As you all know, I’ve been “working on myself” a lot, this year. What this means, tangibly, is that I’ve been trying to identify the sources of my self-deprecating/loathing tendencies. For example, I mentioned in a previous blog post on cooking for one, I have historically never cooked just for myself essentially because I don’t believe I’m worth the trouble or that I deserve my own love. Therapy has helped me to both be a little kinder to myself, and to hold myself accountable for some of my own unhappiness. But, I still have lots of work to do. My self-reflective question for the fall is this: who determines my value and worth, and why?
I work hard. I do lots of things for people I love. And I do this partially because I personally want to excel at what I do, and I desperately want to be a good and kind person. But, let’s be real. I also need lots and lots of external validation in order to feel fulfilled – without it, I slide down that slip-and-slide of self-doubt and confusion. I hate this about myself. I have incredible admiration for people who seemingly don’t rely on validation from others. My husband is really high achieving, super smart, and is good at tons of stuff. But unlike me, his strength appears to come from within, not from other people. How does that even work? How do I get that? Can I buy it? Please?
In any case, I’m working on it. In fact, I have experienced one major improvement in the last 6 months: I am actually sometimes capable of being proud of myself. Sometimes. At this time last year, even if I had exceeded a fundraising goal for work, I became unnecessarily angry at myself for not exceeding the goal by even more. But now that I have the ability to feel proud, I’ve noticed that I still need other people to be proud of me, too. Annoying. I know. So I’m trying going to try a new thing where I allow myself to feel happy about achievements, but won’t share it with others until it feels real to me. Wish me luck? (read: please tell me I’m doing a good job at not relying on others to validate my life.)
How does this relate to food and cooking? You know by now that I show my love for people by cooking for them. I need them to know, very concretely, that I care about them. I think this is quite nice. But, I have also found that I attribute my value as a friend, as a wife, as a daughter-in-law, as a human, to what concrete things I can offer, and whether those things are of high-quality. I’m afraid if I offer a bad meal that I’m actually very accurately depicting my poor value as a person. Dramatic? Yes. Unnecessary? Yes. Easy to change? No.
But change can come in itty bitty baby steps. About ten days ago, I made a pretty fucking inedible meal. I had a long day at work, had several other meetings/events to attend, and got home late. Feeling uninspired and tired, I refused to look for recipes and ended up lightly fried some chicken breasts, throwing in some white wine and broth, and braising it for about thirty minutes. I ended up putting some lemons in there, too. Mistake. The chicken ended up being incredibly bitter, like the rind of a lemon. And…I laughed. I laughed! I didn’t get angry, or lock myself in the bedroom to berate myself. Progress!
All this to say: I have a lot of work to do, and I’m excited that I can use cooking and eating to help me measure my improvement. Yea, yea, yea…maybe I should stop trying to quantify and measure everything, but that’s a goal for another season/year.
And now, here’s a recipe for a considerably more edible porchetta.
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of toasted fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons of toasted fennel seed, crushed
2 teaspoons of chili flakes
2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
12 inch slab of skin-on pork belly, skin lightly scored
Pork tenderloin, around 2-3 inches in diameter, 12 inches in length
Combine the ingredients for the salt rub in a small bowl. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the pork belly with half of the salt rub. Sprinkle the herb rub on top and place the tenderloin in the center of the belly. Tightly roll up the belly around the tenderloin and tie together with kitchen twine. Rub the skin generously with oil and the rest with the salt rub. Place your porchetta in a dish, cover and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
Heat the oven to 275F. Place the porchetta on a rack in a deep roasting pan. Lots of fat will be rendered out of the porchetta, so make sure your roasting pan is deep enough. Roast on the center rack of the oven for 4 hours. Use a meat thermometer to check that the internal termperature is 160F. Blast the heat up to 450 and continue to roast for 35 minutes, keeping an eye on the skin. You want the crackling golden brown and crispy, not burnt.
Remove from the oven, let it rest for 15-20 minutes, slice and enjoy!
Salsa Verde Recipe
1 bunch of parsley
1 cup of olive oil
2 teaspoons of toasted fennel seeds, ground
2 teaspoons of toasted coriander, ground
2 teaspoons of chili flakes
salt (to taste)
2 cloves of garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice from 2 lemons
Puree all salsa verde ingredients until smooth. Put on top of sliced porchetta, and enjoy! The porchetta can also be sliced for sandwiches and topped with the sauce. Delish!
Coming Up…Our States, Our People, Our Food: Chinese Immigration to Mississippi and a Recipe for Salt and Pepper Shrimp