Ah, January is here again, raising its ugly head, looking us in the eye, and proclaiming, “You must change your ways…especially your ways of consumption, you gluttonous, over-indulgent, holiday-party-people!” This first month of the new year smacked me upside the head last night as I sat at a cool new downtown restaurant for my supper club’s annual dinner out. Usually, we cook and serve our monthly meals in a member’s home, but every January, we go to a restaurant, supposedly for a relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle of our kitchens and all the time we’ve spent in them in the weeks since Thanksgiving. This particular January event turned out to be a rather sobering one. As we got settled around the table, and I reached for the cocktail menu, one girlfriend announced, “Just so everyone knows, I started a new diet yesterday and will not be drinking.” Waah-waah. Another quickly followed with, “I’m on a cleanse right now.” Well, I “cleansed” last week for a colonoscopy, but thank God that’s over and done with. “Bartender! I’ll have an old-fashioned,” I practically shouted in defiance. Luckily, another couple of friends ordered glasses of wine, then our last member arrived and began discussing the joys of her new Magic Bullet juicer, that can handle spinach, kale, and even broccoli. I was beginning to wish for a magic bullet of a different kind…just then, the waitress, in a conspiratorial tone, leaned over and whispered to me, “I can tell it’s January.” “Yeah,” I meekly acknowledged, starting to feel slightly guilty as I sipped my cocktail. The bread basket arrived, along with a big slab of perfect butter. I glanced at my friends, then back at the basket. No one moved. I boldly grabbed a warm roll, slathered it with butter and ate the whole thing right in front of them, while they looked at me like I was possessed by the devil. “More water?” the kind server asked my girlfriends. Soon, the food arrived, and copious sharing of salads and fresh seafood ensued. I caught one of my pals yawning and, unfortunately, I broke another resolution and spoke before thinking, “You’re no fun when you’re dieting.” I felt bad when she apologized all the way home.
Full disclosure, I’d just read a book that very afternoon entitled, “Strong is the New Skinny,” loaned to me awhile ago by a friend. It had been sitting quietly on my night stand for weeks until January arrived and forced me to open it. Its authors are fitness trainers and consultants with Weight Watchers, and it was interesting, although not exactly revelatory, combining nutritional info with exercises to help one achieve a strong, lean bod, rather than one that is merely skinny. I was inspired for a few hours, until faced with a craft cocktail menu at a fun restaurant. So, I awoke this morning, feeling a bit remorseful about indulging in the bread and the bourbon, but realizing today was another chance to try, try again. With firm resolve, I headed straight to an exercise class. On the way home, I turned on NPR, and heard author Mimi Sheraton, former New York Times restaurant critic, talking about her new book “1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die.” Now, we’re talking! She stated that her book chronicles her 60 years of traveling the world, and highlights some of her favorite meals, such as linguine and clams in Italy, and potato pancakes and applesauce in New York. The host laughingly said she even included her favorite hot dogs, hamburgers, fried eggs and popcorn! This got me to thinking, how are we supposed to enjoy all these delicious foods in our short lifetimes if we are constantly cleansing, cutting carbs, drinking gallons of water, and considering almond butter on a rice cake a truly indulgent mid-afternoon snack? Then I remembered one of my mother’s mantras, “All things in moderation.” Right! I’m rushing out now to buy this book. After all, there are only 11 days left in January.