Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's the Holiday Season. Just Give Up Now.

It happens every year between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, from the minute the first turkey appears until the last bottle of champagne has been drunk. All my good habits, the usual absence of sweets in our house, the attempts at portion control and daily vegetables, swirl out of sight with the first snow.

It's not my fault, I argue with myself. What logical human being, faced with an onslaught of starchy, sugary, cheesy, chocolatey foods for five weeks, can raise the necessary willpower to fight back and declare: "I will stick to my diet. I will eat fruit not dipped in chocolate. I will eat vegetables not covered in crispy onions. I will turn my nose up at every treat that comes my way."

The answer is: No one. I challenge any person confronting a holiday season and multiple family gatherings to successfully combat the operatives of the Holiday Food Assault. Sometimes I find the will to turn down a fourth cookie or a third helping of roasted turkey, but it is not often. I have come to accept, then, that the weeks between the fourth Thursday of November and the last day of the year must simply be named a Bermuda Triangle of Healthful Eating.

It begins with Thanksgiving, when I strategically map out the coordinates of my plate to ensure maximum capacity. Normally, I would say "no" to a generous pour of gravy on everything, but little is as delectably comforting as a pillow of mashed potatoes, cradling melted butter and smothered in gravy.

From Thanksgiving, we roll straight into Christmastime, and although the actual holiday does not arrive for several weeks, it does not mean that those days need be absent of gooey fudge or coma-inducing workplace potlucks. I feel strangely compelled to keep my oven perpetually on and full of homemade cinnamon rolls, peanut butter crinkles or cherry pie. This year, even Chef Matt, normally not a baker, got into the indulgent spirit of things and made M&M cookies. Of course, his recipe was the child of the French Laundry chef, and mine are the product of Betty Crocker, but the point is that our house has been a nonstop bake shop since November.

For the record, I do ensure that my children continue to eat green things that are not Christmas-tree-shaped cookies. But I have long since given up feeling bad about my own overeating during the holidays. The last weeks of the year are so full of treats because they are also so full of family and celebrations and giving. And if spending time with my family, and baking with my daughter, and preparing meals in warm, bustling kitchens means that my jeans do not quite fit come January, then pass the fudge and bring on the gravy, because it's worth it.

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