It may come as no surprise to those who have followed my personal circus over the past few years, that every mid-December we gear up to embark on an almost 700-mile journey to visit my in-laws just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Our family in the southern states continues to grow and even though I’m in the middle of a weight-loss crusade of my own leading up to my 40th birthday in March, I take it on the chin and turn a blind eye on what I put in ma’ belly through the end of the year.
From the very beginning, I laid down the foundation for my eating habits just outside of Philadelphia (which isn’t for chumps) with its cheese steaks, Tastykakes, ring bologna, scrapple, schnitzel, head cheese, pierogies and almost anything else you can toss in between two butt-end slices of bread or lather in sauce or gravy as it gets fired down the bar top in your general direction.
A little known fact about myself is that my parents didn’t feed me any meat before the age of six or seven years old. I’ve seen pictures of my dad in his late teens, approaching legal drinking age and fatherhood, hunting for pheasant, duck, grouse and deer. However, he set down the rifle when I was born in 1976. He never really explained to me the ‘why’ about this, so all I can do is speculate. Perhaps it’s embracing and appreciating the creation of life, his first child.
Believe it or not, Dad or Alive was raised predominantly a veg-head. My mom hand-pureed (with some crazy hand-propelled grinder that she still has) all of my food as a baby and toddler and my Easter baskets were stuffed with carob and dried fruits. We ate a lot of pasta with fresh vegetables and it wasn’t until a pool party at a family friend’s house (The Proctors), that my Gram asked my parents if I could ‘try a hot dog’.
I’m guessing this was a big decision at the time and my parents actually obliged. Perhaps they felt as if I was ‘coming of age’ and should be allowed to make such dietary decisions for myself. As the story has it, I took a few nibbles and went on my way, not completely enthralled by the taste of pig knuckles or ears.
For the next ten years, my dad had turned from hunter to fisherman, claiming state citations for heavy walleye (our favorite part were the cheeks), striped bass and an occasional native trout that made it’s way across the table. I enjoyed my fair share of chicken and turkey, but beef was never my thing. Maybe it was years of shaping my stomach to not tolerate it… who knows? I expanded my palette while I worked as a dishwasher, host, waiter and prep chef for a local hotel-turned-restaurant, The Brick Tavern Inn.
When I was twenty-one, I relocated to Southern California and was spoiled with the dozens of high-end chefs, pop-up restaurants and food trucks that lined Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach on a Friday night, within walking distance to my apartment.
To this day, I’ll try ANYTHING. Having said that, the only food that I will not partake in is…. grapefruit (which doesn’t really matter to anyone, right?).
Even though I’ll TRY anything, it doesn’t mean that my stomach is built to compete with EVERYTHING. This is why heading south for the Christmas holiday is somewhat bittersweet for that compartment between my man-knocks and privates that stores and processes everything that enters my esophagus.
I LOVE having my taste buds dance to the tune of new and exciting flavors and always look forward to a good ol’ low-country boil, some grits, simmered bacon-infused collards or even a plastic sack of roadside boiled peanuts from Abbott’s Farm in Cowpens, South Carolina – something that keeps me awake after a 12-hour road haul.
Over our recent trip, I had fillet-mignon, baked eggs, white and yellow cheese grits made with either cream cheese or cheddar. I’ve had monkey bread, crab dip, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, bacon-gouda-mayonnaise dip, spicy shrimp… you name the holiday hors d’oeuvres, I’ve had it.
My biggest secret to surviving almost two weeks of ‘food I never really eat’ is to pack a bottle or two of Pepto-Bismol. This is an age-old family pass-down. It’s not something that I’d consider giving my kids, this is for grown-up stomachs with grown-up eating conflicts, like me.
Not only do I carry it around holiday parties in my back pocket like a tin of chew, it’s my ritual to pull down a swig as I get in the truck to head back north. There’s no reason for me to endure ‘highway diarrhea’, the worst form of diarrhea in the ‘diarrhea category’. Nor does my family want to see every rest stop along the eastern seaboard – even though, with three kids under six, I’m pretty sure that we’ve knocked that off the parenting bucket list.
Do any of you find yourself eating ‘creatively’ during the holidays? What’s your guilty pleasure? How do you deal with after effects or is your stomach made of iron?
Please, feel free to leave your stories in the comment box so I don’t feel like the only one who deals with this!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a sponsored post for #PinkRelief with my friends a Pepto, however, the stories and opinions remain my own.