I got one of those exciting emails the other day.
You have to understand, as a blogger, I get public relations pitches numbering around a dozen a day. Some of them are for processed foods, recipes folks want me to share, and a surprising number for financial advice and adult beverages. Seriously. I buzz through my inbox and delete like crazy, but every so often something interesting catches my eye.
The one from Anderson Cooper’s office was one of those.
I’ve “known” Anderson Cooper since he was a Channel One News anchor. I watched him every day at high school before classes began.
Getting an email from his office saying, “After reading your blog, I was interested in working with you on an idea we had for an upcoming show. I hope to hear from you as soon as possible,” was beyond exciting. I actually called that second (which is totally not like list-making plan-it-later Katie).
It turned out that Anderson Cooper was putting together a show about family conflict at the holidays, specifically things like one family member not getting on board with healthy foods or organics while another family member prioritizes it. At least, that’s what I think I understood through the crying baby in the backseat, since I was in the van with all three kiddos when the Anderson rep returned my call. 😉
My first two rather jumbled thoughts were:
Perfect. I live with my in-laws! I can talk about two different food philosophies clashing…
But…at the holidays, we just get together with extended family for one day, everyone brings food, and no one really talks about nutrition or food choices at all…
After I talked a very little bit about my experiences, I could tell that I wasn’t giving him what he was looking for. I finally said, “You know, if you’re looking for someone who has had arguments about food during the holidays, you’re not going to find that with me.”
I saw some conversation from other bloggers about the same topic, and one of them quipped that a story about a family that doesn’t have any conflict at the holidays would be much more newsworthy.
That got me thinking.
Does Everyone Argue During the Holidays?
The holidays we’re talking about, specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas in our family, are really about family togetherness. Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate our history as a country and be thankful for what we have.
If you’re fortunate enough to be getting together to share a meal with family, I pray that they are tops on your list of gratitude.
Christmas, the holy commemoration of the birth of the Christ Child, who came to save us all from our sin, should surely be a time to rejoice and be glad, not pick on each other and have conflict.
It’s a sad world when “holiday,” “family,” and “conflict” automatically go together, when a joyful family holiday sounds like breaking news instead of just breaking bread together and appreciating one another.
Although I realize my blog colleague was speaking in jest to a certain extent, she has a point: Family conflict is as common a holiday image as turkeys and brightly lit trees.
What Would You Do?
I started composing a response to the Anderson Cooper show email, but then I realized I could easily be wasting my time writing to one person who had a singular goal, when I could encourage thousands to have a more joyful holiday season.
You see, I don’t see any reason that a family should have conflict over organic food.
Unless you have a serious allergy or sensitivity, I strongly believe in the 80/20 rule:
If you eat optimally 80% of the time, fudging your diet 20% of the time (without gorging on true poisons like trans fats the entire 20%) won’t kill you.
It breaks my heart that there are people out there who would cause disunity and strife in their family just because of organic food. Personally, I don’t even eat organic food all the time myself, probably not even 75% of the time. I can’t justify the cost quite yet, and I certainly can’t imagine expecting my entire extended family to fork over big bucks for organics for one special day, particularly if they felt that they had to just because I thought it was important.
The mission of Kitchen Stewardship is founded upon balance, striving to figure out how to stay within a budget while prioritizing nutrition and being gentle to the earth. It’s not easy, and I certainly don’t expect my family to achieve the balance at the holidays.
For one meal or one day, those who would cause conflict over special foods truly need to lighten up and embrace the 80/20 rule. Have a hearty, nourishing breakfast, make sure your contribution is super healthy and incredibly tasty, something that your own family will max out on (or bring multiple dishes!), and detox the next day. Enjoy it.
(Yes, I’m speaking to myself here too.)
The KS community chatted on Facebook and Twitter about this question last week, and it seemed that people were fairly focused on family, and a tiny bit on food. Many tended to bring their own or offer to cook/host, and many more simply said they wouldn’t sweat it. Then there were the lucky ones whose family just eats the good stuff anyway.
A few sound bytes:
from The Humbled Homemaker: I think relationships always trump real food. Eating bad a few times a year for the sake of Christian fellowship with your family is ok. I would never want my love for real food to sever my relationships.
from Dyn-mom: An in-law insists on canned green bean casserole w/ mushroom soup. We politely avoid it when she asks us to try!
from Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy: I think the getting together is more important than what is eating. Family holidays can be so stressful anyway, why add to the stress when arguing over something non-eternal like food?
Read the whole conversation right HERE…
What About More than One Special Day?
If you’re getting together for an extended period of time, offer to cook one meal a day or more. Seek to provide simple, nourishing, delicious food, and think of it as a chance to nourish those you love and maybe even practice a little real food evangelism. You know, like this: “Wow, these scrambled eggs are such a lovely deep yellow, aren’t they? That’s from the happy chickens running around outside and eating bugs. Yummy.” (Obviously, know your audience.)
During these last two months of the year, it can be hard enough to get together with family. There’s already incredible conflict over timing, who celebrates with whom, multiple sides of the family, gift giving and other traditions.
If you really want to Eat Well during the holidays, Spend Less time worrying about the food – neither nutrition, frugality, nor beauty – and spend more time appreciating your family and the fact that you’re gathering to break bread…whether it’s white bread, whole wheat sourdough, or cardboard.
And just in case you do need to stress about holiday food because you’re on GAPS or grain-free, you might want to grab A Whole Food Holiday while it’s 50% off with the code "healthycelebrations" – I made the grain-free biscuits tonight, and I really wasn’t sure how it would go. I thought they might be a little like muffins…but holy cow, they were truly excellent.
My husband said something like, "Ung…mmmm…oh, wow…these are good." He doesn’t usually speak like a caveman, but he was deeply enjoying a surprise bread product since he’s been totally gluten-free for 2 weeks.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate for the Whole Food Holiday ebook. See my full disclosure statement here.