No fear: a season of eating

Robert Valentine Senior lecturer of advertising

Column by Robert Valentine, Senior lecturer of advertising

We are approaching the Season of Eating.

It begins with Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then extends itself to pre-Christmas gatherings and parties (one part flour, one part sugar and one part shortening), then Christmas, then New Year’s Day, then Super Bowl Sunday with its acres of carbs, fats, etc. It’s a long season.

I argue that these are pleasant times because, to me, hardly anything could be more pleasant than to spend a day in the presence of family and friends, surrounded by the smells of good food cooking.

You can relax and chat, even if you are busy dressing and stuffing a turkey, fixing your signature sweet potato casserole or peeling onions by the dozens. Good friends and good conversation can make up for the lack of charm in the work of our hands.

But some people fear the holidays and, perhaps, with good reason. If you are a great cook, dozens of people and organizations will expect you to turn out tons of delicious food with no budget, no compensation and little thanks. Shopping gets tougher, outdoor chores are harder (and colder, too) and there is a frenzy on the street and in the stores (Black Friday, Christmas Eve, etc.) that is frightening.

Many people seem to fear the holidays because of the horrible things they do to a well-controlled diet.

Let us argue this point.

We do so without new scientific data, or for any religious or political reason. We argue the point because it creates so much needless worry and guilt.

Many of the foods we really enjoy and see most often on the holiday table are, shall we say, “rich.” They have sugars, fats and all sorts of other components that, we have learned, are “bad for us.” In the immortal words of Julia Child, “Oh, poppycock!”

Of course, all those things are fat-producing enemies of the more slender you, but that is not the point. The point is the joy of the holiday.

Look: an extra spoonful of mashed potatoes is not going to move you from a size six to a size 14 by Monday morning. A decent slice of Aunt Helen’s famous pumpkin pie (of which you have wonderful childhood memories involving two pieces, aerosol whipping cream and a stomach ache) is not going to keep you from getting a complete turn into that drive on the first good golf day of the new year. Lighten up.

Don’t like the calorie count on that Halloween candy bar? Take a long walk on a pleasant evening – even if it means bundling up against the winter cold.

Did we eat an extra helping of Thanksgiving turkey? Grab a rake and gather some leaves. We don’t get outside much these days, do we?

There are a thousand disagreeable things that confront us every day: slanted news coverage, the neighbors’ dog, troublesome co-workers, traffic, kids, loud music, taxes, parking tickets and the entire population of Washington, D.C.

We also worry about belts that get shorter, dresses that shrink, tummies that can’t remember where they actually belong and chins that seem to hang over collars like snow on the roof.

We can complain about those things all year long. At least on a few special days, we should be able to pause, join with family and friends and peacefully recall what is good about life.

Then, on Monday, a multi-billion dollar media industry will resume its job of telling you all the things that are wrong with life. They’ve got a pill for that, whatever it is.

So, bon appetit! Now, pass the Skittles.