Nothing, absolutely nothing, makes me feel frumpier than winter.
Sure, for the first appearances of snow, a handful of us are possessed (Exorcist-style) with the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed enthusiasm of children, enchanted by the soft flakes that tickle our noses and crunch delightfully under our feet. “Let it snow!”, we say, grinning like idiots as we make snow angels and throw snowballs at each other in the street.
Ultimately, though, the romance wears thin by January, when we realise that we aren’t kids anymore and have responsibilities, including, but not limited to: shoveling the walkway, commuting to work, running errands, getting to appointments and classes and other scheduled things (all to be done during the snowstorm of the century, no less). At this point, I’m just barely holding on to the whimsical notion that snow is lovely and magical, an effort unaided by the fact that I’ve been wearing the same shapeless coat, clunky boots and “aw, did-your-grandma-knit-that-for-you?” hat for weeks now, making me feel like an over-packed duffel bag forgotten on the airport conveyor belt.
My goal for January? To cultivate feelings opposite from those oozing from this photo.
Anti-frump goal no.1: indoor swimming
Now, to the uninitiated (me), this activity does not come without mixed feelings. Deciding to squeeze into a bathing suit in the dead of winter and trek through snow to the pool defies all logic; it feels like you’re missing a beat on the evolutionary trajectory. You’re not supposed to be swimming when it’s minus 20 C, dummy. To make matters worse, I hadn’t been to an indoor pool since elementary school, for swimming classes that I remember being nothing more than a series of recurring ear infections and an exercise in chlorinated-water ingestion. From that point on, I was never really drawn to swimming as a serious activity, occupying myself instead with the feat of making vortexes by running around our backyard above-ground and knocking my brother over the head with big foam pool noodles. As an adult, pool activities never involved anything more rigorous than floating on inflatable lounge chairs and drinking cocktails. These were scenarios devoid of hair-tearing bathing caps and wax earplugs. No “competitive-cut” bathing suits here, thank you very much.
However, I recognize that getting older means that you’re body starts to get creaky and achy unless you do something about it. And since I have yet to find a gym that doesn’t feel like a purgatorial dungeon, swimming has become a reasonable alternative.
The beginnings were rough. After the first few laps, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack, all the while revisiting my childhood memories of ingesting the contents of the pool and getting water lodged in my ears. Why? Why would anyone do this? But soon after my first swim, I discovered the pay-off. Once you’re done flailing around in the water and you’re stepping out of the changing room and onto the street, you feel like the sexiest person alive. You feel like a full-on, miracle-performing superhero.
Another thing you feel is how hungry you are. All of that thrashing around to keep your head above water makes you very, very hungry – though interestingly, you’re not seduced by burgers or take-out Chinese food or any other highly caloric, heavy fare. In fact, all you want is salad. A big mother of a salad. But it’s cold outside, so you still want something soothing and comforting – which leads us to the simple compromise below. Veggie-centric, but also warm and creamy, this salad makes you feel rewarded for your athletic feat, conveniently distracting you from the leftover pool water swishing in your ear.
Carrot, Beet & Tahini Salad (serves 2) -adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
- 1/2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large beets, roasted and peeled, cut into ¼” pieces
- 2-3 carrots, peeled into strips
- sea salt + freshly cracked pepper
- 1 tsp. honey
- 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. tahini
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 12 cups mixed salad greens
- 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds, white or black or mixed
***if you’ve got some chickpeas hanging around, toss those into the pan too.
Melt the butter in the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and beets and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring once or twice, until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the honey and 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly glazed, 2 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl to cool.
Whisk the remaining tablespoon of vinegar, tahini and lemon juice into the skillet along with the cumin.
Toss the baby lettuces with a light coating of the tahini dressing. Plate the greens and top with the carrots, beets and sprinkle the sesame seeds. Serve straight away.