Saving Room for Dessert
How the hell am I so trim? I’ve just been looking back over the foods I’ve eaten over the past couple of months, and I’m feeling very thankful for having such delicious things in my life. One thing’s for certain, I eat well.
The fact that I can do so and still maintain my high school weight without any meaningful exercise is truly unfair to those who struggle with their diet. Although the truth is that I do have some tricks for eating decadently but still responsibly.
As we approach the season of the gorgefest, I thought it might be useful to share some of these pro tips with you. The goal here isn’t to lose weight. Rather it’s to get through the mountain of delicious foods without feeling ill, and to make sure that when dessert rolls around, the slices of pie are met with joy and not trepidation.
Don’t come to the table hungry
It seems counter intuitive. But I’ve found that when I’m hungry, I’ll tend to attack food. By that I mean eat it quickly and without much care, as I try to fill the void in my belly. Before the Thanksgiving meal, we usually nosh on a tray of cured meats and fine cheeses. And that’s out for most of the day. I love these foods because a little goes a long way, both in flavor and satiety.
For what it’s worth, I generally eat both of these foods on their own without bread or crackers. There are some who suggest a health benefit in separating the carbohydrates from the proteins in your diet. It always sounded like hogwash to me. My reason for eating even the runniest of cheeses out-of-hand is primarily not to distract from the flavor and texture of the cheese itself. The same goes for salumi.
Meet your friend the aperitif
Sometimes when Mrs. Fussy has a glass of scotch, she’ll start to crave junk food. The same holds true for her father. A little bit of booze, a crisp white wine, or some dry sherry before a meal can help to stimulate the appetite. Not only that, it’s a very civilized practice that helps to extend the camaraderie around any eating occasion.
This reminds me. Perhaps a bottle of sherry would be a good thing to bring down to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. If it weren’t for writing this post, it might never have occurred to me.
Make a plate not a platter
When the Fussys eat dinner, almost every night we eat off of smaller salad plates. The larger dinner plates in the cupboard generally only come out if all the smaller dishes are dirty. It’s amazing how much more satisfying the same amount of food can be when presented in a different way. Sure, it’s an optical illusion. But your body doesn’t really need a gigantic plate of food every evening.
The same holds true on Thanksgiving. If you can, take a smaller plate. If you can’t, try to fill up only the center of it, reserving the rim for precious white space. If your food looks good on the plate, it has the ability to provide a more joyful eating experience.
More than anything else, I eat slowly. ADS is still the slowest eater I have ever seen. But putting down your fork in between bites is a great starting place. This isn’t a shoveling contest. It’s not a contest at all. Take your time. Relax. Have a sip of wine. Engage in conversation. Take small bites, chew, taste your food, and thoroughly enjoy it.
Then when your plate is done, go up for seconds. Or even thirds if you like. The idea is that by slowing down your eating, you are allowing your body the time to send appropriate signals that it’s done. But it does take some awareness and practice to be able to recognize and heed the messages from your body to stop stuffing food in your pie hole.
Have a remedy on hand
Absinthe is amazing, as are ouzo, sambuca, and the other anise based spirits, at relieving the symptoms of overeating. There is no reason to shoot it back like medicine. In fact the absinthe should be mixed with water and properly louched. You can even chill down an ouzo and make it cloudy with the healing anise oils contained within.
But anise doesn’t have the corner on the market in this regard. Some will swear by grappa. The Normans will indeed shoot back a slug of calvados in the middle of a meal to fortify them for the courses ahead.
Keep your eyes on the prize
The goal in all of this is to actually enjoy the dessert when it’s served. These tips aren’t about deprivation, they are an attempt to extend and maximize your pleasure. Granted, that assumes that the dessert is actually worth a damn, and that the whipped cream isn’t overwhipped.
But after the meal you just had, you don’t need much of this stuff either. Those who bake know exactly how much fat, refined flour and sugar goes into things like cookies, pastries and pie crusts. It’s a lot.
Enjoy it. Cut loose. Swimsuit season is more than half a year away. And you still have over a month before you even need to start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions. The time to let yourself go a little bit is right now. So go crazy. I just want you to taste everything you eat and enjoy every last bite.