"Mom why are you cooking all of these exotic dishes?" I hear from one of my sons as I bring another new dish brimming with unfamiliar aromas to the table. It was such a simple question. If you have ever been hit with a barrage of questions from children 10 and under, you know those questions can be the toughest to answer. While you may rattle off a quick retort, you may also find yourself circling back to that question looking for a deeper answer. So, I did wonder why I have been driven lately to explore new meals with new spices. Could it be my effort to combat the undeniable doldrums of January? Is it my attempt to "spice things up" literally during the first of the year lull?
Apparently, I may not be alone in my effort to uplift this time of year given that the month of January has been dubbed the month with the most depressing day of the year, blue Monday. While blue Monday is a British psychologist's questionable idea of one day when we can experience multiple depressing factors; an overcast sunless day, when we return to work, with bills piling up all while the holiday cheer fades into last year, what is without question is that January and February can be months when we find ourselves longing for more comforts. In our pop culture's quest to solve problems and make our lives as easy and as happy as possible all the time, we are surrounded by ideas for beating the blues. While those ideas are useful for bridging some energy and enthusiasm gaps when you have no other choice but to function at your peak, there are benefits to loving the lull and being in season with what seems to be happening naturally.
Foodies know the Italian term, "scorpacciata", which is an eating movement that teaches the idea of eating lots of foods while those foods are in their peak season. The benefits of scorpacciata are that foods eaten in peak season have the most nutrients and therefore are healthier and the environment is less taxed from constant soil turnover for use and resources are saved with less transportation of out of season foods around the world. A prime example of forcing the seasons that we could do without in Michigan, watermelons in the produce section in December. That has always struck me as odd on top of the fact they are pretty flavorless and tough. If we respect the season and wait until prime summer watermelon season, we can enjoy the succulent, juicy, and sweet tenderness of the real watermelon experience. But we have to wait and live the natural ebb and flow of the season in order to fully benefit from each season. That will require restraint from perverting the process with any unnatural, artificial attempt to have this pleasure before or after it's time.
January and February, most Northeasterners would agree, can be challenging. It seems a lot of the difficulty though, lies in trying to keep up the same pace, same attitude, same activities that you do in other seasons. Could scorpacciata living benefit us? If the January lull seems to put you to sleep at 7 at night because of the shorter days, maybe that's what's healthier for you for this season. If you feel the need to go at a slower pace, maybe that's optimal living for this time of year. While it may be too far to say let's all go out and buy the new Forever Lazy fleece jumpsuit, zip up a full head to ankle fleece cozy experience and get on the couch and "get lazy", like the television commercial says, we could allow ourselves the differences between January and July. We have more darkness now for rest, more indoor time for nesting, reflecting and planning for the next season, spring. Embrace the season and we'll all be ready for lemonade, pool time and gardening when the time is right.
That brings me to another thing.....we'll get to that next time.
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