I’ve always had beef with women’s magazines this time of year. November and December issues bombard readers with ways to avoid holiday weight gain and even shed a pound or two. Exercise twice a day! Bring your own food! Skip the sweets! Say no to the ‘nog! And if you do happen to find your cocktail dress is a little tight, here’s a two-week, 1200-calorie diet to get you back in party form. (Finding a more comfortable outfit never seems to be an option, for some reason.)
And then there’s the January. Usually only a week or two into December, it arrives with words of punishment and hope, reprimanding us for drinking too much and eating far more, but offering redemption with “clean” meal plans “bikini body” workouts. Fine. We all have our goals for the new year, but the holidays haven’t even happened when January hits our mailboxes. So basically, we’re already fearing and repenting the sins of gluttony we have yet to commit.
It’s an unfortunate and predictable pattern, but it sells.
Never, however, did I expect to read this sort of language in a cooking magazine.
Since Gourmet magazine was canceled by Condé Nast in 2009, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine have been the staples of my foodie print subscriptions. I look forward to them both each month, and always dogear at least 20 recipes I want to try. The above January issue of Bon Appétit was no different: Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Relish and Tomato Sauce; Three-Greens Soup with Spinach Gremolata; Skillet-Baked Eggs with Spinach, Yogurt, and Chili Oil… I’d be happy to have any of these for dinner tonight!
Still, I was dismayed to find Adam Rapaport opening his editor’s letter (Rapaport replaced Barbara Fairchild in November, who worked for the magazine for 32 years and edited for 10 of them) with tales of his wife’s three-day cleanse (green juice, no caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and “plenty of vegan snacks”). There’s a section of the magazine’s website titled “Our Holiday Recovery Plan,” which you can find at bonappetit.com/go/cleanse. Still a third article in the magazine (and we’re only on page 43!), titled “The Canal House Cleanse,” asks the question, How to undo months of celebration? It promises real wholesome food, but provides only recipes for broths. Crêpes on Columbus: tiger Shrimp with spinach, black bean paste + basil creme; mushrooms, goat cheese + caramelized onions
The rest of the magazine is peppered with scrumptious looking recipes, many of which are decadent and many of which are “healthy.” But do these two things have to be mutually exclusive? Do we have to gorge on rum and cake through New Year’s Day, and then spend the next 29 days subsisting on beef broth and wheatgrass? As fun as anticipating all of this guilt in January is, I think I’ll pass.
In his letter, Adam Rapaport presents his quest for moderation as a revelation. And maybe it is, and maybe that will end up proving to be an effective way for the magazine’s readers to find their own balance of rich and lean foods. I just wish there were a way to make that happen without demonizing ourselves and encouraging feelings of self-loathing and regret. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip
This is the holidays, after all. It’s a time for warm drinks and ice skating, long walks with friends and long talks with family. Puppies, sugar cookies, candles, and whatever makes you happy. If it’s an appropriate situation (a pot-luck or cocktail party where the host will appreciate an extra dish), by all means bring something you’ve cooked yourself– if you’ve made enough for everyone at the party. And if you feel better running a few miles before a feast, do it! But don’t do it if you feel like you “have” to in order to look yourself in the eye after eating a few too many cookies. This is something I too have to remind myself: life goes on. Next year, you won’t remember that you ate all of the frosting off those German Chocolate Chip Cupcakes, but you will remember the great conversation you had with your Uncle George.
This holiday season, be good to yourself.
I’ll probably repeat that once or thrice before the end of the year. Please bear with me .
Do you experience holiday guilt? How do you deal with it?