Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Second Best Tone

May I tell you about a journal entry of mine from ten years ago? It is a sign of my fondness for you, my readers, that I am able to write this, as once I would not have been able to.

R.H. and I had been invited to a large, fancy dinner party by people we did not know well socially. I was nervous, shy, and overweight. I especially dreaded going because I had just finished reading a book by a beloved author. Here is my old journal entry. I must warn you that this was written, at the time, for my eyes only, and I was depressed about my yo-yo weight.

"In Seasoned Timber, by author Dorothy Canfield (Fisher), published in 1939, there is a scene around a boarding house table in Vermont that seems as revealing of the attitude that people had towards fat people then as I imagine they do today."

"Ah, how do you do, Miss Ingraham," he said in his second best tone…"

"Immediately I recognize this tone as the tone people use for me, their 'second best tone.' Why would they waste their 'best tone' on me?"

"…for he thought her drab and uninteresting, though worthy,
and often wondered how, with all that is now known about dieting,
it was possible for any woman to go around with such a waistline."

"Miss Ingraham is portrayed in the book as a twittering, talkative lady, clearly lacking in self-confidence or self-esteem or self-control. At first I thought that Canfield was falling into the stereotypical fat woman character, but I admit she does portray an admirable character in her book, Miss Peck, as 'massive, swarthy, saturnine, with thick, straight, large features, and bushy crinkling gray hair.' Miss Peck is not considered fat but massive.

"The male protagonist of the book values Miss Peck, the owner of the boarding house, for her Vermont cooking and for her silences. Also for her 'astringent, disdainful quality, which he relished as he relished horseradish with beef.'

"I feel that the author is saying that to be put up with, fat women must keep their mouths shut or at least utter only profound words and few at that, as does Miss Peck. I have sometimes felt that society really thinks, 'Just be glad we're letting you sit in the room. Don't push your luck by talking. What credence do fat women have? After all, if they knew anything, they would lose weight. Pu-lease!'

"So we went to the dinner party and everyone made me feel bad, right? No, what actually happened was that we had a delightful time and ended up laughing so much that one man from another table stopped by ours and said, 'You people are having entirely too much fun!'

"So shouldn't this blow my theory out of the water about the way people think of fat women? Not exactly; I can't help reminding myself that our table mates were too mannerly to reveal it if they did think so. But it does occur to me that one wonderful byproduct of my losing fifty pounds in 2001 was that I forgot about me and just enjoyed being with other people.


Thank you for bearing with me sharing that ten-year old journal entry. I put you through it because it is the 12th of the month again, time for me to report on how the diet is coming, and it is not much fun to report again that, while I've kept off 12 pounds that I lost since August, I have not lost the fifteen pounds needed to reward myself with a lampshade for the lamp (and I bet you're getting so tired of seeing it here all naked!).

There have been some healthy meals here this past month. I try to have wild Alaskan salmon once a week, either fixed quickly and simply with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper:

Or one of my more complicated recipes from The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Oven-Braised Salmon where the salmon is first browned in a pan for only three minutes, set aside in a baking dish, then thinly sliced yellow onions, a minced garlic clove, bay leaves, and salt are added to the pan the fish was cooked in, olive oil added, and cooked covered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden brown, 15 minutes. Next you remove the bay leaves and stir in a little paprika and lemon juice. Rewarm and then put on top of fish. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees. It is wonderful!

Blogger aside: Aren't these beautiful plates? I collect old Italian fish plates so I jumped on these on eBay a few years ago. Does anyone know what form of sea life these plates could be?

I've been using luncheon plates while on this diet so I would think I was getting more to eat and love these, even if I wouldn't dare put them in the dishwasher. 

Back to dieting. Most of my meals have not been exactly unhealthy…

Roast beef, carrots, onions, and potatoes:

Pork loin chops on sauerkraut (and yes, there are mashed potatoes on the plate too):

One night after hours of cooking, we ate Lee Bailey's Beef Stew with Rum and Olives:

It was supposed to have been served on buttered noodles but I used whole wheat rotini. I didn't think this dish was very good but R.H. and our son Gurn liked it. 

Then there were some meatless meals like sautéed mushrooms and parsley on potatoes with a new whole grain cornbread that I made without remembering to put in the butter that was melted in the microwave. It tasted more like a corn pudding and was a happy accident.

I'm not giving up on this diet. I'm still not eating sweets except for my one time a month slips: 3 pieces of R.H.'s chocolate-peanut cluster candy in August, at midnight; 3 fig newtons in September, at midnight; and an entire Haagen-Dazs container of pineapple coconut ice cream in November, the other morning at 1:30 a.m. 

I will not give up, but what I am ending is this 12th of the month reporting on it because I want to feel that my readers are my friends, not my wardens. I may moan and groan some about dieting in my future posts, and sure, if I happen to lose six dress sizes you can bet I'll tell the world about it. 

