Nourishing Ourselves Through the Holidays

What nourishes you as the Winter holiday season approaches? For me, it’s memories of Nanna’s Christmas mince pie, autumn carrots from the garden baked with apples from my grandfather’s orchard, the rich nutty flavor of Cope’s dried sweet corn, the buttery scent of mom’s spritz cookies baking in the oven!

It’s that time of year when health and wellness gurus are plying us with their particular brand of advice on how to avoid over-indulging in holiday treats. I’m a Registered Dietitian, so I’m often asked for my best holiday tips. My advice is to savor and enjoy the special holiday food – the stuffing, the cookies, the homemade pies – those recipes that are steeped in memories of laughter and disaster (my grandmother always said she had to “burn” a tray of cookies for the dog, a Collie named Teddy).

My response surprises many and horrifies a few. But I’m a firm believer that even in a long-lived life, the finite number of Winter holidays for sharing food and memories is too few. Not enough Yules, Hanukkahs, Kwanzas, Feasts of Saint Nicholas, and rounds of Auld Lang Syne.

This year, in particular, when many of us are feeling the scarcity of friend and family gatherings, it can be especially nourishing to make and share treasured holiday recipes. In fact, this is THE year for us to finally make sure we have Grand-mom Stella’s recipes for lekvar and walnut filling for the kiffles, Grammy’s Christmas Eve wiener schnitzel, Aunt Katy’s stuffing, Nanna’s Estella cookies. It is a year for sharing recipes (with all the secret ingredients included!), maybe creating friends and family holiday cookbooks that we share with our nephews and nieces and cousins and friends who are our family. Include photos and stories.

We are cautioned about travel and gatherings this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a few special recipes for our in-home families and for ourselves if we live alone. Some cookies and pastries can hold up well for shipping if they are packaged with care. I recently baked and sent several coffee cakes to my Pennsylvania family through the USPS. Our post office in town has the perfect sized boxes just waiting for us in the lobby! I plan to send cookies and cranberry coffee cake in the weeks ahead. Many foods and holiday pastries freeze well, so freeze some servings, so you have celebratory food on hand for the January holidays ahead.

This year I’m reaching out to friends and family to plan holiday phone calls and face time with an agenda: bring food to the call and be prepared to share a special holiday memory. Indulge in memories that make us smile and laugh and maybe some memories that make us a little bit sad too. This Winter holiday season is certainly different than years past for most of us, so it is important that we nourish ourselves and, from a distance, each other with some of the food, music, and memories of our traditions. And for goodness sake, enjoy the cookies!

Cynthia Knipe is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with What Nourishes You, LLC, based in Keene, NH. She looks forward to the day when we can gather again for Monadnock Food Co-op’s Wellness Workshops.

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash