After the Christmas trees have been taken down, the lights have been put in the closet – after the guests have all gone home, we are left to our own devices in a month where there seems to be little to look forward to. Perhaps you’ve been inclined to sign up for a self-inflicted detox diet. For some cultures, there are still holidays to celebrate (Chinese New Year, Orthodox Church Christmas Day) and so, what about this detox idea? Who really buys into this game of less is more, dump the weight and run for the gym and green juices?
The idea of detox feels quite strange to me. Even after a few weeks of a bit more alcohol than normal, processed sugars in the form ofpanettoneandpandoro,and nougat, meats and rich holiday dishes, I find that I only need a few days and I feel back to normal. I have always lamented the idea of the January detox diet, passing it off as another idea created only to make money, another scheme made up by those looking to capitalize on the excess of others. It is a fad, but one that doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. I think moderation is the keyand perhaps it is a lesson that I’ve learned. Still, my wife always tells me that my eyes are bigger than my stomach.
The days when my grandparents grew up, mostly poor and living in the countryside of the US, they didn’t have an abundance of food, or a tradition of eating excessively all through December. January didn’t spare the coldness of winter and so you had to eat what you could in order to stay warm and to keep yourself protected from the coldness. A lot of these foods were based around meat like pork and beef. For some like my wife’s family in Italy, pork was (and is) traditionally butchered during the cold months like December, January and February, providing an all-important source of meat for those days in which the wind and bitterness cuts right through you. The month of feasting doesn’t hold particularly true there either. There are traditional Christmas meals or Christmas-Eve dinners, but many of the best traditional holiday foods are rooted in thecucina poveraor the food of the poor; cuts of meat that aren’t particularly great, legumes, polenta and starches. Not really light foods, but good, filling and warming for your body. Most of them also happen to be amazingly delicious. Particularly I think of New Years day of cooked lentils and sausage (in Italy) or from my wife’s family on Christmas Eve,bìgoi in salsa,a poor pasta dish with a sauce made of onions and anchovies; simple, rich and heavy but also really cheap to make. If you ask your grandparents what they think about a detox diet in January, you might get a blank stare while they push another plate of lasagne in front of you.
So we now find ourselves in 2015 where excess is the norm. If you’re inclined to detox this month, you have my best wishes for your liver’s recovery. I’ll be enjoying my pasta, my braised meat and stews and will gladly raise my wine glass to you.
Photo Credits:Valeria Necchio