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December 1998 Issue
Eat Hearty at Christmas ... How to Stuff Yourself Intelligently and Live Through It
by Michael Fick
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Here it comes, friends - the most meaningful holiday of the year. Whether it means food, gifts, food, family, food, in-laws, food, Christ's birth, food, rancor, food, housework, food, football, or even ... food, it delivers whatever we expect in spades. We at Seasoned Cooking hope you have a good one, and hope we can contribute a little bite to its success.

After that subtle subliminal message, perhaps you can guess what part of your holiday this award-winning e-zine is most likely to address. My contribution to your Christmas cooking: you can stuff yourself with minimal harm if you stuff intelligently.

Maybe you even gorge yourself over the holidays. You might be a gorging candidate if your overall appetite or one-meal capacity has led to any of these symptoms:

  1. Waitresses often advise you you've ordered too much food ... but you inhale that and enjoy a dessert -- or two.
  2. Buffet employees closely watch you and your coat pockets.
  3. A buffet manager has told you you can't have any more food.
  4. Twice.
  5. Another buffet manager said you're why he converted to an a la carte cafeteria,
  6. and now keeps your itemized meal ticket on his wall as a reminder.
  7. Friends accuse you of being from another species, planet, or dimension.
  8. You eat half your meals -- usually the third half -- alone, because the rest of the family refuses to sit around the table for half an hour after they've finished dessert.
  9. You're asked to judge a club dessert-baking contest because no one else could sample all 30 entries,
  10. and you sampled them all at least twice to be fair.
  11. You take your own 24" plate to pot luck dinners.
  12. The colonel ordered you to a) leave the 24" plate home, b) go to the back of the line at the Christmas pot luck and c) wait for seconds until everyone else has finished eating.

Unrealistic? Nope -- personal experience. I KNOW what Christmas means to many people: unlimited access to an unlimited quantity of meats, gravies, stuffing, candied yams, cheeses, breads, green chile enchilada casseroles, butter, desserts -- heck, even some veggies if one thinks a couple of broccoli sprigs will atone for three turkey drumsticks and a rum cake for lunch. Every bite, all week long, is worth every moan, every groan and every promise to all that's holy never to do it again.

Sounds bad, but 100% of us have survived that stupid, painful, marvelous, eagerly-awaited ritual every Christmas (and Thanksgiving, and potluck, and smorgasbord) for decades. Does that mean it's 100% safe? Of course not; it just means that 100% of the people reading this are alive ... so far. i.e., we ain't died from it yet. (Can you spot the operative word in that sentence?) 

But no one ever died from one meal, right? Sorry to burst your aorta, but millions of people have died from one meal. It happens often, as arteries narrowed from years of bad genes, bad diet and/or a bad couch are finally blocked by that last surge of cholesterol from that last huge meal of saturated fats. Uncle Max's habit of daily double bacon cheeseburgers -- or just lousy genes -- set him up by narrowing his arteries, but subconsciously eating that kielbasa and lard fondue while watching the game is what finished him off. He should have at least saved the fondue for the July 4th picnic; heart attacks peak in the dead of winter, even in sunny southern California. 

So what can we do to not only survive holidays but even sail through them without having to let out our pants -- heck, our SHOES? Several things come to mind.

Eat before you eat. Half an hour before you sit down to the trough, eating contest, or training table -- whatever atmosphere your family presents -- eat something with some fiber and fat in it. It will help dull your appetite from a deafening roar to a loud noise. The right snacks are everywhere; bran muffins, homemade bread, nuts, strawberries, pumpkin and rhubarb pies, and veggies'n'dip are covering every horizontal surface in the house. Wash something down with tea or the kids' punch and you'll be merely hungry, rather than ravenous, when you sit down and start shoveling in earnest. That way you can still sample every dish at the trough without wanting thirds. You'll be able to get just as overstuffed (don't want to miss that) on less food. All the pain; less gain ... can't beat that with a bagel!

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