I tried running, but the extra weight was making things difficult on my joints (and those running clothes frankly looked obscene on me). And to be honest, I’m the type of person who is super motivated by paying for a gym membership.

So a gym membership was the very first thing I purchased when finally landing a full-time job. The YMCA close to work (in Chinatown, San Francisco) had just undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. It was gorgeous, with a saline pool and empty locker rooms. All at fabulous Y prices.

Starting in September 2010, I started hitting the gym 3-4 times a week. I tried everything: Master swim, boot camp, spinning, Pilates, cardio kickbox. I even tried three minutes of a Zumba class before realizing that a person with zero rhythm has no business doing something that dance oriented.

I was definitely toning up and gaining muscle, but still not losing any weight. Various pants were starting to fit much better, but the marathon pants were still out of reach. I still needed an extra something, a little boost, an oomph if you will.

Finally, when A was away in New York for four months, I saw an opportunity to do something I’d never done before: a cleanse. I’m not talking about one of those crazy cayenne and lemon drink cleanses (which I am convinced will pierce a hole through your gut), but one with actual food. Namely, a combination of yogurt, almonds, spinach, raspberries, and eggs for five days. Followed by water. Lots and lots of water.

And it actually worked. I lost about ten pounds in five days, and continued to drop weight (though reverting back to a normal diet)—for a total of 18 pounds lost in a couple of months.

That was eight months ago now, and the weight has stayed off (yee haw!!). I’m only seven pounds away from my pre-preggo weight, and started fitting back into the marathon pants a few months ago.

I wore them everywhere. The office, shopping, weekend visits with friends—everywhere. And little by little, those beloved pants started fraying at the seams, getting nubbly at the bum, and practically unraveling only as your favorite pants are wont to do. Especially when the manufacturer doesn’t make the same style anymore (c’mon Gap. Really?).

I still can’t bear to throw them away, though. I cut off the bottom eight inches, and now have the fanciest pair of gardening pants on the block. I may run another marathon someday and have a new pair of “marathon pants,” but you never forget your first love.