Broccolini and The Bulge

Sautéed Broccolini | © Urban Cottage

Last year, while navigating my way gingerly along the icy sidewalk in front of the grocery store, I had one of those casual conversations you enter into when you find yourself sharing an experience with a stranger.

Now, this particular stranger was a woman. A large woman. As in, much larger than me. That was just a fleeting observation, and I only raise it because it’s germane to my little tale. But let me explain something about myself before I proceed with my story …

I’m not what anyone would call petite. I’m fairly tall for a woman, and for most of my life was slender. Very slender. You might even have called me thin. And then my late thirties hit and somehow the pounds just fell out of the sky and rained down upon my person, to the tune of about 80 in six months. It was incomprehensible to me, but there I was with so much more of me to love. I’ve managed to get rid of about 30 of those pounds along the way, but the next 30 have come and gone over the years. As for the other 20? I honestly believe it wouldn’t be healthy for me to weigh as little as I used to.

Funny thing about all this is that, for the most part, I still think of myself as a slender person. That’s what I see even in front of the mirror — usually. But then there are those moments when for some reason the focus shifts and I see myself as I truly am right now and my heart sinks, my confidence plummets. Am I really that large? Is that how I really look?

Don’t get me wrong, I generally don’t obsess over my weight. I believe that health is more important than appearance. I honestly believe that if I exercise enough and eat well, I’ll weigh whatever I’m meant to weigh. (Okay, so I could do a little better in the exercising and eating well department, but I do try.)

I don’t want a life of counting calories or points, of depriving myself of the pleasures of food. Nor do I want to have to open that box of bigger clothes that’s lurking around here somewhere, so I manage to at least hold steady. Mostly, I’m okay with myself as I am and don’t give in to body image issues. I just practice ‘camouflage dressing’ and go about my business. Save for those moments of agonizing self doubt that so many women are prone to.

Guys, is it the same for you? Do you find yourself focusing on your imperfections, saying unkind things to your body?

I had some such moments the other evening as I was trying on dresses to wear to a holiday party. Nothing seemed to fit right and I went into full-on verbal self-flagellation mode. I would never talk to anyone else the way I did to myself in front of that mirror. Fortunately, a quick trip to a store the next day resulted in a new dress in a flattering cut (and at 50 percent off, hubba). And you know what? I felt great at that party!

Anyway, back to that icy sidewalk … The woman and I chatted for a couple of minutes in the deep cold, each of us bundled up in our puffy winter gear, deploring the fact that no one had cleared the treacherous ice. I think I said something about calling the city about it. And as we were parting ways, she said to me, “We big girls have to stick together!”

I was completely taken aback. Yes, we girls have to stick together. But we big girls? I saw her as so much larger than me, as different from me, yet she saw me as like her. And really, what’s so different about us? We were just two women, trying not to fall on an icy sidewalk, stopping to share a moment of connection. Size mattered not a whit. Yet, still … clearly I have more thinking to do about body image and how much of my identity is caught up in matters of girth.

In the meantime, I’m going to eat more vegetables. Like this broccolini, which I recently made for the first time, quickly prepared with aromatics and a bit of lemon juice. It’s a perfect side dish for dinner, or you can do like me and eat the entire portion yourself, topped with a small grilled salmon fillet. And then have a handful of leftover Halloween molasses kisses.

Sautéed Broccolini

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

© Marlene Cornelis, Urban Cottage

Sautéed Broccolini

The red chili pepper provides a kick of heat in this recipe, but feel free to replace it with finely diced red bell pepper to keep the festive look without the burn. One bunch of broccolini makes a side dish for two, in my estimation.

Sautéed Broccolini | © Urban Cottage

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch broccolini, about 7 ounces/200 grams
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 small red chili pepper, minced (or use red bell pepper)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • pinch salt
  • spritz of freshly squeezed lemon juice

If some of the broccolini stalks are too thick, slice them in half so they’ll all cook in a similar amount of time. You can leave the stalks whole for a more elegant presentation, or slice them to whatever length you like.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, along with the garlic pieces, cut side down. Once the oil is heated add the onion and chili pepper and cook, stirring, until the onion starts to turn translucent. Remove the garlic from the pan (it’s just there to infuse flavour into the oil) and add the broccolini along with the pepper and salt. Stir well to coat the broccolini with the oil, and arrange in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, then stir well, adding a spritz of lemon juice and a tablespoon of two of water if the bottom of the pan is browning or anything is sticking. Cook covered on low heat for another 3 minutes or so, or until the stems achieve the level of tenderness you desire.

(How do you like the new printable recipe feature? A fellow blogger told me how to do this when we were chatting at a conference recently. See, it pays to strike up conversations with people. Now I just have to go back and update 400 or so recipes! That may take a while …)


  1. That is so hard! Its like when a really unfortunate looking man hits on you! That has happended to me and I look in the mirror and wonder why he thinks we are in the same league! 20 years ago that would not have happened!

    Hect today I am grateful for any attn! Ha! Xoxo

    • It’s human nature for attraction to be based initially on appearance — after all, that’s usually what’s presented to us first. But if we reserve judgment and get to know someone on a deeper level, we might be surprised at how attractive they become once we understand their character (or how unattractive, depending on the scenario, lol).

  2. I do a lot of copying and pasting, Marlene, so a printable recipe is a great idea. So is your recipe. So are your thoughts on how we see ourselves. I, for instance, look much better in my bathroom mirror than I do in outside mirrors – the exception being department store mirrors.

    • There are definitely some mirrors that are more forgiving than others, Mary! I stayed at a hotel recently that had bright lighting in the bathroom and one of those big magnifying mirrors — scary stuff, lol!

  3. It can come as a bit of a shock when someone, a stranger, makes a comment that contradicts our own self-image. There’s just no good way to reply to that kind of comment. Best to let it hang there and die on its own, Mar, and then change the subject.
    I love broccolini probably even more than I do broccoli. Luckily, it’s more common now than ever and I usually purchase some every week.

    • I’m with you on how to respond to these things, John. I usually let them go and the situations become grist for the story mill later. As for the broccolini, a small bunch of that is so much more manageable for me than even a small bunch of broccoli. I can eat the whole thing, whereas with broccoli the leftovers that I put in the fridge ‘for later’ often don’t fare so well.

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