But I don't want to begin to imagine that you, my beloved readers, are using your second best tone for me. So the monthly reporting is ending.

And, I plan on following the advice of a dear reader in Oklahoma who neither blogs nor comments but who does write me the nicest emails. Dianne advised me to go ahead and buy the lampshade and I'm going to take her advice. I am getting pretty tired of seeing it sitting on my kitchen counter without one.

You are troopers if you've gotten through this long post, and I promise you that my next post will be a one-sentence original thought that might help someone as they gather with family and friends at the Thanksgiving Day table.


  1. I'm always being a yo yo dieter. If I could only exersize more and consistently, I probably wouldn't have this problem. You certainly eat healthy!!

  2. Hi, Dewena, you have my total sympathy. I am overweight too, because of loving sweets and indulging in them constantly. Second-best tone is a feeling often observed out in public. It does feel as if you're fat you're a lesser individual sometimes, whether that is intended or not. You are doing wonderfully well with your healthy eating, though, so keep up the good work. Oh, and in my case, my husband eats everything and is at a perfect weight and used to be underweight. Imagine how frustrating it is to live with that situation!

  3. Good GRIEF all of this makes me want to just eat eat and eat some more, lol...not a good post for me to read when I am hungry for lunch...look at all that pretty food on pretty dishes yet. :)

  4. I really appreciated your transparency, Dewena, but I can't imagine anyone disdaining you in any way. You are smart, funny, entertaining, thoughtful, creative, expressive, and so much more. You are altogether lovely. Congratulations on maintaining your weight loss. More importantly, congratulations on eating healthy. I really feel that is what's important. I loved your post, it wasn't "long" to me. It was, as always, the perfect length. It was Dewena sharing life with her friends. I love it here. Warmest regards, Nancy

  5. I too struggle with my weight and have lost and gained back more pounds than I care to admit! I'm getting ready to try again after the holidays and I love fresh salmon, so I think I'll be trying your recipe! I enjoy your blog!

  6. Dear Dewena, This is a country filled with yo-yo dieters, most of them not nearly as cleaver or well read as you! Due to a medical condition I suffered a couple of years ago, combined with the stress of our tiny grandson last year, my weight is not in a bad place right now. I have had (and I'm sure I will again have) weight problems. We are all too fixated on our weight when there are so many other wonderful things in life we should be concentrating on. It is so sad that our society has made us feel this way. Your meals look delicious, and I love those fish plates - so unique. That oven broiled salmon sounds so good. I love the way you tie so many posts into a literary reference. You must have a photographic memory. I'm doing well if I can remember the plot of a book. I could never go back and find a specific quote! I understand this was in your journal, but you often quote from a book, and I'm always impressed. Go get that lampshade, sweet Dewena, and remember, the older we get, the more time it takes for the pounds to come off. It is not unusual to reach a plateau and stay there awhile, and that's ok. You're doing great! laurie

  7. Dear Dewena,

    I am a little late to your gathering of lovely friends, enjoying delectable dishes and witty conversation, around your beautifully set table, as I was waiting for my blog version of my bacon onion tart to 'set', so that I could turn off my 'oven', and make my way to your place, to find that the discussion is about food, discriminatory attitudes to being overweight, and the pressures of dealing with such behaviour, among other things.

    This 'second best tone', is indeed voiced throughout the world and I won't get into all the factors about society's prejudices towards obesity. We all know what they are and how they came to be, don't we? It's very interesting to note that during the Renaissance, women who are considered overweight by today's standards, were admired for their voluptuous beauty and feminine flair! One can only imagine how they were spoken to, what endearments proceeded their names, and what well respected looks greeted their eyes, before literally bowing down before them, as I imagine, was the custom of the time.

    Sweet Dewena, you are a vibrant, multi-talented personality, a dear and faithful friend, with a host of other roles, from wife and mother to grandmother and others, that ultimately make you the unique individual that you are. I am positive that you always strive to do your BEST, with regards to your own personal goals and wishes, as well as responsibilities, and that sets the TONE for so many who look to you for guidance, inspiration and love.

    Now, please go get yourself the prettiest lampshade for your lamp! I know you will look for just the right TONE to complement its bright and pretty colours and curvy, feminine form!


  8. Bravo, Dewena (said in her first best tone) for being as brave as you are to share this personal story with us. From one who has struggled to another I am so proud that you have stuck to dieting this long. And to give up sweets...that is MAJOR! You are my inspiration for sure. My hubby is a meat, potato and gravy kind of guy so staying low cal is difficult for me. I wish I liked fish. Keep up doing what you're doing. Kudos.

  9. In my "best" tone, I say, bravo for the first 12 pounds...the last few are always the hardest. It seems that you are doing it the right way, which takes longer. I'm glad you are going to reward yourself with the lampshade early. I don't think that is going to deter you from meeting your goal, but rather, inspire you. When a post is written as beautifully as this was, there's no such thing as too long!

