By Shirley M

If you are new to this part of the country, I feel I should make you aware of an affliction, nay,
an imprecation that will certainly affect you.

As soon as the sun starts to shift and the temperature starts to drop, the sun, bashful or moody, we will never know, refuses to show itself for any reasonable length of time, and the
sky turns gray. That is when the curse manifests itself. I am regretful to say that by the time
you read this, sometime in December, it will be too late for you. You will be already doomed!
Of course, I am referring to that evil, yet tempting and alluring muse, the Pandora’s box of all the suffering coming your way when you awake in the Spring: Comfort Food.

Comfort food, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is food that soothes and comforts you. It
usually does so by combining hefty doses of carbohydrate and fat. It leaves you satiated, warm, happy, and once you have finished riding the sugar high, drowsy. The mischief of comfort food is in the fact that it very often disguises itself as Holiday Food.

Look back at Halloween, at all the candy you bought to give the trick-or-treaters and to the fact that being a decent, thoughtful person, you made sure that the candy you were offering was
delicious and safe by tasting them. Then on Thanksgiving you felt obligated to prepare a genuine feast to commemorate the holiday. You made turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce or relish, and either plain green beans or green bean casserole, depending
on how American you were feeling. Afterwards you had to have pumpkin pie, after all what is
Thanksgiving without pumpkin…?! And then, for the sake of the relatives and friends, you
offered a second choice of dessert; apple pie anyone? Naturally, it only stands to reason that
if you are offering apple pie, you should also make it “a la mode”. You tell yourself it is a special day, it is a holiday!!!

Soon December arrives. It really does not matter your religion or what you are celebrating. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, End of the Year, New Year… whatever it might be, one thing is constant: there is going to be food. Delicious, seasonal food you only find and eat at this time
of the year.

One day you enter your usual grocery store just to be faced with delicacies you never thought of finding here in your neighborhood corner store: Stollen, Panettone, Plum Pudding, Rugelach, Hamantaschen, Gingerbread, Fruit Brandied Cake… But you make a point to only enjoy them
on special occasions. It just happens that as December gets on its way, you realize you have two group potlucks, one Christmas party, two end-of-the-year parties, a cookie exchange, a friend or relative you just have to go visit, and another one that just will not let you go, beside your own family tradition and celebrations. By the time you reach January, you are aware you have been eating rich, carbohydrate and fat laden food for a solid month. Your fat clothes, the big clothes you leave at the back of your closet in case of “emergency”, are too tight. Yes, your fat clothes are too tight! And, of course, the major problem here is that it is only January. You resolve to
mend your ways and start the year right with a healthy diet, only to see your efforts thwarted
by that Canadian gift. I am talking about that special gift our wonderful neighbors to the north send us every beginning of the year – an Arctic Blast. You understand now why Canadians are known for their kindness and friendliness. That kind of weather will teach you humility.

Now you find yourself frozen to your bones. You feel very sleepy. Outside is gray, dark, windy and cold…very, very cold! You just want to lie down on the sofa with a good book and a warm blanket. Your cat agrees with you that today, as was yesterday and the day before it, should be a sleeping day. After a while, your stomach growls and you start thinking about your next meal. Now comfort food does not need to cloak itself in holiday regalia. You are too sleepy and too weak to object to its power. Instead you welcome the warmth, the gooeyness and the joy it
brings. You have a sudden image of a plate of Macaroni and cheese – not the kid kind, you tell yourself – the one with béchamel sauce and caramelized real cheddar cheese. Or maybe chili… no, lobster bisque… or lasagna…

Before Spring comes and you can fully awake from your soporific hibernation, you will still have to contend with all the sugar in your Valentine’s Day chocolate and your Easter candy. By then you will have eaten your way through six months and will have the next six to work out the
aftermath of the Comfort Food Curse. I wish you all the luck!

Happy Holidays!!