Monday, December 19, 2011

A Paean to Holiday Food

The holiday season is filled with cheer. This is the solstice, the deep dark days of the year where every instinct cries for sugars and fats to better stave off the coming scarcity of winter.  We toke up to survive the cold, to put on the layers of insulating flesh, and to store energy that will help us better survive the lack of forage as the snows accumulate and trap us in our dens.  This instinct is the result of thousands of years of evolution, of mastering nature, and of coping with the seasonal cruelties.

Eating is as natural as breathing and yet the food nazi's caution us against feasting through the season.  Better to have a teaspoon of hummus rather than that wonderful crab dip, they declare.  Better for your health to eat a saltine than a sugar cookie, and certainly more wise to sip flavored waters than quaff that champagne they report.  Reduce the calories, eliminate the sugars, and don't ever, ever overindulge is their mantra.  For every cookie or eggnog recipe in the newspapers there are twice that number of cautionary columns espousing the benefits of nutritional health. It is as if there is a war on [gasp] actually enjoying the season's offerings..

The point that these scrooges seem to miss is that holiday food is meant to be ENJOYED. We don't eat only for the nutrition that fuels our daily efforts.  We also eat for the pleasure that it provides. We eat so we can experience the diversity of flavors and textures that are easily available at this time of year.  And yes, we also eat to enjoy the company of others when sharing a meal, a spread, or even that little plate of cookies in the break room.  Eating is a social activity that enhances whatever we happen to be consuming and when better to do so than in this season of good tidings?.

So I say to ignore the critics, the nay sayers, the gloomy nutritionally pure, and those whose bleak outlook on eating poisons the mind. Fill your platters, my friends, drink of the best offered, and experience the bounty that surrounds us during these dark days.

Winter is coming.

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