Close Comfort: The Science Of The Season
There’s a reason, every January, gyms offer us no joining fees and we gratefully abide, kneading our soft thighs into black lycra and humping a dumbbell a few times (with more effort than we could have thought possible in taut July). We eat differently in the winter: a little more cream, a little more sugar, a lot more fat. It’s as if we’re trying to make up for the comfort we lost when the sun disappeared. We stay home and pack on extra layers of fat, of clothes, and of family. We use the holidays as a ready excuse to indulge. And while most of us feel guilty about our flabby androgynous bodies when the holiday buzz dies down, we needn’t. It’s no lack of discipline; it’s a biological imperative, the way of the seasons. If we were supposed to eat berry salads in December, strawberries wouldn’t ripen in May.
Holiday hibernation calls for a stockpile of nourishing ingredients. We do the work of cooking with others to preserve our energy, and we measure with reckless abandon. There’s no such thing as too many cookies, too many cocktails! We linger at the dining table long after the holiday designs are visible on our china once again.
Home cooks are sometimes unable to explain why certain dishes have crept into the rotation at their family’s holiday celebrations. Isn’t there supposed to be a turkey? But really it’s pretty simple. We eat food that makes us feel good: chili, shrimp and grits, bread, pie. In later months, we may abandon feeling good in favor of looking good, but the holidays are no time for that. The only thing that can sully a bite of Chef Teryi Youngblood’s pecan pie—and I do mean the only thing—is a quick calorie count. Do us all a favor this holiday season and set aside some money for that gym membership come January, then squash your scruples. Until the last wreath comes down, you have our blessing: indulge. It’s a matter of survival.