Reasons for the season

“After all, recent research shows that by the year 2020, it’s estimated that 83 percent of men and 72 percent of women will be either overweight or obese.” Adam Bornstein, editorial directorImagine, a nation of Michelin men and women, waddling in and out of big-box stores and home to collapse on their sagging sofas in front of hundreds of cable channels. 
So, as Bornstein suggests in the same posting, in the interests of avoiding such a fate, we need to plan now, this morning, to start our New Year’s healthy eating and fitness regimes today, rather than spending the entire month of January simply recovering from our December excesses. Well, yuck. That would be like looking for meaning in the month and not excuses for indulgence. Real grownup stuff this, and, not coincidentally, real possibilities for epiphany.
Last December I baked cookies like a Keebler elf. Every day and in every way. I also ate cookies like a full-sized person, more than full-sized. Not as many as in previous holidays, but enough to sometimes have days or nights of the sugar “blahs.” And I exercised if I felt like it, if the weather was good, the stars were propitious or it was a day beginning with the letter “W” or “X” or whatever.
This December morning I weigh 6 pounds more than when I and Mr. Honeybuns Are a Food Group married 23-1/2 years ago. Yet the other day when I tried to fasten a pretty snakeskin belt I wore on our honeymoon, it was at least 6 inches from latching. An unfortunate reality to put up against dear friends’ saying recently, “You’ve never looked better.” Alas, there was  a time, brief though it may have been, when I wasn’t built like a sparkplug.
For Christians this is the season of Advent, of waiting, anticipating. And how does this connect to nurturing ourselves, physically as well as spiritually?
From Gail Godwin’s “Evensong” (her 1999 sequel to “Father Melancholy’s Daughter”): “…in inner-world terms, as people drawn to the light, we go about preparing for the hoped for and the unforeseen in exactly the same way. You clean your house and make yourself ready, you light your candles, you say, “Come, Lord, come.” And then you compose yourself and wait for the knock.”
Making ourselves ready, composing ourselves, is — for want of a better cliche — being the best that we can be. We should be able to take a child in need onto our laps and extend ourselves for that child (literally: others). We should be good stewards of the resources with which we’ve been blessed, and good health is certainly one of the greatest of blessings. Being ready can be as simple as being physically able to take a walk when son or daughter suggests one.
So I’m headed to the kitchen now to make lentil-tomato soup for friends and a lemon cake to put into the freezer (cake batter’s not nearly as appealing as cookie dough!) for the 12 Days of Christmas. Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day, and neither cake nor soup will fit into a a wooden clog, but I’ll  just re-read “The Christmas Anna Angel” (Ruth Sawyer, 1949) instead of baking more small and tempting comestibles.
From the November 2011 issue of Taste of Home magazine:
Lentil tomato soup
4-1/2 cups water
4 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2/3 cup dried lentils, rinsed
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried dillweed
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In soup pot combine water, carrots, onions and lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables and lentils are tender. Stir in tomato paste, parsley, sugar, vinegar, salt, thyme, dill, tarragon and pepper; return to boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to blend flavors. Serves 6. Each 3/4 cup serving has 138 calories, a trace of fat, 351 mg sodium, 9 g fiber and 8 g protein.
NOTE: You can also saute carrots and onion in 1 to 2 tablespoons EVOO before proceeding w/ recipe for a slightly richer vegetable taste.

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