Since reading a column last week titled "Give thanks for guiltless carrot dish" I have been stewing. The article begins, "Face it, carrots are the Thanksgiving side dish you force yourself to eat so you don't feel quite so guilty indulging in the rest of the meal." Really?
Personally, I am happy to eat carrots in a stir-fry, lightly glazed, roasted, even raw and unadorned. I have been since I was a child. I love their crunch, their earthy sometimes sweetness, their bright cheerful color. Even so, I am willing to allow that I may be in the minority in that fond regard.
If I am, I still wonder, do people really force themselves to eat carrots to assuage a sense of guilt about eating Thanksgiving dinner? Guilty thanks? Isn't that an oxymoron?
And suppose it were all true; would a carrot dish made with three pounds of carrots slathered in 2/3 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of butter really qualify as a "guiltless" dish in the column's suggested equation of justification? What then would constitute a "guilty" dish? I'm not sure I understand the math.
Of course this isn't the only recipe column to use food guilt as an angle to draw attention to a recipe. Food story after food story bids us to consider low calorie foods as angelic, no matter the artifice involved, while dishes rich in fat and calories are described as sinful or decadent even if they are quite nutritious.
Good Planning and Stewardship
So, what's with the food guilt? Eating is neither a vice nor a virtue: it is a necessity. It’s the quantity we eat that is the issue. The news regularly tells us that gluttony, or at least habitual overeating, is at a near epidemic level in this country. I think it is safe to say that most of us could choose to eat more responsibly. Still I doubt that guilt is an effective encouragement to that end.
In my view, not only is eating a necessity, but feasting and celebration too, in their own season. They are part of a pattern that reaches back through time. Our calendars account for celebration, our history is told through celebration, even our laws set aside time for celebration. Celebration adds zest to life, binds us as a people and gives us something to look forward to. Rich delicious foods are an integral part of most celebrations offering seasonal delicacies that add to the story passed down through the generations. Of course overindulgence in those rich seasonal foods is not required but neither is it a crime, especially when tempered by leaner seasons of simpler less elaborate fare.
Actually though, the title of that food column does suggest something that is essential to our celebrations. We do need to give thanks as we find a way to lay down the guilt and commemorate the season. This may involve a pre-celebration period of contrition and moderation as in the traditional Christian seasons of Advent and Lent. It may also involve planning sound meals around more moderate portions of dishes higher in quality nutrition. But let's look at that for what it is, good planning and stewardship, not a self-indulgent guilt fest.
By these recipe standards I have a host of "guiltless" side dishes to share, several of which will grace my Thanksgiving table this year. How about Roasted Delicata Squash garnished with Curry Spiced Seeds, Moroccan Spiced Carrots, Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Pecans and even Southern Style Green Beans. Or how about this interesting recipe for carrots that I found in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living.
Still, whatever you do, don't design your Thanksgiving menu based on guilt. Lay that aside for one day at least to focus on the abundance of God's good gifts. Eat with intention and consideration. Slowly savor each bite and…..leave the guilt at the door. Let us all give thanks with joyful hearts!
Roasted Carrots with Feta and Parsley
adapted from the March 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living
3 pounds medium carrots, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces on the bias
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss carrots with olive oil and scatter in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast for 25 minutes or until tender and caramelized.
Transfer carrots to a serving bowl. Toss with feta cheese and chopped parsley.
Serve and enjoy!