  10. Hi Dewena,
    I finally made my way over to visit! Wow! I love this post because I think so many of us struggle with weight issues or are constantly trying to lose a few pounds or drop a dress size or two. I agree, buy the lampshade! You deserve it. I think what's important for me as I age is just feeling healthy. When I eat right, stay away from the sweets and exercise, I feel so much better about myself and about my health. Exercise is really important because it builds strong bones. You have alot to be proud of, Dewena! Keep up the good work...loving yourself along the way.

  11. Good Dear, Keep it up. Hope your are enjoying your weight loss session too.

    Mangosteen Juice

  12. Hi Dewena, I use nothing but my best tone. I hate it when people are treated differently because of their weight. I could stand to lose some weight myself. I am not good at dieting. I feel like I am punishing myself and find me craving more. lol! The best thing for me is to just stay busy. I have a sweet tooth and that's a problem. I don't yo-yo, but I just stay a little over weight. I only ever vary by 5 or so pounds. Just can't seem to drop much. I don't care to be a skinny, Minnie. But would love to be in a 10 instead of a 12. Buy that lampshade girl. 12 lbs. is quite an accomplishment!

  13. Sweet Dewena, your post was nothing if not honest and heartfelt and I do believe many can relate to how you feel. I agree...go get the lamp shade and celebrate not only your amazing accomplishment for having lost 12 lbs., but reward yourself for the lovely, caring person you are. That is really all that matters in the end.

  14. oh NO!
    i love pictures of your exquisite dishes. i don't cook. so i vicariously delight in those who do . . . and those that do it so well. and your dishes of food make me positively drool.
    as to weight . . . i ballooned with all the water weight from that dreaded medication.
    i literally had slits for eyes. it was a little frightening. i am now back to my norm ~ after getting OFF the horrible stuff. it was a blood pressure pill.
    i no longer weigh myself at all. just go by a favorite pair of jeans that grow too tight or just right!
    ps... glad you're going to get a lamp shade anyway! YAYYY!

  15. Dewena, I hate that we women never appreciate our bodies. When I was much smaller, I thought I was fat. Now I am about 25-30 pounds heavier than I was then..see what I mean. You are eating healthy. You have kept that weight off, so good for you. xoxo,Susie

  16. What a wonderful and heartfelt post. I too am terribly overweight. I try to convince myself that it doesn't matter. I'm an intelligent women with a wonderful family, but sadly I think you're right. Others just look at you differently. Congrats on losing the weight you did. Try not to be so hard on yourself (too many others can be). I'm sure the rest of it will come.

    - The Tablescaper

  17. Dewena,
    I should be the one to help you with the name of the scallop-y fish plates...but I just can't come up with anything. They make me think of Sting Rays but they're not shaped that way...maybe I could google it for you :)

  18. Thank you for sharing such a heart felt post!
    Congratulations on losing the weight and keeping it off.

  19. Dewena, this is a wonderful and honest post that I think most women can relate to!! Whether it's weight or other insecurities, we're so hard on ourselves! I agree with the others-you should celebrate your success so far and buy the lampshade! :)

  20. Dewena, this post is right on the money! My goodness, you are a great cook! I hope I don't make anyone mad, but I disagree about buying the lampshade. Buy a pretty bracelet or piece of art to celebrate your success so far, but hold out for your goal of 15 pounds. Every time the lamp lights up, you will celebrate your success!

  21. I wish you were here. I have a lampshade closet!

  22. Dewena, you're doing great on the weight loss; keep up the good work. Your meals look delicious and I like Lottie's comment, above.
    "Every time the lamp lights up, you will celebrate your success!"

  23. Dieting it hard. I lost 65 pounds last year...and thought I'd be at my goal weight by now. Although...I've stayed steady...I have not lost more. Yes, buy the lampshade...you deserve it or changing your eating patterns and the loss of weight you have achieved.

    I didn't post about my weight loss on my blog...cause I wanted to lose it all and then announce it. I didn't want the pressure of talking about it on the blog. I lose weight best when I am alone and I have not been as alone this year. I also lost last year cause I was sad and didn't care about eating. It means my life is better that I feel like eating.

    I thought that meal with the olives looked really good...even though I don't eat meat. I wonder if I could make it with tofu?

    Great post!

  24. I have been struggling with my weight lately and I know my problem is that I am just not getting enough exercise. I promised myself and my daughter that I would get back to swimming daily. The bag is sitting in the kitchen all ready for me to head to the pool after our morning walk.

    I wish you good luck for the upcoming holidays and hopefully you will wish me luck too.

  25. Oh my goodness, I know you don't mean for us to laugh, but I am laughing. I have been through so much of this, and you know what? I'm not letting it worry me any more. I've put on two pounds in the last few weeks and I know why... so I'm just quietly adjusting. :-). Get that lampshade, you deserve it, and not to be tied to a specific weight!


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