Carrots - A Question of Thanksgiving Guilt

Life's Necessities

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.

Giving Thanks

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
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (low-fat or fat-free if you like)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

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!


Kathy Walker said...

Hmmmm...I do not feel guilty when preparing or eating the Thanksgiving feast. It is my very favorite meal of the year.
Personally, the writer needed an angle....I love carrots and would enjoy them as part of the feast and certainly not put them on the menu out of guilt. They would proudly stand on the menu because they are delicious! :-)

Erin said...

I agree. I love carrots too, and I certainly don't eat them because I feel guilty about the rest of the Thanksgiving feast. They just add another dimension to the meal. Balanced diets are important, but moderate indulgance is nothing to feel guilty about either.

Cathy said...

Carrots are one of my favorite veggies and I'm always looking for new ways to prepare them. This looks delicious, Lisa.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

LeLo said...

Roasted carrots are one of my favorite wintertime things to make. I usually do them with celery, onions and garlic, but your addition of feta and parsley sound tasty. Yum!

June said...

Great post! I agree completely, particularly with "leave the guilt at the door". In my opinion guilt is seriously overused as a motivator.

Jeff said...

First, I would like to complement you on using a pun in your opening paragraph. Like vegetables, puns are often under appreciated, or as you might say, 'rare,' and I think it is about time that food bloggers joined the ranks of humor aficionados everywhere in using puns. Well done!

Second, I personally love carrots and always find myself wishing for more when they are served up in stews, or in delicious looking side dishes such as you have posted about.

Third, thank you for the commentary on the importance of celebration. In today's busy world, it is far too easy to forget why we are having the feast in the first place. Bravo!

Melanie said...

I really like this post. And my family's Thanksgiving menu doesn't include anything "guitless", but I don't care, it's all so delicious and fun! :)

JG said...

There are never any roasted carrots left in the serving dish after we have eaten dinner. That orange veggie is so good! In the winter we eat them every week. Yummy!

Jeanette said...

Thank you for your post. I agree that we need to take a step back and reflect on celebrating this time of year. There are plenty of ways to indulge in rich tasting foods without guilt. Thank you for your healthier side dish suggestions.

grace said...

what a thoughtful post, lisa! even better, what a delightful recipe--feta with carrots is interesting indeed. :)

Ivy said...

Awe. You are so lovely.
The carrot and feta sound good!