Oct 27 2013

Pasta is perfect plank food

It only took 5 months, but Dr. Darling and I were finally able to return the hospitality we enjoyed at our friends Sophie & Matilda’s place last May … though oddly enough, they did not feel compelled to turn up with a broken bottle of Bushwacker chardonnay. How novel!

Since then, these two have become pretty regular fixtures in our lives … Sophie, in her role as fitness mentor supporting our plan to run the MalmöMilen 10k race next summer, and Matilda as the charming, artsy, junk-food-loving counter-point to “Coach Bad-Ass.” They have this “opposites attract” dynamic between them that’s fun to watch and kind of reminds us a little bit of ourselves. We’ve even given them a “couple name”: The Sonic Youth … Sonic for Sophie’s speed as a distance runner, and Youth for Matilda’s occasional habit of reminding me (or possibly herself) that I am a year older than her mother. (I have no idea if they’ve ever even heard of the 90’s alternative rock band of the same name, but I kind of doubt it.)

The Sonic Youth also happen to be the only other all-girl couple we actually know socially, so we were really invested in the evening going well. The main challenge for us as hosts … aside from finding a date that worked for all parties involved … was to figure out something interesting to feed Sophie, who is a vegetarian. This little detail had somehow managed to escape my attention despite having broken bread with her on a couple of different occasions in the past few months … Including a very memorable summer brunch at which I watched her fill her plate three times (she had run 10k earlier that morning) and then perform a CrossFit Burpee demonstration for us on a sidewalk outside the restaurant.

I *really* wanted to make something other than pasta, which I kind of figured was the “go to” dish for most carnivore cooks who find themselves with a vegetarian dinner guest, and therefore a bit of a “cheat.” But after mulling over a couple of possibilities for “de-meating” a few of our favorite home-cooked meals, I ended up going with a Genarro Contaldo recipe for … you guessed it, pasta. When I confessed to Sophie that I felt a little guilty for not trying something more ambitious, she said she was very happy to have spicy home-made puttanesca, especially since I was not serving it with potatoes … a menu combination she has evidently faced before.

We went with a big green salad and garlic bread, and apparently a really nice red wine that had been recommended to me by a colleague, for which I asked them to pretend it was because I knew what I was doing and they kindly obliged. They were also either super hungry or the food was pretty good, because they ate everything we put in front of them … to the point of being too full for dessert.

After dinner the conversation eventually turned to our Malmö Milen fitness prep, as we knew it would. Sophie had heard me describe the various Jillian Michaels work-outs we have been doing and was interested in seeing one. So after they each had taken a turn playing my electronic drum-set (Matilda was a natural at it …  a wonderful surprise) we put one of Jillian’s 30-Day Shred sessions on the TV. Sophie decided to do the warm-up (no surprise at all) but eventually joined the rest of us slugs on the couch to watch Jillian put her lovely exercise demonstrators through their paces. 

Coach Bad-@$$, whose hard-body is courtesy of CrossFit, was impressed by the variety of strength and aerobic exercises involved and declared it a very good 30 minute workout, which made Dr. Darling and I very happy and made Matilda roll her eyes a bit. (She obviously knew what was coming next.) Sophie then suggested we wrap up the evening with a plank contest. And she was serious.

As it’s already a well-established fact that I cannot refuse Sophie anything she asks of me, we moved the coffee table, got out a couple of yoga mats and opened up the stopwatch app on my iPhone. I have NO idea why Matilda and Dr. Darling played along, but all four us assumed the plank position and started the clock. When’s the last time that happened at one or your dinner parties?

We weren’t more than 20 seconds into it before Dr. Darling was complaining that we hadn’t put on any music to distract us from the pain we knew was coming. I suggested we could sing something and the musical Matilda was game. She and I managed a couple of choruses of “Row, row, row your boat” (sung in a round) before she decided she’d had enough with the planking. Dr. Darling lasted another half-minute or so and dropped out around 1:30. That left me and Coach Bad-@$$, who had been unsettlingly quiet up to this point, locked side-by-side in perfect plank poses according to Matilda, who had graciously assumed responsibility for “quality control.”

Dr. Darling stepped over both of us to grab a camera in case history was made, but I had no illusions about being able to out-last Sophie. She is the one who issued the 30-day plank challenge that we had completed in September, and she knew my personal record was 3:30 since I had been reporting my results on Facebook. At this point I still had enough where-with-all to tell the “paparazzi” that there were to be NO photos taken from any angle that would show the size of my @$$ in relation to Sophie’s perfectly proportioned “bad” one. And I was serious.

But then Coach Bad-@$$, who had been all steely, silent concentration since we started, suddenly dropped out at the 3:20 mark (or thereabouts … I was shaking and could barely see the stopwatch at this point). Even in my physically stressed state I knew she had done it on purpose and recognized that I was going to have to make her sacrifice worth it. That meant holding on long enough for a new personal record, and five or 10 additional seconds was not going cut it.

So, with Matilda still monitoring my form, Dr. Darling snapping away with a camera and Sophie now lounging comfortably on the floor next to me, I held that damn plank for FOUR MINUTES.

Clearly the lengths I will go to as a host know no bounds. But I have since extracted a promise from Coach Bad-@$$ that the next time we plank together, she is going “all in.”

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Feed my ego!

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