Ah, Lent. This year, in addition to donating a total of $400 between Ash Wednesday (February 25) and Easter (April 12. 31 days from today. Not that I'm, heh heh, counting or anything....) to charity and reading 3 NONfiction (*GULP!*) books I gave up:
  • Fried foods
  • Desserts
  • Potato chips/unhealthy snacky snacks
  • Cheese (except feta and paneer). In fact, all dairy, outside of fat free yogurt, the occasional dash of skim milk in my coffee, or dairy found as a secondary ingredient in a dish (I won't allow myself a cream soup or an alfredo pasta sauce, for example; but if there's a cup of milk in a dish that someone made, I won't refuse it).
  • White sugar (esp in my coffee)
  • White pasta
  • White bread (except for those rolls Shannon gets at Harvest Time to dip in Honey B's awesome lentil stew)
  • Mayo
  • Soda
I have stocked the fridge with rice milk and the pantry with wheat pasta. I went to dinner at a French-American fusion restaurant on Monday and had an appetizer of scallops, a sauce-free John Dory, and mug of black coffee for dessert (Illy!!! Yummmm....) in lieu some of the richer main dishes. I had a mug of spicy hot chocolate and drank about half before setting it aside, realizing that I had forgotten to use rice milk.

I have been very, very good the past two weeks.

That is, I HAD been very very good - until yesterday. We went to my brother's for dinner and we ordered from my favorite Chinese restaurant: 168.

168 has my favorite dish: Empress Chicken.

I know that Empress Chicken, though not as popular as General Tso's chicken, is not an uncommon dish, but I have not seen it anywhere else. And even if I had? I don't know if anyone could make it better than 168. For serious.

What exactly is Empress Chicken, you ask? Empress Chicken is, essentially, pieces of battered-and-fried chicken in a spicy sauce. 168 serves the fried chicken bits separate from the sauce so it doesn't get all mushy in transit to your carry-out destination.





I went through the entire menu, line by line, knowing that the only thing I wanted.

Out of the 738+ items listed.

Was the Empress Chicken.

And I ordered it. The fact that I ordered it by number (118) and not by name doesn't make it any less true.

Heck, I figured I was damned anyway, so I threw in a fried egg roll to boot.

Now, I realize I gave up alot for Lent, and I'm okay about allowing myself a Diet Coke or half a sprite once a week or so, so why does this even bother me? I didn't throw out the salad I ordered last week because it had parmesan sprinkled on it, or the turkey reuben from Beans and Bagels because of the slice of swiss cheese. I haven't been to church in years, why do I feel so guilty and irritated with myself? Do I think God's mad at me?


The answer? Fried foods are my biggest weakness. I LOVE them. Though I don't eat them every day, I certainly crave them every day, and knowing that I can just run and get a small fry from the cafeteria is a comfort, albeit one that I rarely indulge in. Just knowing they're there if I need them... In short, of all of the things I gave up, fried foods was the most difficult. Call it what you will - Guinness-batter-fried cod, Popeye's chicken, pakora, potato chips, fries, onion rings, mozzeralla sticks, shrimp fried rice, Empress Chicken...I crave fried foods more than any other, and they were the most difficult thing for me to give up. (I know! Even more difficult than CHEESE!!! and I LOVE CHEESE!!!!).

I have had no problem passing by a bakery, or wincing through extra-bitter black coffee knowing I can't temper it with the cream and sugar on the table. I actually love rice milk and wheat pasta; and I prefer pomodoro, puttanesca, and diavola sauces to creamy alfredos. I do miss pizza and grilled cheese, but I don't feel totally deprived when I'm eating a fabulous spinach salad at I Monelli while everyone else manges on pizza. On the other hand, I saw a picture of a woman eating a drumstick the other day and I almost went mad.

I told my boss that day that if I came across a Fry Daddy, I'd fry my own arm.

So when I had a slice of swiss on my reuben? No biggie. When I actively ordered a dish I KNEW was fulla fried awesomeness?

No good.

Now, I do realize that most people (?) agree that Sundays are free days during Lent, and that you can relax the rules on Sundays. Yes, this was a Wednesday, but I had observed my self-imposed penance through two Sundays, so why not cut myself some slack?

1) HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! That's a goodie! You obviously have not been raised Catholic if you are asking me that question.

2) I don't agree with that "Sundays are FREE!" rule. Never have, and, no matter how many Yahoodies chime in to say "it's not cheating! Or "It's totally okay to cheat, man!" I never will subscribe to that view. My parents and grandparents made it clear that we kids could cheat on Sundays, but once we hit adulthood we'd be expected to do what they did and observe Lent actively from Ash Wednesday through Easter. Do not pass "GO!" Do not collect a bucket of KFC.

3) Lent isn't the same thing for me as it is for everyone who observes it. It's about my being strong and aware of my shortcomings, weaknesses, and tendency towards slackness, and my ability to be a better, stronger person for a little over 40 days. SO. When I gave into that craving - that particular craving - no matter how strong a craving it was?

I failed myself. Big "F" for Jo for Lent, 2009.

Luckily for me, Lent isn't over. There's still plenty of time to make myself suffer for my weakness!

So! I've raised that donation pledge to $500; I'll be reading God's War by Tyerman and The Medieval World, edited by Linehan and Nelson, as two of my three NonFiction books; and I'm extending the "fried foods, soda, and potato chips" portion of my fast to April 26. There now! Does that make me feel better about cheating yesterday?


No. No it doesn't.

Moral: Knowledge is power? I don't think so. You are, in fact, deluded. Now GUILT, my friend, GUILT: GUILT can get things DONE!


Shannon said...

You don't put enough SPIN on these things! I, for example, "broke Lent" by having cake last night. Not only do I not feel guilty, I actually feel virtuous because I broke Lent (nothing I do lightly) for the sake of someone else, not for myself.

It's all about spin, baby!

PS - welcome back to the blogosphere!

Rev Transit said...

It's a successful Lent because you're Catholic and now you feel guilty about something that harmed no one else.

OrangeMoJoJo said...

Yeah! That means SHANNON's the failure because he broke Lent to KEEP from hurting someone else!


Shannon said...

The Rev has always been better at spin than I...

Rev Transit said...

No, Shannon's not a failure at Lent, either. See, he's not Catholic. He observes Lent just to be supportive of his wife. Or cheats at Lent to make his wife nuts. Lent for him revolves completely around you, Jo. As long as Lent's accomplishing his goals regarding you, it's a winner for him.