I'm Not Olivia Pope, but I Eat Like Her

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I'm Not Olivia Pope, but I Eat Like Her

Butter.

The simplicity of the thing does nothing to relay what it does to food. It wakes food up. It enriches it and integrates flavors.

You can take a kernel of corn, the smallest, most unimpressive thing, introduce it to heat so that it implodes, cover it with butter and create something worth eating. Something even a high-profile Washington D.C. Crisis Manager would eat.

When I first heard about Scandal, I was dubious. People told me how great it was, but I kept claiming I didn’t “have time to like something else.” When the show started winning awards, I watched clips and perked up when a Scandal commercial came on, but I still danced around watching. But after a few years, I decided it was time to give it a try.

I was hooked after one episode. I could care less about political drama, and I didn’t find the leading man attractive. There was one reason I was hooked and it was the one and only Olivia Pope.

Talk about beauty. Well, not just beauty, but beauty refined. Refinement in every nook and cranny. I had to watch her, because I had to become her.

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It is damn hard to “have it all together.” I wake up every day and do my best, but usually by the end of the day, I feel like a failure. I fail at looking as nice as I want, fail at my best work self, and always fail in the kitchen. Why is feeding one’s self well so hard?

I feel like I can’t win.

But Olivia wins. It’s all she does.

Olivia Pope saunters through the White House, more refined than the President or the First Lady. She solves crimes and problems and puzzles with little effort. She does this all while dressed to the nines and then she comes home alone every night for dinner. Now, you would think someone of this caliber would be dining on something expensive — oysters or lobster or something that used to swim.

Olivia doesn’t sit down to seafood, however. She sits down on (or in front) of her milky white couch to a huge glass bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine. She is tired. She was a gladiator all damn day, so now? She sits and eats a food with little to no prep and that many wouldn’t consider more than a snack. She stares blankly ahead, eating one kernel at a time. She cops out, in a sense. Her life feels heavy; her dinner is as light as air. She wings it. And she allows us to do the same. The stigma is gone.

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When I was single, I ate microwave meals every night at home. Even though they tasted fine, they usually made me feel a little sad. Like I wasn’t doing enough for myself. Like I was letting myself off the hook. I spent hours on Smitten Kitchen’s website looking at the beautiful foods that happy, well-rounded people ate.

These days, about once a week, I knock out a “real” meal. Three things on the plate, all of them made in the home. It takes nearly a week to lead up to this. Recipe searches. Ingredient acquisition. Prep. (God, the prep.) Cooking. Sometimes, I make the meal and we don’t even eat it until the next day, because by the time it comes out of the oven, it’s bedtime. When I plate it, I take photos from every angle and I post them all. Look how wholesome I am. Look how healthy and prepared and homey. I ask my husband repeatedly, “Aren’t you proud of me?”

But these days, to be honest, I am proudest when I let myself off the damn hook. When I acknowledge that even though I often feel like a failure, I am doing pretty damn well. I am the captain of many ships, and they are all still afloat. So my favorite nights of all are the nights I channel Olivia. It’s impossible to channel her look — I look more like a hobo, dressed in old pajamas, tattered socks and a scarf to stave off the cold — but I grab a pretty ceramic bowl and bottle of wine. (I’m assuming Olivia doesn’t drink the same wine as I do? Mine never costs more than five dollars.) I fill the bowl with popcorn, which I do not offer to share. I pour the wine into a stemless glass and settle onto the couch.

In the season five finale, Olivia and her on-and-off-again suitor Jake fight over their future. He begs her to leave her position and have a ‘normal’ life. ‘Olivia doesn’t want an unimpressive life,’ the ABC.com recap page states. Her life is anything but normal, anything but unimpressive.

Season Six of Scandal returns Thursday, January 18. I’ll be watching in my tiny house in Iowa, looking like total crap. But I will have a bowl of perfectly popped butter-covered popcorn by my side and a cheap glass of wine — and I will feel fabulous.

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