My family hails from upstate New York, specifically the rural areas of Bainbridge and Walton, East of Binghamton. This is a land where nut-brown wood paneling and maroon vinyl adorn the bowling alleys and bars where my family gathers over the holidays. It is often bitterly cold outside during this time, the sun slanting early over the hills and the snow dust swirling like a lace curtain over the winding roads. Thus the cozy, dark corners of my Grandmother’s house and the local bars beckon us to gather there and linger for hours. This is vacation, after all, so I am always primed for a respite from my tidy routine. Good timing, since glistening popcorn balls, ribbons of strudel, scrumptious cakes and pies, succulent bacon, buttery mashed potatoes, golden fries and spicy hot wings suddenly besiege me. My sensory organs are piqued, my stomach ready to be commiserated and cheered.
I try to allow myself these few days away from my normal standards, but I am inexorably facing feelings of guilt deep in my psyche all the while. Why? Because I know too well the potential havoc these foods can wreak on my anatomy, and the environment to a great extent. But does it ever strike you as unfair that some of the best tasting foods are the worst for you?
No, I say, I will not be a patsy to my country’s gross obsession with fat and calories. It obviously has done nothing in the way of halting the spread of obesity and greed. Therefore, when faced with a platter of fried chicken tenders and fries that someone has ordered at the bowling alley my family often haunts during the holidays, I indulge in the name of tradition and celebration. It wouldn’t be fair to deny myself the full package of this experience, to not allow the wonder of comfort food to work its charm! The smell of the wing sauce, the glass rim of the beer bottle on my lips, the bowling saddle shoes on my feet, the sight of my family gathered together – the whole throw-my-reticence-to-the-wind experience must be fulfilled and relished; or these artifacts and scraps of nostalgia that illuminate my present life will fall prey to the wolves of dereliction. The scaffolding of my past will begin to decay with neglect. Thus, I indulge with reflection and gratitude, taking only enough to keep the wolves at bay, and leaving room for new memories to grow.
So go ahead, throw caution to the wind! Put an extra scoop of whipped cream on your hot cocoa and let the memories in!
How do you indulge and reminisce?
(Photo: My mom and I enjoy some holiday libations this Thanksgiving)