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'Tis the season ... for eating

WFAE commentator Sally Phillips. hspace=4
WFAE commentator Sally Phillips. hspace=4

Around this time of year, what's close to our hearts is, more often than not, also close to our stomachs. WFAE commentator Sally Phillips tells us the reason for this season. Well, it's that time of year again. No, I'm not talking about the holiday season; I'm talking about the eating season. You know, that time of the year when we unpack sweaters from summer storage and pack on the pounds; when our bodies get as bloated as our credit cards. And just as we've been experiencing holiday creep over the years with Christmas decorations coming out earlier and eariler, the eating season has kept pace, starting earlier each year too. It used to be that we'd fill ourselves to the gills at Thanksgiving, take an eating hiatius and then gorge ourselves again during Christmas and New Year celebrations. But now, it's just one big long succession of eating endeavors with parties, gifts of goodies and family celebrations. Instead of Thanksgiving kicking off the season, it is now Halloween that sets the wheels - and scales - in motion. A few innocent pieces of candy as you walk with your trick-or-treaters and next thing you know it's January 3rd, you're ten pounds heavier and you can't even remember how it happened. We become sugar and fat-induced Stepford wives, unable to recall the parties, the calories or the purchase of those expando-pants that become a daily uniform. Part of the problem is that we, as a society, equate food with love. During the holidays, the dining table is tranformed into an altar. The treats and special once-a-year-dishes are displayed as love offerings. And as we partake of the lucious fare, the food becomes the gateway to memories of past celebrations, youthful adventures, friends and family who are not with us to celebrate. Every year at Thanksgiving we retell stories that are as old and worn as beloved holiday decorations. Like the time decades ago, when my Aunt's turkey, which was defrosting on her Massachusettes porch, was eaten - bones, plastic wrap and all - by her Weimeraner. Or the year my father let our dog lick the plates after we ate and then carefuly placed the plates back in the cupboards much to the horror of our guests (he was joking, of course!). Every Mother's Day, we invaribly recount one of my first culinary quests in which my cousin and I made our mothers a grand meal of salad, intermezzo, Chicken Condon Bleu, broccoli and rice. It sounds good, but having never cooked chicken before, we messed up the proportions, using both breasts when only one was called for. We ended up with Dolly Parton-sized portions. But did my mother and aunt feel loved? You bet they did! Food may not be love, but it sure feels like love. When people fuss over meals and sweets for us, we feel loved. And when we eat well, the cook feels loved. So we gain a little bit weight - maybe the fullness isn't just in our stomachs, but also in our hearts.