Once a Year Gravy

One day. But a day that sets into motion a month of holiday merry-making and gluttony.

I could eat the gravy with a spoon!

Thanksgiving hovers, marking the coming of winter holidays. We salivate at the anticipation of traditional holiday dishes, unique to each family. Our family gathering is a conglomeration of traditions from New York to California with a large dose of the Midwest. We will meet to celebrate in Phoenix, at my nephew’s home. Over 30 of us.

Blue Boy is having his wisdom teeth removed earlier in the week, but agreed to the procedure as long as he can eat the stuffing. Mowgli may grab rolls. I love turkey, dressing, and a small amount of mashed potatoes with a side of sweet potatoes, all covered with my sister-in-law’s mother’s gravy.

In our Midwest home, the only meal we called dinner was Sunday at noon, after church. Evening weekday meals were supper. Gravy appeared on the table almost every week with dinner, which alternated between fried chicken and pot roast. As our health consciousness rose and our activity decreased, we cast aside comfort foods.

Except for Thanksgiving. A text thread to plan the menu affirmed that the traditional green bean casserole is anticipated, heavy on the cream, cheese, and crunchy onions; light on the beans.

The epitome of decadence, though, is the gravy. The recipe calls for hours of simmering the oils and drippings from the baked fowl. The livers ground into almost imperceptible size are cooked in to add thickness and a rich flavor, like no other gravy I have ever sampled. If it becomes too thick, more drippings are added, not water. Truly worth the risk of clogged arteries.

One day. But a day that sets into motion a month of holiday merry-making and gluttony. While my appetite has decreased with age, my body defending itself against the onslaught of calories, my palate is more discriminating. If I am going to eat a cookie, it must be the best. Well, maybe not. I eat any quality of cookie. But gravy. No, it must be the best. It’s only once a year.

Holiday non-guilt

To understand my need to recover from the holidays, one must understand our family holiday. Thanksgiving brings my Baby Bro and his family of five trickling in from California the Saturday prior, my nephew and his family of four from Oregon, my other nephew’s in-laws from California, plus the usual group of 15 plus already in Arizona. We range in age from eight months to 70+. Throw some dogs into the mix to stir the chaos as we move from house to house during the week. A week or so prior to the arrival of first guests, we formulate a Pfamily Pfun spreadsheet (the spelling is a play on the family name). Planned daily activities are interspersed with games, cooking, eating, and yes, drinking. The excitement and blessing of enjoying ones extended family is exhausting!! Hiding away after everyone leaves, I yield to a full day of lounging and simple chores and begin to feel recovered.

The tendency during holidays is to throw up my hands and suspend any attempt at exercise and good diet. A painful knee called for immediate attention, though, and knowing that yoga would relieve it, I attended a yoga class and RIPPED during this time. I also began some exercises to strengthen leg muscles which seem to resist strengthening. It was fun to have my niece “in-law” join us at RIPPED. Camaraderie in exercise is important: knowing that I will see friends and family in class pulls me out of bed as much as or more than the physical benefits.

Alas, today the Christmas-New Year’s season rush begins when we attend a holiday dinner theater with friends, and the calendar begins to fill. It is tempting to scratch exercise off my to-do list. Likewise, there is a tendency to be unforgiving toward one’s lack of self-discipline from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Trading time with my family to workout and denying myself the taste of a favorite holiday food cracks any attempt at self-discipline leading to guilt but not to the gym. The snowballing list of loved ones lost to death inspires me to appreciate the time I have with people and to enjoy this Earth.

Note to Self: Give up the guilt. I am training for Life not a marathon. I workout so that I can enjoy activities with my friends and family. That is the best motivation.