A few readers and friends asked before Thanksgiving how I planned to eat on the day of feasting. With my utensils was how I jokingly replied, but I of course understood what they were really asking. This was my first holiday focusing on food that I was going to experience from a “healthy” point of view, so was I going to eat with wild abandon, and indulge at every opportunity, or was I going to continue on the same path of eating clean? Honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to approach the holiday until just a couple of days before, when I began to plan out the menu, and I can say that my dad’s recent diagnosis played a big part in how I ended up proceeding.
Thanksgiving 2013 marks the first year the family didn’t have the traditional green bean casserole, baked in cream-of-mushroom soup and topped with fried onions. It was also the first year I made use of my jar of raw honey when making my cranberry sauce, and used it instead of granulated sugar. Did we miss the creamy green bean casserole or did the cranberries taste any less sweet? Not really, no, not at all, actually. We had yummy gravy to still slather on our potatoes, which were still loaded with lots of butter. And in place of our traditional candied yams, roasted butternut squash and apples, tossed with maple syrup took its place.
When we all circled the kitchen island and loaded up our plates, we took plenty of fresh sauteed green beans and some family members came back for seconds of the butternut squash concoction. No one seemed to notice that the cranberries weren’t super sweet and no one cried in their stuffing that some of our family favorites were missing. Instead we focused on the goodness set before us and ate as much, or as little, of each dish, free of guilt and remorse. Not because some of the dishes were “healthy” or labeled “clean” by a food blogger, but because the food was just good regardless, and we were extremely thankful for it.
The holidays offer plenty of opportunities to indulge and eat in excess. While we could look at each gathering as a time to “indulge!”, we could also look at each gathering as a time to nourish our bodies and souls, in a way that doesn’t leave us all clamoring to the gym come January 2nd. I don’t know when the notion came to be that in order for food to be utterly indulgent and enjoyable, it had to be leaden with fat and sugar, but I’m starting to see that as long as it’s flavorful and made with love, a “clean” pumpkin pie is just as good as a traditional pumpkin pie, and in the end, you won’t see me refusing either version when it’s offered to me.