COLUMN: Trimming back for the holidays

Anne DeGrace talks about cutting back over Christmas

A couple of years ago my family — my husband and my three adult children — decided we would ramp down the seasonal tendency to excess and have something we called a “Comestible Christmas.” This meant rolling up our sleeves, rattling some pots and pans, and getting busy in the kitchen. The results were memorable.

Memorable, because it was the first Christmas nobody was stressed about expectations, and money wasn’t an issue—ideal in a family of vastly differing incomes. Ten points for de-stressing.

Memorable, because the gifts exchanged ranged from home-made kombucha to my son-in-law’s special “Ouch! My Face” hot sauce, vegan cashew eggnog to ginger shortbread, home-made bourbon-infused marmalade to handcrafted dog biscuits for our various pooches. Ten points for culinary originality.

Memorable, because the gift exchange was just plain fun, with re-usable wrapping and consumable product, no dust-collectors here. Ten points for eco-friendliness.

Memorable, because I gained five pounds over Christmas. But while weight is (relatively) losable, good memories persist. Ten points for togetherness.

It’s no secret that food brings us together. My colleague Melodie Rae Storey knows this, and that’s where the New to Nelson Potluck idea came from: a get-together on the last Wednesday of each month (excluding December) in which folks new to Nelson and Nelsonites wanting to meet new people all come, bring a dish, and enjoy a locally-inspired presentation and one another. And good and sometimes surprising things to eat, of course, a little like a Comestible Christmas all year ’round.

Food brings us together in myriad other ways. Tonight’s Beans and Rice Dinner at the Nelson United Church at 6 p.m. helps fund Selkirk College nursing students to travel Guatemala, an annual trip that brings education, practical items, skills, aid, and goodwill to small communities. In this fundraising dinner that echoes the Guatemalan diet, people come together to learn about the project and the country while raising money for a great cause.

Not everybody can afford even a beans and rice dinner, and the Nelson Food Cupboard Society knows this well. The society operates a food bank from the downstairs of the Nelson United Church, which is where books from the “A Book Under Every Tree” initiative will be distributed (deadline for the donation of new books for all ages is December 13, which can be dropped off at the library; for more information contact Melodie Rae at 505-5683).

The Nelson Food Cupboard is more than simply a food bank, however: the society brings people together through cooking classes, Harvest Rescue, and their own community garden. It’s a forward-thinking, community-minded organization, and the Library is happy to be a tiny part of it — and you can, too.

Once a year we turn over all of the overdue fines collected in a day to the Food Cupboard. This year, Fines for Food day is Monday. Come and pay your fines, feed your friends and neighbours, and help make this a comestibly merry Christmas for all.

This year my family is trying a new experiment aimed at unplugging the Christmas machine without expanding the waistline. Enter the Experiential Christmas, in which we do fun things together, taking turns at coming up with active ideas in line with our individual pocketbooks.

Locally, the experiential-minded might find themselves taking a trip to Touchstones Museum or lacing up for a family skate at the rec centre; going for a moonlit walk, ski, or snowshoe; volunteering together to serve up a free community Christmas dinner; catching a choir or some jingle bell rock.

Or just curling up together on the couch for a read-aloud story session—perhaps with a book from the Nelson Public Library, and a comestible or two.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library.

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