The Art of Eating Well

Growing up, my family celebrated Christmas and part of that celebration was reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and listening to or watching Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

Both of these great works of art (although it has been said Tchaikovsky never liked this ballet or the music he created for it) celebrate food as one of the joys of the holiday season. The Nutcracker has the Sugar Plum Fairy and dances that celebrate chocolate and  candy canes and marzipan.

Dickens certainly wets the appetite when he describes the bounty that the Ghost of Christmas Present brings with  him when he visits Scrooge. “Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.”

I still reread A Christmas Carol almost every year. The classics never get old and can be enjoyed over and over.

Recently Danny and I went to Trader Joe’s and were literally bombarded with the most beautiful and tempting displays of sweets and chocolate and candy of every kind. I felt my craving for sugar take over my whole mind and body, shouting at me, “This is what you need to celebrate the holidays…lots of SUGAR!!!”

I was made almost senseless by the battle between the desire to buy all kinds of sweets and the knowing that I don’t feel great when I eat more than just a little bit of sugar.

It is said that sugar is as addictive as crack cocaine.

I believe it.

The question is, how to celebrate and not overdo. Isn’t part of celebrating indulging oneself just a bit?

What I’d like to suggest is that we can get inspired by Dickens and Tchaikovsky and we can make art of eating well. What great art does is take almost anything and make it sublime, the ultimate, the quintessential, so that you fully appreciate and enjoy even the simple and humble. Look at Van Gogh’s Chair, a simple, common item brought to the heights of human sensibility.

Here are some ideas to keep your holiday eating celebratory and enjoyable without blowing all your good eating habits:

  • Savor your food: Use the holiday as a time to really celebrate food…good, healthy food. Like Dickens, relish in cherry-cheeked apples and luscious pears. Taste, touch, feel and appreciate whatever you have. Take the time to appreciate fruits and vegetables like you’re looking at them, eating them, tasting them for the first time.
  • Use no artificial foods: Decide that anything artificial or unknown to the human body for food before the last 75 years is NOT worth being part of your celebration: high fructose corn syrup, additives and preservatives are not a true celebration of life, but rather a cheap way for food “manufacturers” to make more money.
  • No HFC’s: Give up high fructose corn syrup for the rest of your life. It is simply not worth it. Neither are artificial sweeteners.
  • Eat your vegetables: Fall in love with and fill up on vegetables, lots and lots and lots of vegetables, including greens. Eat as many greens as you can.
  • Spice it up: Leave out some of the sugar in sugar and spice…and enjoy festive spices such as curries and other spices that arouse the senses, add color and taste, and that strengthen rather than degrade your immune system including: turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, rosemary, and mint.
  • Have an intentional meal schedule: Plan ahead and choose the few days in which you might indulge and choose a few more days in which you’ll eat less and eat simple, clean foods.
  • Use natural unprocessed sweeteners: Use honey or maple syrup rather than sugar. The difference is bigger than you think. Good honey has a healthier Glycemic Index, is a more complex sugar and takes more to break down than sugar and has vitamins and minerals that sugar lacks…but…it is still a sugar, so still use sparingly.
  • Eat desserts early: Eat special treats during the day rather than at night. Many studies show that your body processes food at a different rate at different times of the day. Eat your bigger or more  indulgent meals during the day and eat lightly at night. You’ll feel better the next day.
  • Try juicing: It has changed Danny’s and my life! We juice regularly and every time we drink a freshly made juice we toast to our good health. What a great gift a juicer would make!
  • Eat organic: Yes, it’s more expensive. We don’t buy organic just because of our own health but the health of the soil and the birds and the bees. We give back with every organic purchase.
  • Share your bounty with others whose needs are not met. Make a donation to a charity:

Make every meal special. Breakfast, lunch, a snack. No matter if you’re eating on the fly. Use the holiday to be grateful for access to bountiful, beautiful food.

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