Many, many years ago, I was in the production office of a national talk show where I met an instantly recognizable female comic (back when they were called “comediennes”). I got up my nerve to speak to her and, choosing my words carefully so that she knew it was complimentary, I said, “You know, when we were both a little younger and I was much thinner than I am now, I used to be stopped on the street for you.” I was more than a little surprised when she turned on her heel and walked away, obviously insulted for some reason. The truth was that I wasn’t all that much thinner way back when, but she was, and I wanted to make sure she knew that I wasn’t drawing a present-day comparison.
Fast-forward to last week when I caught an interview she was doing on television. This time, I was the thin one! Boy, it felt good. I could make a comment about Karma, but suffice it to say that what goes around comes around. Since Chanukah is coming up shortly, I’ll just consider that the first—and maybe best—gift I’ll get this year!
I have to admit that being skinnier than a celebrity makes it a little easier to say no to second helpings of bad-for-my-blood sugar foods but another way I survive the many temptations of Chanukah is to really think about food in terms that don’t represent it as the enemy.
My family likes to get together and celebrate for the kids, and their kids, who are all teenagers now (thank goodness for Target gift cards!). In my crowd, I am famous for my homemade applesauce (for non-members of the tribe, applesauce goes on latkes–aka potato pancakes). Not as easy as running to the supermarket for a couple of large jars, but a whole lot tastier.
One trick to separate homemade from store-bought is to use a variety of apples. I throw in some Granny Smith along with my red delicious apples, and always hope I can find some McIntosh apples too, which are my personal favorite. I core the apples, cut them in quarters, and cook them over a low heat, just covering the bottom of the pot with water. Most importantly, leave the skin on! That will give the applesauce an appealing reddish color.
When the apples are soft (and your kitchen smells wonderful!), let the apples cool for a while before turning them into applesauce. Personally, I use a Foley Grinder (food mill) to do the job…a utensil so old, it pre-dates me! (I use that as my workout for that day!) A food processor works just fine too, though I’m guessing it burns fewer calories! As you’re stirring up this delicacy in a big bowl, sprinkle with some cinnamon and, if necessary, a little artificial sweetener (depending on the sweetness of the apples) and voila! The most delicious applesauce you’ve ever tasted, and YOU made it yourself!
No sugar, no guilt, no harm, no foul. Drop a dollop on a latke and prepare to swoon! By the way, it’s also customary to put sour cream on latkes. Don’t forget there is such a thing as fat-free sour cream! Give it a try…put it in a little bowl so nobody sees the container. It’ll be our little secret.
Another way to really enjoy Chanukah without completely falling off the wagon is to choose your food carefully at your gatherings rather than using these occasions as an excuse to free-feed. Partake in the goodies, but do stay away from the stuff that will throw you straight into a diabetic coma. Instead of making your plate rival Mt. Etna (or, in this case, Mt. Sinai), take small tastes of these holiday delicacies. And if you’re supplying a side-dish or two, consider deviled eggs, just don’t announce that you’re using the “light” version of Best Foods (or Hellman’s, if you’re in the East) Mayonnaise.
Don’t forget, do NOT go hungry into that good night! Don’t starve yourself during the day because you’re going to be surrounded by “illegal” foods at night. If you’re dying of hunger, you can pretty well kiss your willpower good-bye, believe me. Your own body has ways of forcing the issue and you may become powerless to resist. So eat sensibly during the day and have a little snack before you go. When dinner is served, let everyone else go before you (if it’s a buffet) or make sure you serve yourself when platters are passed rather than watching your hosts pile those carbs onto your plate.
You’ll feel better the next day. Healthier. Lighter. Less comatose. And don’t forget, this holiday lasts eight days! Enjoy it, savor it, light the menorah. And most of all, have a happy, happy Chanukah!
Stay well, see you next time!