Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Tis the Season of Old Habits

As my co-blogger shared below, the holidays are a great time to revisit -- and learn how to improve upon -- some of those old family habits that helped shape the lifestyles that we live today. Since I'm with the fam now and just salivating smelling the Christmas Eve dinner that's in the works (a ham, sweet potato casserole, homemade mac 'n cheese, followed by sugar cookies and mulled cider), it seems like this is a good time to share a few thoughts on how those family food ties that bind, only if you let them:

I come from a small family, with no real relationships with extended family, so it's always been kinda the 4 of us against the world. Yet, at our mealtimes, you might just guess that we had a family of 10. Portion size was never our strong suit, and I am reminded of this every time I come visit because Mom and Dad still serve our meals on platters instead of plates. PLATTERS. I kinda get that in the psychology of our family, nurturing = nourishment, and abundance = affection, or something like that.

My parents seem to really value being able to provide for us kids, which they've always done very well, and that sometimes manifests itself in the food they make for us. Large, hearty portions, high-quality ingredients, homemade. This is not a microwaving family, and Dad's always been an excellent cook and Mom's a darn good baker. So my whole life, I do believe that a lot of our emotional attachments to each other have been communicated through food. To this day, Dad will start calling (now he even emails!) weeks before I come to visit asking what I want to eat, so he can plan out a lavish menu of my favorite meals every day I'm here.

A few years ago, when Christmas fell at a time when I was being really good about WW, I realized that I just could not handle eating in Dad's usual way while I was here. Literally, after 3-4 days of huge meals of mostly proteins and starches (meat, really good meat, at every meal), I felt sick. My body just wasn't used to those quantities or that kind of rich food, and I finally just had to put my foot down. So, ever since, I talk more clearly with my parents before visiting about what kinds of foods I'd like them to have on hand for me to eat while I'm here, things that I'm a little more used to -- Egg Beaters, soups, veggie sides. And that's worked pretty well for a while.

Then, last summer, my parents' lifestyle changed radically. Mom has been a health food advocate for decades, so she didn't often eat the same big, rich meals -- but a lifetime of doing so led my Dad to the point of a surprise triple bypass, on top of his high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. Face to face with this crisis, Dad came through with flying colors and radically changed his diet. Heck - he lost somethingl ike 50 pounds and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro! He's doing great!

They now have very different kinds of foods in the house, which means my experience visiting is almost reversed -- in that I'm looking for snacks or some of my usual indulgences and they're no longer here! I'm not quite ready to be just a fruits-and-nuts snacker, sorry. I actually now learn a few new healthy-eating tidbits each time I come visit.

But, it is Christmas, so again my parents are really putting on a full spread for me and my brother, with steaks and lamb and tonight's ham. So it's up to me to enjoy these meals and the love they represent, while still keeping an eye on portion size and making sure I'm getting enough fruits and veggies mixed in there with all the meats and potatoes. Doesn't seem too hard!

So, with that, I'm off to dinner -- happy holidays, everyone!


ScottE. said...

My family was/were platter people as well...I'm not very good about watching those serving sizes...when I do it's only because my belly gets sickly.

Merry Christmas ya'll...

DC Food Blog said...

I know all about the platters. What a weird thing to have your parents pantry stocked with the fruit and nuts. What's lucky for me is that both my siblings are awesome tennis players and great athletes so we bond by working out.