Keep the Meal and Take a Hike

2. Bourbon Red

This is the time of year all the health magazines come out with suggestions for lighter pumpkin pies, non-caloric mashed potatoes, creamed onions without the cream and the like.  That’s fine, I guess, but when I was asked to contribute some suggestions for “healthier” holiday recipes for an article, I found I wasn’t so keen on the idea of lightening up my holiday dinner. But I did have another idea about feast days.

I guess I just don’t see Thanksgiving dinner as the cholesterol-laden threat of excess that others do.  In fact, I rather enjoy these meals that are larger than what’s needed to satisfy hunger, the groaning board laden with dishes often contributed by friends who have brought their favorites, dishes that they’ve gone to some extra trouble and care over. A table might showcase a parade of local foods that far outnumber what you’d cook on any other Thursday. Or maybe it’s time for those foods without which Thanksgiving wouldn’t be that. They may be rich, silly, sentimental good or even questionable, but whatever they are, they’re probably dishes we don’t normally make and there’s something about foods that appear only once —maybe twice— a year. They’re special. Since we don’t eat like this all the time can’t we lighten up our fears instead of our food? It’s a holiday, after all!

A number of years ago when we were all new to e-mail, several chef friends and I planned a Christmas dinner we would share in Los Angeles. It turned out to be quite a challenge because one couldn’t imagine Christmas without oysters; another was allergic to them, but had to have Blue Lake beans. Were green beans really in season? “Yes!” said one of the west coasters so, yes, green beans were in.  What about the main course? Turkey? Crown roast? Ham? Did it have to one? Could it be another? What about the vegetarians? Some were flexible, others weren’t. But we all had dishes that were must-haves, and of course, everyone wanted to contribute those favorite Christmas desserts. We ended up with 10 appetizers, an enormous meal, and there were probably a dozen desserts—plus champagne, wine, chocolates, nuts, tangerines, and more.  It was truly excessive but it was much more memorable than a balanced, low-fat meal even though I recall vowing I would never again choose to be this full in my life.

But then, there as a beach right outside our motel, which leads me to my present take on this whole business of turning holiday meals away from excess to moderation. How about adding another element and leaving the food alone?

Our family used to take long walks in the  cold and return hungry and ready for dinner. As long as the oven was actually turned on (a few times it wasn’t) it worked out well. We’d come in cold and hungry to a house that smelled delicious, our anticipation high.  When I spent a Christmas in Norway a few years ago, the succession of big meals (and I do mean big, rich fatty ones) was broken by several hours of cross-country skiing in between. All the maglie calcio poco prezzo huffing and puffing under the light of clear moon in that Norwegian winter dusk was both a pleasure and a life saver. And if hiking and cross country skiing aren’t your activities, there’s always tennis, touch football, volleyball, Ping-Pong. Even raking leaves. Whatever it is, forget the treadmill and do something outdoors, with friends.

Sometime it’s not the meal that’s a problem as the leftovers. While leftovers are of course one of the best things about Thanksgiving, you might consider not making so many candied sweet potatoes and pumpkin pies that you find yourself eating them for a week. Maybe make enough for one extra meal and leave it at that. You probably really don’t need more leftovers than will fit in the fridge. Better to share the wealth or just have less to start with. And if you’re going to have turkey, skip the corn-fed factory-farmed birds for their sakes and yours, and find a local one, maybe a heritage breed. They’re smaller, but far tastier and far better bred.

A Gorgeous CabbageI will add this thought, though.  If you’ve generally changed how you eat, say you don’t Cheap NFL Jerseys make desserts anymore, cream hardly ever shows up in your kitchen and you barely remember sugar, then some of those old dishes, like real creamed onions and my beloved candied sweet potatoes may not have quite the appeal they used to. I mean, it’s a possibility your tastes have changed and if that’s the case, cook what you like to eat. In any case, cook what you like to eat, banish guilt, and above all, enjoy your Thanksgiving!

12 thoughts on “Keep the Meal and Take a Hike

  1. Regina

    Deb, this is so lovely! (Mega-huge smile.) It was superb seeing you just two weeks ago. I’ll keep you posted next time I’m kickin’ it in Santa Fe – I’m so hoping it will be sooner, rather than later!! xoxo

  2. Linda

    I 100% agree with you, Deborah! I try to eat healthy all year and at Thanksgiving, I want to just indulge and enjoy the decadence of recipes handed down from the past. Pass on the glutenous “green bean casserole” or “pumpkin cheesecake? I think not! Thanks for all your inspiration this time of year and always.


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