Recently someone in my weight loss group asked why Americans celebrate everything with food, implying we are the only ones who do so. And then everyone jumped in and bashed American eating habits and the whole discussion devolved, in my opinion, into nonsense. As someone who started her career working in Italy and as a Norwegian-American, I disagree wholeheartedly with this idea. If anything I think other cultures celebrate with food even more than Americans. It's our day-to-day food use that's really different. The best expression of this I can recommend is the book French Women Don't Get Fat, but I have a few experiences to relate.
Our family's tradition, for as many generations as we remember, has been to eat rømmegrøt, or Norwegian cream porridge, for supper on Christmas Eve. We only ever eat this decadent dish on Christmas Eve. As you might imagine, sugar and flour were not common in Norway in the past, so this meal was used as a celebration. We savor it because we eat it so rarely. Even though I created a Keto version of the recipe to make it diabetic-safe, I still only make it on this one night of the year so it keeps its special status.
When I was 21 I spent the summer working as an intern in Italy. Two days a week I worked for an ad agency, where I actually worked on a campaign for Roberto Cavalli, the couture clothing designer. Three days a week I worked for a woman named Laura who owned her own design studio. Working with Laura was very intimate since I was her only employee. Laura was maybe four feet tall and always in a rush. We would go out for breakfast each morning. This was a shot of espresso. Laura would sprint to the counter, slap her hand down on it and yell "cafe!" and then she would down her shot and be on her way out the door, all in about 45 seconds. For lunch we would go to a panini shop for at least two hours, where we would eat our sandwiches and drink an entire bottle of Chianti with pretty much all of Firenze. Laura knew everyone, and I mean EVERYONE in Firenze (Florence). She knew all the shop owners, all the gallery owners and Uffizi tour guides. Even the African guys with the tissue packets they peddled clipped all over their clothes, she knew them. And they would all come sit with us at lunch and shoot the breeze. Laura would drink most of the wine herself. I would have been passed out on the floor if I drank that much compared to my height, but she would go back to the office and work until about eight every night. Lunch with Laura was a huge celebration, a party every single day, but neither of us and none of our friends were overweight.
The difference I saw in Italy was that no one snacked, ever. Meals lasted so long there wasn't time to snack and foods like pop and chips were so expensive no one could afford to eat them. No one ate breakfast. They would drink a coffee, usually just one. No one drank coffee all day or carried giant coffee cups around with them everywhere. No one watched television and snacked. Italian television was horrible back then and after supper, which was eaten around 10PM, everyone would get gelato and stroll along the Arno talking to their friend late into the night.
The difference in America, in my opinion, is that we don't celebrate with food. We eat all the time. We're always consuming trying to become healthy, rigorously drinking our kale smoothies, or we give up and eat fast food and junk food snacks all day and night. Food is anything but special here; it's anything but a celebration. It's either a duty or a guilty rebellion.
My challenge for myself this holiday season has been to celebrate with food and celebrate the food. I'm trying to savor the moment and enjoy myself. I'm eating only when I'm hungry. We went to our favorite restaurant and I enjoyed a low carb pizza and didn't feel one ounce of guilt. I'm not trying to lose weight during this season, just maintain. My weight has been up and down over a five pound range so I've been successful so far. We do stay low carb, if not keto, because of our diabetic son. I have a rash on my face from eating low carb wheat, so I may have to modify to strict keto for that reason, but I'm not giving up celebrating with food. In fact, I encourage you to START celebrating with food! Make eating an event, not a mundane constant, and really enjoy it. I think you might see some really positive changes. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
My name is Amanda, but my childhood nickname was "Mandaline". I am a mother of three turning my passion for creating into a full-time business.