To make the belly dance

So yes, I’m taking belly dancing. Coin belts are involved. It’s very very fun.

It’s also frustratingly difficult.

You don’t believe this? You think it’s just me that has a problem ‘cause I’m a dance-move challenged mama of four? Okay, then let’s see you try this.

Stand up, feet spread a foot apart and flat on the floor, knees bent, back straight. This is the belly dancing stance. Always return to it. Never forget it.

Now, make your knees go like pistons, never straightening them out all the way. Don’t you raise your eyebrows at me—just do it. No, no, no, do NOT move your shoulders! That’s better. Remember to keep your head up. Your piston-ing legs should make your hips jut out in classic baby-holding fashion, you know that move at least. Keep your shoulders still, back straight. Faster now. Snap those hips tight!

Let’s try something else. Pretend you have a rod going straight up through your body. Make your hips move around it while holding the rest of your body still.

Now try it again, just moving your tail bone this time. Now your waist, good, and now your chest—no no no no, not your waist and your chest, just your chest. Geesh.

Now for your neck. Pretend you’re painting circles with your chin—

What’s that? This is impossible, you say?

Yep, I agree completely, absolutely, and wholeheartedly. But Rose (instructor/hostess/friend) is totally unaware of this and makes us do it anyway—she’s like a snake in a hula-hoop, minus the scales and flicking tongue. She tries to encourage us (or rather, me, ’cause I’m the newest student) by explaining that since our bodies don’t normally move this way—no kidding—it takes intense focus. In fact, it’s more a study in the art of refraining from moving than it is learning to move. The movement is so concentrated and subtle and specific; just keeping all the other muscles in check is enough to make my head explode.

Exploding heads are not graceful.

This past class Rose told us to tighten our upper stomach muscles while relaxing the lower ones, and then to flip-flop. I never even knew I had those muscles, let alone that I could isolate them. I’m pretty sure she was pulling our collective leg.

So that, my dears, is my new endeavor. The kids play, the moms dance in front of a big mirror, and then we all gather around the dining room table and drink tea. In all respects, a lovely morning indeed.

This new enterprise suits me, food-loving, belly-focused, navel-gazer that I am. My existence has come full circle—I feed my belly good things and then I take it dancing. I am such a well-rounded person.

What would be a belly post without food? Not a good belly post, that’s what. So for those of you who prefer to make your belly’s dance on the inside, I’ve got a shrimp recipe for you. Mr. Handsome, a decidedly non-belly dancer dude, boogied to it big time, to the tune of three huge platefuls.

Aside from the obvious shrimp and linguine, this stars two of my favorite ingredients: cilantro and lime. I tell you, I am head over heels in love with those two. My cilantro patch is rapidly transitioning into its last days, but it’s forever plentiful at the Mexican market that squats outside my favorite butcher shop. And the market, I’ve discovered, is a blessed boon for good limes—eight fat juicy green ones for a single solitary buck. (Locals, take note—the Mexican squatter market is open Fridays and Saturdays from 8 to 5. It’s scrappy and small. I adore it.)

Linguine with Shrimp and Cilantro-Lime Pesto
Adapted from the July 2010 issue of Bon Appetit

1 ½ cups packed fresh cilantro, divided
2 tablespoons chopped onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped seeded jalapeño or serrano pepper
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound linguine
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons tequila or chicken broth
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

In a food processor or blender, add 1 1/4 cups of the cilantro leaves, the onion, lime juice, cloves, jalapeño, salt, and pepper and pulse till chunky. Gradually add the half cup of olive oil and blend till smooth. (May be made one day ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate till ready to use.)

Cook the linguine according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, add the shrimp and cook for three or four minutes. Add the tequila and stir till sauce is slightly syrupy, about 30 seconds. Add the pesto and stir to coat. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Taste to correct seasonings. Chop the remaining cilantro and sprinkle over the pasta along with the feta.

About one year ago: Spaghetti with Swiss Chard, Raisins, and Almonds
About two years ago: Yogurt


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