Remember that old New Jersey tourism slogan, “New Jersey and You: Perfect Together”? Can you be a tourist this holiday, observing but not being of them? Granted, there’s also the tourist philosophy of, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” My family’s not from Rome (Naples and Sicily, thank you very much).
What I want to get at here is this: the holidays are a source of stress for some people. Common knowledge, no need to cite the source. Whether you’re facing in-laws you dislike, coming home as a newly queer-identified individual, dealing with religious tensions, or feeding an obnoxious number of people with disparate dietary preferences, there are numerous ways in which–
OK, enough with not telling us anything we don’t already know. Here’s what I do to make the week of self-
destruction indulgence from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day bearable. These are strategies I employ in other situations of uncertainty as well. I’ll tell you my bias up-front: why is it socially acceptable to over-consume food, fuel, and material goods (question the term “goods”) in the name of religious miracles? I’m all for feasting in celebration, but there’s a line between feasting and frenzy that disappears right quickly, in my experience. Feasting, as well, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means, “To keep holiday, give oneself to pleasure; to enjoy oneself. Obs.” Enjoyment does not connote overconsumption. Let’s be honest here. It doesn’t.
This is my bias. I’ve read a number of blogs and articles about dealing with the holidays whence I first dismissed the authors as “Haters!” for not condoning pulling out the stops and making outrageously unhealthy dishes and gorging oneself on food and drink (and annoying company).
Recently, at Buddhist meditation, we sang a song in which one line was,
“May all beings be safe.”
Indeed, feeling safe is what I want to feel this holiday season. And so I wish this for you, too.
‘Couple things on the agenda:
Every year, my mother and maternal grandmother–and since last year, when I became vegan–and I bake several kinds of cookies each in order to share with the family, neighbours, friends, coworkers, and dorm-mates. Last year and this year I had tea and cookies parties a few days before break so I could share my passion for baking with my friends. I veganised most of the traditional recipes last year–pizzelles, melty mints, peanut blossoms, chocolate-dipped shorbread, chocolate-white chocolate chips, gingerbread cookies, et cetera–and this year, I set out to make secretly healthy cookies. OK, they still contain sugar, but I’m using whole grain flours, less sugar, less oil, as many organic ingredients as I can find, and scooping them small. In case you’re wondering, I get this drive to healthify from my mother. We–since I was home during “hell week” before Christmas–used white whole wheat flour to replace half or all of the flour in most recipes last year. I even used regular whole wheat flour and Sucanat in chocolate cookies, and people ate them up. So if you’re someone who ate my cookies last year, guess what, I slipped you some whole wheat flour.
‘S how I get my kicks.
This year, though, my eight types of cookies have less sugar, less oil or margarine, and are smaller than the original recipes (save pizzelles…they don’t go smaller). Certainly, in the recipes I shall post, you may use more sweetener or fat as per your preference. Here’s a truism Michael Pollan didn’t include (at least, not verbatim) in Food Rules: your taste will match your waist. Just sayin,’ and I’m also saying that I’m not immune to going on overconsumptive benders during the holidays either. I do not write from a position of superiority, assumed or otherwise. “Bless me to understand my own faults. Bless me to have no desire to examine the faults of others,” as we chant every week at meditation.
So, if you haven’t gotten it by now, I highly recommend meditation during the holidays. Taking time for yourself, whether you’re doing a sitting practice or doing yoga or going for walks, is very important. Whoa, wait, Q–objects a reader–the holidays aren’t all about you. They’re about togetherness and family and–
Q says, “ ‘And?’ Why must we use conjunctions to keep adding obligations and abstracts and things and things? Why not just ‘is?’ Why not ‘enough?’”
There’s a Dutch proverb I like, and though I don’t know how it goes in the original tongue, the translation I read is, “Enough is great riches.” That “being grateful” spirit extends from Thanksgiving into Christmas and Solstice and New Year’s (I don’t celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa religiously, so I can’t and won’t speak for that which I don’t know). “Enough” is generally pretty simple, too.
I like early morning. Being up early’s enough to make me content. Fresh peanut butter is also very nice. Sitting and writing with pen and paper’s most enjoyable.
Think about what’s “enough” for you. Yes, I’m giving orders. You’re free to stop reading. You always have been.
On to the programming: Microlunch.
This is my favourite recipe from since I can remember eating Christmas cookies. It’s a deep chocolate cookie with—the best part—a pastel mint non-pareil in the center. Through the years, it’s been more difficult to find non-pareils, and last year I switched to Endangered Chocolate’s mint chocolate bars, cut into pieces. Non-pareils and other such candies are often coated with confectioner’s glaze, an insect-derived component. I like to eat the cookie first then melt the chocolate in my mouth.
1/2 cup chocolate chips