I was having a really bad case of writers block for this post. I love the recipe, but wasn't sure how to put words to it. The post that follows is only slightly connected (Chow mein, Chinese food, Beijing... you'll get it in a few more sentences. I hope. 😬), but once I started writing it the words flowed. Despite being almost unrelated to Chow Mein, I hope you'll like it! And the recipe is below, of course.
The Beijing Olympics opened the fall of my Senior year of high school. I was in the thick of my gymnastics obsession, and could name every competitor that was going to compete in the event on the women's side. Honestly I probably knew their age, floor music, and home town at the time too.
My entire high school gymnastics team crowded into a single living room to watch the all-around event. As I remember it, the competition was no easy win--the Chinese team had a load of talented athletes. My own team, piled on the couch, yelled at the TV as if the athletes in China could hear us. "Stick it!!!!!" and we'd cross our fingers as if we had as much riding on this competition as the athletes themselves.
Even though I don't keep track of the US National team anymore, I cherish those memories because they mark a time in my life where I had truly found my passion. It wasn't until I started gymnastics that I had any desire to participate in sports at all, so when I think back on the sport I see it as transformative.
I had no interest in athletics at a younger age--I remember my dad lecturing me in fourth grade that I had to do something. But I disliked most of the sports that were available, and found that when I ran track in gym class I usually wound up coughing until my lungs bled. Soccer and running were the two big sports at my school, and I didn't want a slice of either of them, not even in gym class.
When I took up gymnastics (late for a gymnast--at the age of 9 or 10), I don't think I even thought of it as a sport. It felt like play time. Being upside down became my favorite thing in the world. Our living room became my jungle gym, much to my mother's chagrin. I was sold.
The 2008 Olympics felt especially important because they happened to take place during my last year as a competitive gymnast. I had no plans to go on to NCAA. While I wasn't in the Games (or even close to them,) it felt like this was it. And what a competition it was! Team USA took Silver (women's) and my favorite two athletes went 1 and 2 in the all-around (Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin).
When I stopped competing, I found that gymnastics had given me a launching point (a trampoline, if you will 😉) to actual enjoy other sports. I took up running--something I had despised previously, and eventually trained for a marathon. I was never going to be an Olympic athlete but that's not what I was meant to get out of gymnastics. Instead I learned that if you simply do the things you enjoy, exercise doesn't feel like a chore. Sometimes I hear people refer to it like this, and I hope that they will just find the one thing they are passionate about, because that is life changing. Do what you love.
Three years after the Beijing Olympics, watching gymnastics competitions was far from my mind. I had shoved it in a corner, along with other things I "used to do." Some how the headline made it to me--perhaps on Facebook, or maybe a magazine: Nastia Liukin announces retirement. I think I broke out into tears. While I did very little gymnastics any more, this was a sort of final page on the gymnastics chapter in my life. It was silly. The emotional piece of it is almost impossible to explain. It felt like good bye, but a good bye I couldn't articulate. I started reading gymnastics articles again for a short stint, and then I remembered: just do what you love.
Following that passion led me to Acro Yoga, climbing, and biking--while I probably wouldn't have loved them years ago, gymnastics had taught me how to make exercise feel like playtime. And that's still how I think of it.
P.S., I just learned that crossing chop sticks and leaving chopsticks in a bowl are both big no-nos. Of course I would learn this after shooting these images 🙄 Will have to remember for next time!
Serves: 2 | Total Time:
- 4 chicken cutlets (about a 1/2 pound), chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 4 cups zucchini noodles (I use this Spiralizer)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup green beans, stems removed
- 1/4 head napa cabbage, sliced thin
- For serving: Sliced green onions, Sriracha or red pepper flakes For the Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon tapioca starch (or corn starch)
- Heat coconut oil in a skillet or wok over medium heat until it glistens. Add diced chicken to skillet, and brown on each side.
- Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, and green beans to the skillet. Sauté until the onions are translucent and the green beans are bright green. Add cabbage, and stir.
- Make the sauce: in a small bowl, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together. Pour sauce into pan, and toss with vegetables to coat. Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- Add zucchini noodles last, cooking just until tender.
- Serve in bowls and top with slices green onion and Sriracha or red pepper flakes as desired.