A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, I decided that I wanted to take a break from drinking. I had been thinking about it off and on for months, but on that day I was resolute. My plan was to not drink for thirty days in an attempt to reset my relationship with alcohol.
The previous Friday night, my husband and I went to the little beachside Italian restaurant up the hill from our house for dinner and shared a bottle of wine. This is one of our favorite spots since moving to our new place. It’s one of those kitschy old-school Italian restaurants with painted murals of the Amalfi coast and Roman historical sites all over the walls and a dim interior lit by wrought iron chandeliers and tabletop candles. I let Ali drink more of the wine because I was already starting to move towards the choice to drink less. This was mostly catalyzed by my wanting to lose weight. I had started doing Cardio Barre regularly and had noticed my already shaky sense of balance was even worse when I drank a couple of glasses of wine the night before. This did not help my confidence in the least, as most classes I was directly facing a line of my classmates at the bar who stared past me and moved their svelte limbs with the intensity of soldiers marching out to battle.
On Saturday evening, we had plans for friends of ours to come over for drinks, so we went out to the store to stock up on supplies for our night of entertaining.
Before our friends arrived, I hand squeezed limes and oranges for the pitcher of margaritas I was making. The sink piled up with leftover flattened peels, my hands were pink and stinging from the acid and I inadvertently squirted my left eye with orange juice. It’s a messy business doing the juicing by hand, but worth it. When they arrived, I rotated in and out of the living room and the kitchen every half hour, careful to refill our glasses anytime they got low like the attentive hostess I aspire to be. After drink two, one of our friends said, “Actually, I’m okay,” just as I was about to pour some more margarita into her glass.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
She was sure.
Later, I wondered why I asked her if she was “sure.” Who was I? Some teenage girl peer pressuring her into drinking more? Weird.
Upon further reflection, I realized it was because her stopping made me wonder why I didn’t want to.
The next morning I woke up a bit hungover, stomach acid at the back of my throat, and that slightly dizzy, queasy feeling pulsing from my head down to the pit of my stomach. I didn’t go to Cardio Barre that day. I thought about one of the girls from my Cardio Barre classes, Emma. She had come to class one morning and told me she was feeling completely off because she had two margaritas the night before and had not had a drink in six months prior to that. My first thought was, “What does she do then?”
I began to wonder why it was so hard for me to imagine my life now without alcohol. It had not always been this way. In fact, even in college and the few years after college I didn’t drink that often. I, like most people that age, would drink to get drunk a couple of days a month when I went out with my friends to ethnic restaurants turned night clubs in Irvine and Fullerton (I went to UCI, so going out wasn’t glamorous like it would have been in L.A.), but other than that, drinking was not part of my daily life.
But now, I realized, I was using alcohol for something. Sure, I could stop drinking. I could easily go days without having a drink, and I wasn’t generally into the “hair of the dog” solution for a hangover.
But, I was drinking to fill something inside of me.
And here it is: I will do anything I can to forget who I really am.
Who am I really? I am introverted, I think too much, I worry when there is a lull in the conversation that it’s my fault, I am constantly fighting against my genes to not retrograde back into the chubby little girl I once was. Alcohol is my way of numbing, of staving off boredom, of feeling like and appearing to be a fun, light-hearted person against the direction of my natural current. It is a way of distancing myself from myself, but also from other people. I do this in plenty of other ways too- makeup, home décor, a meticulously clean kitchen- anything that I can construct into a beautiful mask for me to hide behind.
But what was alcohol giving me? Not really a damn thing. Sure, drinking is fun. I love wine tasting and I love making and drinking craft cocktails. But once I get home from work and have a few drinks, I am completely unproductive. I don’t work on my memoir, I don’t bake, I don’t have to think as much. I’m floating inside the warm blur of two glasses of wine and time seems to have melted into something just as easy to drink down. In short, I don’t have to connect with who I really am. Sometimes who I am is painful and I don’t want to deal with her and all of her feelings and fears and anxieties.
Plus, I’ve grown really damn sick of living to the rhythm of “I’ll get to it tomorrow.” I am thirty-one years old and I have goals for myself. I have goals that I want to actually achieve, not just things that I talk about doing.
It’s in the spirit of this that I’ve decided to focus on doing a blog again. Not only is it a way for me to keep up a daily practice of writing, but it also keeps me occupied and in touch with myself. I love baking and I always will, but I am seeking to get more out of this blog than just recipe development and pretty photos. For my first baking blog, I really just wrote in a bubble gum tone that I figured I should use and completely sanitized myself out of it (I imagine myself here as a hypnotist waving a perfectly frosted cupcake in front of the screen so you don’t see me there at all). So, I want this one to be different, not just a copy of a copy, but as close to the true nature of “blogness” that I can muster up.
My dry spell has come to an end and I really do feel like it was an exercise that helped me to refocus and find more of a balance. For now, I’m doing my best to keep the libations limited to celebrations and occasional social drinking.
As for the recipe, because I have a dangerous love of chocolate chip cookies (dangerous because I could pretty much eat a whole sheet pan full straight from the oven), and they are about as rustic and the opposite of “gussied up” as it gets, here is my fool-proof chocolate chip cookie.
This version is gluten free, but I also have a vegan, gluten free version, which I have included alternate instructions for. Both versions (especially the vegan ones) have been huge hits at parties. The most time consuming part is just collecting the right gluten free flours and mixing them. If you don’t need the cookies to be gluten free, you can substitute for 2 ¼ cups AP flour instead.
Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF, Vegan Option)
- Dry Ingredients- 1/2 cup each of: blanched almond flour/sorghum flour/potato starch/sweet rice flour/ gluten free oat flour
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (for vegan, sub 1/2 cup refined coconut oil and 1 tbsp water)
- 2 large eggs (for vegan, sub 1/3 cup apple sauce)
- 2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (I like Enjoy Life chocolate chunks)
Directions: Combine gluten free flours with sea salt, baking soda, and spices. Either pulse together in food processor, or whisk together in large bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together butter (or coconut oil) and sugar. Add eggs and then dry ingredients (for vegan, add dry ingredients and then apple sauce). Either mix using the paddle attachment of stand mixer, or use hands. Add in chocolate chips until equally disbursed. Chill dough for 3-4 hours, or overnight. Using a #10 sized disher (about 1/4 cup), measure out equally sized large balls of dough and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. For vegan cookies, use hand to flatten scooped dough slightly. Bake two pans at a time at 350 degrees for around 15 minutes. Adjust baking time if making smaller or larger cookies.
NOTE: To make nut-free, omit the almond flour and add an extra 2 tbsp each of sorghum/potato starch/sweet rice flour/oat flour