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I’ve gained five pounds in the last month. These aren’t just transient pounds that are simply making their way through my system: the beef roast dinner I had the other night, the bean burritos I heated up for lunch yesterday. No. These five pounds of fat started latching onto me in the aftermath of my flight from Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi five weeks ago, when I was served possibly the most revolting platter of food I have ever encountered.
The main course was chicken tagine, a Moroccan delight that—to my Western nose—smelled like stinky feet. I could sense ginger in it, which I like, but everything else together (cinnamon, tomatoes, saffron?) held me at bay. The chicken looked lifeless. And were those…prunes? I could not stand for the lid to be off this tub of food any longer than a minute before my face and neck started forming a mucous membrane against it.
While my seatmates—people from around the world, all heading to Abu Dhabi—tucked into this dish, I wished for an oxygen mask. My world closed in a little more when all of the chicken tagine on that plane was consumed and then expelled through pores and various other escape routes.
I found solace in the couscous salad—I speak a little couscous—but then passengers turned to their desserts: apricot mango mousse. Vaugh-rah-mit. I was avoiding that too. While the mousse appeared harmless enough, sitting there all orangey plump in its own plastic container, it only created a syllogism in my mind: I hate apricots and I hate mangoes, therefore apricots and mangoes do not belong in my mousse, especially with unidentifiable droplets on top that look like rabbit turds. Was that chocolate? Was Jesus going to save me? I had been so good for so long.
Having only consumed a small portion of couscous salad between Amsterdam and my final destination (Muscat, Oman), I started out hungry, and then for days tried to fill the hole that the chicken tagine’s pungency had carved out of me. And here I must offer an apology to my hosts: I’m sorry I ate all of the children’s brownies and oatmeal-raisin bars, all of their hotdogs and lunchmeat, every banana and kiwi you had in the house, all of your peanut butter and jelly, all of the leftover pizza. All of the Poptarts.
So I started gaining a little weight, and have yet to shake my Omani pounds…and their American counterparts. I’ve gotten a bit too friendly with my chocolate Jell-O pudding at night, scooping it down my throat, thanking it for not being apricot mousse. Icky. The kid in me is evidently sticking around so I bought more hotdogs. I confess to eating chips and salsa every night at midnight for a week after I arrived back in Phoenix, followed by more reassuring pudding.
And chicken? I’ve been dressing my chicken in cheese and corduroy ever since coming home.
These extra five Omani-American pounds show up in the usual ways on somebody like me: The sharpness of my jaw is now a little soft. I’m less Kate Moss and more Kate Winslet. I’m not drying my cottons all the way—I’m letting them air-dry, to make more room for me.
And I’m not really complaining. Nobody at my gym is either, especially not the firemen. They’re instructed not to fraternize with the public while they’re working out to stay in shape to save our lives, but they still have eyes, and I have noticed a few gazes at my new curves, even as I try to run them off.
Life is good.