At The Holiday Pinch Point

It’s 10 days before Christmas, and it’s time to make some important decisions.

Not about shopping.  If you haven’t done your shopping by now, you may as well wait until the very last minute and become one of those pathetic, lost wretches who makes a mad dash to the stores on December 24 and hopes to find something decent for the people on your shopping list (which I can attest from personal experience can be done, mind you).  No, I’m talking about decisions about eating.

holiday2Already I can feel the clothing growing a bit, er, snug, and the holiday parties and open houses and receptions are only now beginning to appear on the calendar in earnest.  We’ve tried — really, really tried! — to be sensible and good about our consumption, but already we’ve been tempted by, and succumbed to, chocolate-covered nuts from the Pacific Northwest, and some of the very best brittle you can imagine.  Delectable home-baked cookies, and delicious trifle, and pies, and pound cake, and candied almonds, and bowls of irresistible red and green M&Ms, and God knows what else have appeared before us and vanished down the gullet.  About the only thing we’ve been able to successfully resist is fruitcake.

And now the clothing is sending us a message, and we’ve got a decision to make:  (1) get all of the Christmas goodies out of the house, immediately, defer any further confectionary consumption until the Christmas meal itself, and thereby try to stay in reasonable fighting trim until the holidays are behind us, or (2) give up the ghost entirely, have a roaring good time at the remaining parties, go all in on stuffing ourselves with the foods and drinks that make the festive times festive, and vow to really address that waistline after New Year’s Day.

You know, I’ve heard that January is really a good time for losing weight, because you end up burning calories just to stay warm.

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Swearing Off Sara Lee

Recently Kish and I stopped at a Bob Evans for a cup of coffee.  As we waited at the to-go counter, we stood by the glass display case that offered all kinds of tantalizing coffee cakes, crumb cakes, and gigantic cookies.  It was a classic example of conscious retail design to encourage impulse buying:  as long as you’re here, picking up your order, why not go for one of these delectable items, too?

The coffee cakes looked awfully good, but we resisted the temptation and stuck with our lone cup of coffee.

sweetbreakfast-pecancoffeecakeIt reminded me of a kind of rite of passage during my early teenage years.  Mom used to buy Sara Lee pecan coffee cake that I found irresistible.  It was dense and moist and sweet and cinnamony, with swirls of icing and crunchy pecans.  Although it was sold in kind of aluminum dish so it could be heated and served hot, I always took my Sara Lee coffee cake cold, with a tall glass of cold milk as accompaniment.  And on some days, I’d have a second piece, too.  And maybe a third.

But after a while I realized that I wasn’t exactly maintaining fighting trim, and if I wanted to actually get a date with a girl I needed to do something about it.  It wasn’t just the Sara Lee, of course, there was the lure of Frosted Flakes, and Coke and all kinds of snack foods, and a lifestyle that involved too much TV watching and not enough exercising.  And, at bottom, the inability to enjoy things like that Sara Lee pecan coffee cake in moderation, rather than in gluttonous excess.  But I swore off the Sara Lee, and I don’t think I’ve had any since.

Could I enjoy a sliver of Sara Lee and a glass of milk, without promptly ravishing the entire cake?  I’d like to think so, but I’m not going to test that hypothesis.  Sometimes it’s more prudent to just avoid temptation altogether.

Putting Our Destructive Appetites To Productive Use

The State of Maryland really doesn’t like the frightful northern snakehead.  Its name, while grimly evocative, doesn’t quite do the creature justice.  It’s an ugly, slimy fish that can reach weights of 15 pounds or more, it looks like a torpedo with a mouthful of sharp, needle-like teeth, and it can even survive out of water for several days and wriggle along on land.  And, it’s an invasive species to boot.

snakehead-fishThe northern snakehead is native to Asia and simply doesn’t belong in Maryland, but when one thoughtless pet owner dumped some of the fish into Maryland waters, the state took action.  (Anybody who would want these horrors for pets probably shouldn’t be permitted to own them, when you think about it.)  When the state found the fish in a pond, it poisoned the pond, and when it found the fish in a lake, it drained the lake.  But the northern snakehead apparently is as wily and hardy as it is repulsive, because the fish kept turning up — and then it was finally found in the Potomac River, where the poisoning and draining approaches obviously wouldn’t work.  In the meantime, people started catching the northern snakehead, or seeing it in the river, and were close to freaking out for fear that it might eat their pets or be some kind of poisonous mutant.

So Maryland decided to take another tack — now, it is encouraging people to hunt for the northern snakehead and eat it.  Maryland sponsors snakehead fishing tournaments and offers licenses to hunt the fish with bow and arrow, and Maryland restaurants have started serving the fish to customers, too.  The fish apparently has a firm, white, mild flesh, but to get to it you have to first scrape off a thick layer of slime — which doesn’t exactly make the fish seem appetizing, does it?  Still, its meat apparently stands up well to seasoning, and it is perfectly edible for most people . . . if they don’t know about the monstrosity from which the meat came.  Some people, on the other hand, actually like the idea of striking back and eating the flesh of the scary invasive species that shouldn’t be in the Potomac River in the first place.

Maryland has gone from no commercial fishing of the northern snakehead to harvesting thousands of the pounds of the fish for restaurants.  It’s still got a long way to go before it can eat its way out of the northern snakehead infestation, but it’s made a good start.  We all know about how the destructive activities and appetites of human beings have put some creatures onto the endangered species list, and worse.  Maybe this time we can finally put those destructive tendencies to good use.  Who knows:  if we can eat our way to the demise of the northern snakehead, perhaps we can take the same creative and filling approach to the dreaded Asian carp, zebra mussels, and sea lampreys that are invasive species in the Great Lakes?

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

IMG_3870Some days I get so hungry I can’t stand it.  My stomach growls like Kasey and feels like a bottomless pit.

When that happens, I look for any chance to eat.  I have a good plan, too.  I stay by the front door, and wait.  Then, if the Leader opens it just a bit, I run out and head to Sassy’s house.

Sassy lives with the pack next door.  Sassy is my friend.  I run to her place, and sometimes there is food in her bowl.  When that happens, I know it is a good day.  Sassy always has good food!

I eat as much of Sassy’s food as I can until the Leader finds me.  When that happens, oh, she is mad!  She yells at me and swats me on the butt.  She pulls me away from the food and takes me home.

It is sad when the Leader is mad at me, but it is worth it.  I’ll take some swats on the butt for a full belly any time.

Meatless

Today, I did not eat a single piece of meat.  Not one!

For most people, this would not be newsworthy.  For me, however, it is the first time in my memory that I did not, during a standard calendar day, consume the cooked flesh of some mammal or fowl that walked the surface of the Earth.  I honestly cannot recall any day, ever, when I did not eat a cheeseburger, or a hot dog, or a sausage pizza, or a corned beef sandwich, or gratefully enjoy some other delectable, mouth-watering meat morsel.

Instead, I skipped the morning meal — and therefore avoided the temptation of a bacon-filled breakfast — and then had some warming potato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, and finally polished off rare yellowfin tuna and calamari for dinner.  Quite tasty . . . but I still feel a wistful sensation, as if something warm and satisfying and comforting has been missing from my day.

Having successfully leaped over the previously insurmountable no-meat hurdle today, tomorrow I plan to learn how to appreciate rap music.