There is an entire genre of literature devoted to female protagonists who charge about their plotlines discovering themselves and finding purpose in their existence. I am a sucker for these books – I always love a strong female lead, particularly when she defies typical female gender roles or the male-dominant narrative. As a girl, I wanted to grow up to be like Sally Lockheart, Jo March, or Hermione Granger. As I got older, I learned to love Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett, Lisbeth Salander, and Katniss Everdeen. Even the stories of Edna Pontellier and Alma Whittaker, while more subtle and not as action-packed, still resonate with me as I ease into my adult life and continue to define who I am and who I want to be. I’m sure you can name some of your favorite female heroines as well. Having been raised in a family of pretty rational and level-headed women and having spent my most impressionable teenage years at an all-girls institution, and then time at some of the (arguably) most liberal schools in the US – this does not come as a surprise. What I’ve come to realize is that at the center of all these female characters is a strong and healthy dose of self-respect. Despite all these strong female role models, whether fictional or not, it’s a damn shame when I know and see real women who lack this self-respect. And I’m sure we all see it all the time. That girl who doesn’t love herself. The ones without her own goals or aspirations.The one who heavily relies on superficial measures of success or accomplishment to feel self-worth. The one who needs shallow words and sugary phrases for affirmation.
How do we teach the next generation of girls to be full of self-respect? To love the bodies and brains and hearts and dreams and aspirations that they were born with? How do we instill in our girls a deep sense of self-love and not self-loathe? On the other end, how do we get boys (and later men) to support and respect these lovely bodies and brains and hearts and dreams and aspirations?
Since getting our keys, David and I have been slowly making our new house ready for habitation. We’ve built a gate, installed screen doors, wired and installed cat6 wall plates – the list goes on. I’m not great at these home improvement projects… I’m much better suited indoors where I can decorate and fill our new closets and shelves with pretty things. We’ve also done a fair bit of cooking at the new place – nothing fancy – just simple weeknight meals to fill us up after a long day of work-work and home-work.
Thai Red Curry
One of the easiest and most satisfying weeknight meals has got to be Thai red curry. It is infinitely customizable with whatever proteins and veggies you have in the kitchen. Most of the hard work and difficult ingredients (grinding shrimp paste with galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir leaves etc.) are already conveniently done if you can find the red curry jars at your local supermarket. Look for the concentrated curry paste and not the instant-just-add-veggies jar of red curry if possible. If you prefer the homemade route, it’s actually really easy if you have a food processor or blender. Just add all the ingredients and whiz for a lovely preservative-free red curry paste (here).
Source: Adapted from Pinch of Yum
1 can light coconut milk
2 tbs peanut butter, creamy or chunky
2-3 tbs red curry paste, concentrate [I like my curries pungent and added closer to 3-4 tbs]
1-2 tbs fish sauce or to taste
2 tbs lime or lemon juice
2-3 tbs brown sugar
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup crushed nuts [I used cashew nuts but peanuts work great]
½ cup chicken or veggie broth
Assortment of raw protein and veggies – I used diced chicken thighs, julienedbell peppers, carrots, broccoli and sliced onions.
About 30-60 minutes before serving, quickly marinate your protein of choice with 1 tbs of fish sauce and 1-2 tbs of minced garlic.
In a tall skillet or seasoned wok over high heat, add a tiny splash of vegetable oil. Once hot, throw in your protein and stir fry until meat is evenly browned, though not yet cooked all the way through. Pour the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Then add the curry paste, peanut butter, fish sauce, lemon/lime juice, brown sugar and additional garlic, whisking frequently until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 15-20 minutes on medium high heat. The sauce will turn a rich amber color as it reduces. Add in the veggies and cook down until soft. The veggies will release a fair amount of liquid into your curry, but if the sauce is still too thick, add a bit of veggie or chicken broth to thin it out per your liking. Toss in a handful of crushed nuts to add some additional body and texture to the curry. Take your curry off the heat and top with additional crushed nuts and thinly sliced scallions. Serve over hot, fragrant jasmine rice. Enjoy.
I recently went to the Beyonce/Jay Z On The Run Tour, and a lot of the themes focused on just that – women and self-worth and empowerment. At one point, the big jumbotrons postulated why is it that we teach women and girls to compete with each other for men’s attention, and why we teach girls to aspire to happy relationships and marriages – and yet we don’t teach boys and men to aspire to the same thing. While Queen Bey reassures us that we can still find joy, pride and meaning in our relationships and marriages, she reminds all women to take a moment and make sure that we are also pursuing and fulfilling our personal goals too. Her strong words, empowering songs and kick-ass demeanor are motivational. She is my non-fictional heroine. I am addicted.
Thanks for reading,
PS. I am suffering from On The Run withdrawals – I may have shed a few tears while Queen Bey soulfully poured her heart out during “Resentment” and I cheered every time she and Jay embraced. In addition to being a sucker for heroines, I am a sucker for heroines like her who are “leaning in” real hard. Grappling with a successful career, balancing personal goals and family aspirations, preaching to a generation of girls deprived of relatable role models. Now if only these girls would take more after their Queen…