Food can be inspiring in so many ways, and this is the perfect time of year to relish your relationship with it. Food is such a fundamental aspect of aliveness. During the week, when dinner preparations are often rushed, food is more nourishment than mindful celebration. But during the holidays, when we make time to shop, prepare, invite, and share, food becomes special in so many ways. Let me count the ways.
Then food is festive and cultural. We relate specific holidays with specific food traditions, family traditions, cultural traditions, and also ethnic traditions, and it becomes festive when it's special and prepared with great care and mindfulness. The English have their Christmas turkey, Americans their Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, the French their Christmas oysters and foie gras - they are all special, festive foods because we said so. Our stories and memories (and their cost) have made them so. Being German, hazelnuts have a distinct Christmas taste to me because of all the German Christmas baking that involves roasted hazelnuts. Our amusing family tradition is to drink Coca Cola while we decorate the Christmas tree, the only time of year I'll buy and drink Coke (I'll spare you the history) - so now I find Coca Cola festive (and it can't be Pepsi). And for once it's a cheap treat. My husband's Italian family traditionally made the special Christmas Eve fish dinner. That is festive to them because it's the only time of year those recipes are prepared. What is your special holiday tradition?
Abundance of food on the holiday table, even though we are no longer hunter-gatherers who don't quite know where our next meal will come from, is still important for many of us, although we now live in times of overabundance and overindulgence. While most of you who read this are not wanting, it's good to be aware of, and grateful for, all this plenty. How reassuring and wonderful that we have more than enough food. I love leftovers, the result of all that abundance. As the leftovers disappear from the fridge, so the memories of that special meal recede slowly into the everydayness.
Conviviality during holiday times is perhaps the most important food related aspect I connect with. Those without family around can become depressed because they know everyone else is gathering with family and friends and they are left out. You can make a lonesome person truly happy by including them around your family table. My mother-in-law used to always invite a lonely mystery guest or two. Being with family and friends around a table and sharing delicious food is simply warm and fuzzy, the best.
Then there are those expensive and exclusive specialty items you wouldn't serve at a regular dinner party - oysters, lobster, that special roast or meat cut, tiny jewel like vegetables, that exquisite dessert. This holiday season eat deeply, with an awareness of all these many wonderful aspects surrounding your food experiences. It will make your memories richer.