By Dennis Minich
With Labor Day over, the last of the outdoor grilling holidays is over. You are still free to go out and grill some meat and veggies if you like, but you can’t excuse it on any holiday. We now move into the good-food phase of the year. This year its kind of a drag because my doctor has suggested it might be a good idea for me to drop a few pounds. I normally tend to ignore such advice, but my sweetie, Leslie, is in total agreement so I guess I need to drop a few pounds.
While there’s never a really good time to diet, the fall and winter are especially difficult because that’s where the really-good-eating holidays are. You can almost tell the importance of holidays simply on what kind of food is involved. I mean, think about the year. Arbor Day, Flag Day and Columbus Day don’t really rank very high on the holiday scale because there are absolutely no foods involved with them. But other holidays are more significant and require exacting dietary observance.
You start the year with New Year’s, which varies by families and traditions, but usually involves some sort of fatty meat along with items, such as sauerkraut and blacked-eyed peas in my household. You have to have fatty meat because the tradition is you want a fat (prosperous) year. You don’t eat chicken or turkey (they cause fowl years.) Hey, I didn’t make the rules.
Next along on the food holiday guide is Valentines Day. Although the actual food can vary from fine dining to Cracker Barrel, the food must set a romantic tone. And then there’s the candy. Any holiday based on sugary chocolates is great in my book. President’s Day gains only a glancing observance, usually cherry pie, because we all know that honest George Washington cut down a cherry tree.
The next holiday gains significance only because of the associated food. St. Patrick’s Day is the day we all become Irish and feast on corned beef, cabbage and color-added beer. But one of the biggies follows shortly “or longerly” (yes, I made up the word) depending on the year and that is Easter. It is spring, it is rejuvenation and its lots and lots of eggs. Add in candy (see Valentines Day) and it is the total package. Another holiday we have adopted, again for the food, is Cinco de Mayo, a day we can all feast on tortillas and beans and beer without any dye added.
Memorial Day is the first of the big three grilling events. This is the time of year many pull the cover off the old grill and burn off the remains of last fall’s final cookouts. On go the burgers and beans and it’s time for summer to go. The same follows a few weeks later when we celebrate our Independence with what else – burgers, hot dogs and again, undyed adult beverages. Nothing prepares for an evening of burning pyrotechnics quite like a day of intoxicating beverages. In this mix, I might note, is my birthday and in the old days it meant homemade ice cream and cake. Now it simply means I am getting older.
In seemingly no time later, it is Labor Day. Cook the chicken, the beef the pork and brace for the cold temperatures and bad weather ahead. In October, it is Halloween when all types of gourds become the sensation. It used to be this was the only time of year you could find a decent pumpkin pie. Also, there’s candy (see Valentines Day and Easter.)
Then there is the big run up for the two biggies – Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are events too big to be confined to one day of eating. Every year seems to be a contest when the historic caloric intake is challenged. It’s not enough for meat and vegetables, we have to have tons of side dishes and of course every desert known to man.
The year winds up with New Year’s Eve which doesn’t have an official food, but it most traditions the food of the day is high in calories and low on nutritional value. Dips, chips, meatballs and little wieners make this season bright. There is also, in many cases, a variety of adult brews, whether dyed or not. And then you start the whole thing over again.
So, if my doctor and my sweetheart really want me to successfully diet, this might be the best time because there are seven whole weeks until Halloween. And then after two months of “cheating” I will have six more weeks until Valentines Day. I can do this.