Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

We’ve been on the gravy train these past couple of weeks and this train has fallen off the tracks. Going home for the holidays is not for the faint of heart, as far as the stomach and waistline are concerned. I had planned to lose 20 pounds in advance of our holiday, so that I could overindulge in my home country with all the tasty treats that entice this time of year and, when presented, quickly bounce back from the memory bank.

I didn’t lose the 20, not even a measly 10 pounds in advance of our trip, even though I knew I should; but here we are, in full on beast mode. It’s feasting time and everyone is talking about food and drink with fairy lights all around and twinkly trees warming up everyone’s homes. I told myself I would just not eat during the daytime over the holidays, so that the evening dinner could be as opulent as I wanted. Yes, the skipping lunch or breakfast thing didn’t work out either.

“Come for tea, come for dinner … have some of this lovely cake! Here’s some snacks to chew on with your lovely wine appetizers…” you get the picture. It’s feasting madness! Years ago, when my family was all together, we would be talking about the next meal we would be having, while we were still consuming the one on the table in front of us. Food has always been an important part of our culture and family life, but during the Christmas period it gets obscenely out of control.

It is feasting time on the East Coast of England, and I am staying in my childhood cottage by the sea. It’s fish and chips for dinner — tradition on our first night at the coast — then tomorrow’s dinner is out with friends in a fish restaurant — lots of wine and cream in the cooking. Don’t skip dessert, why would you, it’s praline profiteroles with chestnut ice cream. Try this new chestnut liqueur — it’s like Christmas in a bottle. Bailey’s anyone? More cheese? And the crazy thing is that the more you consume, the more you can consume. It’s astounding what the human frame is capable of. I caught sight of myself sideways and was horrified. I had, in the space of two weeks, developed a Christmas gut.

We went out with friends to Christmas lunch at the Dolphin Pub in Thorpeness. There was soup, smoked salmon, salad, roast turkey, roast potatoes, Brussel sprouts, stuffing, gravy, bread sauce, ginger cake with sauce and cream, a bottle or two of wine … and, if you had any room left, mince pies and cream. I had walked the mile or so to the restaurant, but still. Grilled cheese and more wine for dinner and this girl is becoming positively spherical.

“Oh just a few more days of holiday,” you say to yourself, as you reach for a fistful of your neighbor’s French fries, or an extra gooey piece of brie that just caught your eye on the other side of the table. The day after Christmas in England is Boxing Day — the day for leftovers in most people’s houses. A friend shows up with a platter of turkey, ham and trimmings, pecan pie and more. More cheese, more wine, more Christmas in a bottle.

Now we are swiftly headed toward New Year, the beginning, for many, of new and improved habits, fitness, diets and more. We, on the other hand, are headed to the island of plenty where father and sister reside, anticipating our arrival. We shall be having one lovely dinner after another, no doubt about it. “Chicken lasagna be OK for you to eat on the plane?” I ask of husband. We are, again, forward planning the food thing.

I’m hoping by the time we arrive home we are both sick and tired of food and need to just quietly sip on a glass of water for a few days while we wish away our fat. I might need to get my jaws wired while I’m at it; or invest in one of those designer diet drugs that fix your excess blubber in a month.

“I’m tired of eating!” the lady tells me in the post office. “I just want to have a cup of soup and go to bed without talking to anyone, let alone cooking and cleaning up!” And the feasting season can make you feel like that. We have had so many people coming and going around our holiday house — mostly with copious amounts of food and drink — that we are actually quite tired of talking even, let alone eating. And I am definitely tired of cleaning up!

January will be much quieter in our house, that’s a for sure, once we get home. We will be making soups and sipping hot tea, indulging only in early nights and reading books. The treadmill might even get a dust off, while we’re at it, and I’m pondering a return to my water aerobics class when they re-open. I have had a wonderful time away in my homeland over the festive season and now my body feels absolutely disgusting!

But first we have to get through the New Year festive season with the rest of the family…. There will be full English breakfast buffets at our hotel (think bacon, eggs, sausage and so on). The seafood on the island is impressive and sister is likely to have made me a lovely, sticky ginger cake. Never mind the gins and tonics we shall likely imbibe and several glasses of very good wine, I shall just have to grin and bear it for another few days. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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