Chattanooga Times-Free Press, November 23, 2010 and in Effingham Now, a Savannah Morning News publication, November 24, 2010)
As the great songsmith Johnny Mercer wrote, I'm old fashioned. Especially now, because the holidays are here; Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, another Blue Star Ointment Bowl for the Georgia Bulldogs, or whatever else you celebrate.
As Andy Williams still sings (I think), it's the most wonderful time of the year, except for a very sad group of people who lecture me on how to lighten up my holiday meal. Born to bring depression and guilt to the holidays, they are dietitians.
Merriam-Webster defines dietitian as "someone who specializes in dietetics." If that is the case, dietetics must be the practice of making you feel as if you are an Empire State-size pool of offensive-tackle cellulite because you dare to enjoy the concept of flavorful food. Cook your eggs with a pat of butter instead of a micro-spritz of tea leaf oil and, the dietitian says, your heart will jump out of your body, run to I-75 and commit hari kari on the grill of a log truck.
Actually, if you look at the science, many foods demonized by dietitians have been vindicated as being good for you in moderation, such as eggs, wine and red meat. Not only that, foods created as substitutes for the bad foods, like margarine and (God have mercy on the soul of whoever created) low-fat peanut butter, have been exposed as culinary Charles Mansons. Since the great Alton Brown already has beaten me to the food science gig, here are my tips for happy, full-bellied holidays.
The dietitian says: A hearty bowl of turkey feather and pine bark soup.
Ray says: Deep-fry the bird. Beer-batter the turkey before deep frying for some extra crunch. OK, I haven't tested the battered method, but it sure does sound good.
The dietitian says: Your breadbasket will drop kick your esophagus out of your mouth if you so much as open the can of bread crumbs to begin making it.
Ray says: Make four pans; one for Thanksgiving dinner, one for the snack for the evening football game, one for Black Friday breakfast, and one to pick at for the rest of the weekend. Don't forget the melted butter, the melted butter or, especially, the melted butter.
Green bean Casserole
The dietitian says: Why ruin wonderfully crisp green beans with a glob of fat and those french-fried onions?
Ray says: I hate to do this, but I agree with the dietitian here. Green bean casserole should only be used as a weapon against the Taliban.
The dietitian says: Commune with nature by eating them raw, perhaps heating them by holding a match or a lighter underneath them for a few seconds. On second thought, the lighter would probably release some obscure chemical that will kill you in 3.4 seconds.
Ray says: The Lord created brown sugar to make copious amounts of sweet-tater casserole. And he saw that it was good. Add some pecans, and you almost have a meal right there. Better make four of those, too.
The Dietitian says: (and I am not making this one up) Save the calories by making a crustless pumpkin pie.
Ray says: Why not just go ahead and take Santa Claus, "It's A Wonderful Life" and getting snockered and telling the boss off at the office holiday party out of Christmas?
The dietitians soon will descend onto the TV "news" shows telling us with Botoxed straight faces that their six-pack of bah humbug really does taste good. I am no doctor, but what's wrong with a little portion control year-round to allow for some holiday indulgence? That way, I enjoy my Thanksgiving lunch, sleep it off during the second-half of the Detroit Lions' annual Turkey-Day elimination from the NFL playoffs, then wake up and go back for seconds.
Then again, maybe I am being too harsh. Perhaps we should show some holiday kindness to the dietitian. After all, grazing weather is usually much frostier this time of year.