Thoughts on Thanksgiving Foods
Thursday, November 22, 2012
If you are familiar with the musical "Fiddler on the Roof," then there is one song that probably popped into your head the moment you read the words "Fiddler" and "Roof." I am, of course, talking about the opening sequence, that powerful, joyous number where Tevye informs the audience of the most important thing a people can have--tradition. He explains the traditions of his religion and of his people, why they have them, what they mean, the importance those traditions have. Everybody is familiar with tradition. Your religion may have a tradition of how you celebrate holy days, or may have a cultural way you celebrate birthdays. At the minimum, your family probably has a tradition of its own, whether it's handing down a family heirloom, or a dinner that takes place on the third Thursday of every November.
Maybe it's the Italian in us, but food is an incredibly important tradition to uphold for our family. The types of food we prepare for certain holidays, the way we prepare it, the interaction between family members as the food is both prepared and eaten. Food is love--we prepare food with love, and we eat that food with those we love. In our family, we have four important meals in the holiday season, and it all starts with Thanksgiving.
Over the past few years, my mother has lost over 100 pounds. In the past five months, I've lost nearly thirty. We will admit that we got to where we are by hard work and accountability. We track every bite we eat. We plan meals ahead of time. We measure, we weigh, we are careful with our food. It is a part of our lifestyle by this point--we don't even think about what we are doing. We just do these things to be healthy, to be happy. Our bodies feel great, and that is motivation enough.
But we still hold a high importance on tradition, on enjoying our time with our family, our food, and our memories of holidays past. So, of course, we've altered all of our traditional dishes into healthier variations.
Oh, wait, no, that's not right. We don't do that at all. We do the thing that is exactly not that. We continue to cook the same things every year. Sure, we'll try new things, or tweak old things, but not for health purposes alone. We still enjoy our traditional foods, though we behave better around them now. We will have our 21.5 lb fresh turkey cooked in the oven with stuffing. We have mashed potatoes with butter, just not laden with butter (which we never did in the first place). We have sweet potatoes with an orange glaze. We have Nona's peas (my mother's mother's style of preparing peas—garlic, basil, pepper, and olive oil). We have cinnamon rolls (my father's mother's cinnamon rolls). And we have four types of pie.
Four. Pumpkin, Apple, Chocolate Pecan, and Blackberry.
Because we don't joke around when it comes to delicious food.
"But wait!" I hear you cry. "How can you eat such heavy, high-calorie food? Aren't you afraid of gaining weight? Or not being able to eat healthy afterwards? Or getting sick?"
In a word, no. No, we are not. And why should we? First of all, there is no way we will consume enough food in one day to gain any substantial amount of weight. We need to consume 3,500 EXTRA calories on top of our BMR and whatever we burned from exercise to gain a pound. Second of all, we have found a lifestyle, not a diet. We have learned important lessons such as "how much we should eat before we are full" and "when I am full" and "which foods makes my body feel good." Generally speaking, we do not eat food we do not enjoy, especially if it is bad for us, so there are no wasted calories. We also make our food choices carefully--instead of overfilling our plates, we take enough to satisfy, and still consume more veggies than less healthier options. And while we will have leftovers later, we don't have to go crazy. We will track, we will hold ourselves accountable, and we will continue to monitor what we eat to help us feel good. And because we are careful, we don't feel sick afterwards.
We enjoy our traditional foods. We enjoy time with our family. We enjoy making new memories in the similar ways as we made old ones. And one day (or four) out of 365 will not have any real impact on our lives, our lifestyles, or our health.
So to those celebrating this holiday: however you may celebrate today, whether it’s through a new menu to better accommodate your lifestyle, the usual comfort foods, with a crowd or just a few people, I hope you enjoy it and appreciate all you have to be thankful for.
I know I will be.