At sundown today, Rosh Hashanah begins; Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year (do not click away if you aren’t Jewish, if you celebrate any holidays or attend any group food events, read on). Many Rosh Hashanah foods are sweet as they signify the hope for a sweet New Year. This is a lovely tradition but a challenge from a food perspective. There have been countless articles written about holiday eating and the calories in holiday foods. To me, the often overlooked aspects of holiday eating are the extra time spent with family (glass of wine for me please), the travel involved in getting to wherever you are going and associations with traditional, special and often home-cooked food.
It’s more about the dynamics at work than the food itself. Here are some of the potential pitfalls, see if they strike a chord.
Problem: The Food Pusher, I tend to think every family has one. Food pushers have been known to ask, “is that all you’re eating?” or “how come you didn’t try the potatoes?” or worst of all food pushers plate the food for you.
Solution: There are several strategies to handle a food pusher. My first thought is that the food pusher often wants you to try things but doesn’t necessarily mind if you don’t finish them. So put the kugel or cake on your plate and only eat what you wish to.
The second, more aggressive route is to be honest and polite but push back “it’s so delicious but I think I’ve had enough.” It’s always good to throw in a compliment while refusing food.
Problem: Slim (healthy) Pickins – It’s hard to believe in 2011 someone can compose a menu with zero regard for health but it happens and happens a lot for holiday meals. Even my mother uses by grandmothers stick-of-butter recipes and justifies it as “traditional.”
Solution: Help green the menu. By this, I don’t mean green as in better for the environment, I mean literally green. Many holiday menus lack clean vegetable options so offer to bring something. Yes, there may be an ounce of selfishness here but say “can I bring a beautiful crudité and dip?” Or, “I saw a great Brussels sprouts recipe.” Even if the host declines your offer it may send a message that potatoes shouldn’t be the only vegetable on the table.
Problem: Gymlessness-you’re away from home, at your parents or in-laws far away from your usual gym or spin class.
Solution: Don’t be an exercise snob. Bring your sneakers and even if it’s cold or not as good a workout, commit to walking the day of the holiday AND the day after. Throw in some crunches and push-ups and you may have burned off those potatoes.
Problem: ProcrastinEATING. ProcrastinEATING happens when you feel as if you had a large, holiday meal and that you’ve blown it as far as your food plan goes. The procrastineater says “on Monday I will be good.” Or, “when I get home I will get back on track.”
Solution: nip it in the bud. It’s often not the holiday meals that do people in. It’s the leftovers and couple of days following the meal and the towel getting thrown in. If you are off track regroup at the next meal and plan your food for the day following Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving or Christmas etc. It’s not just about the holiday meal.
Aside from potential pitfalls, there are so many interesting food traditions tied to holidays. For Rosh Hashanah there is the notion of “new fruit”. This is a fruit that is recently in season; pomegranate is commonly used. There is a blessing that’s said. The implication is to be grateful for the fruits of the earth and the opportunity to enjoy them. Religion aside, this is something we can all do.
What do you find to be the biggest challenges with holiday eating? Have you ever been a procrastineater? What “new fruits” have you been enjoying?