My lovely wife, Grace, had finished putting away the holiday decorations and vacuumed the last of the pine needles. She then reorganized the cupboards, set up her new calendar, and updated the address book. For her, this marks the true end of the old year and the start of a new one. Still energized, she was now circling the kitchen island like a panther ready to pounce. I began to circle away from her advance.
“I’ve decided upon a New Year’s resolution for us,” she announced.
I could have said her next words before she did, but I refrained.
“This year, we are going to eat only healthy foods that are good for us,” Grace proclaimed.
It was the same declaration she makes every early January. I could see it coming in the days following Christmas. As family members departed, so did some of my other dear friends: Ben & Jerry, Harry & David, Russell Stover, and Fannie Farmer. It was as if they packed up, just like the children and grandchildren, and drove off to wherever they live for the rest of the year. My sweet buddies were to be replaced by a grotesque group of new arrivals to the Williams’ household: The “Winter Squash Family.” This misshapen mix—Acorn, Butternut, Banana, Turban, Hubbard, and their dullard relatives, Zucchini, Pumpkin, and Eggplant—just lie around like slugs in the fridge until Grace beckons them. Then, they show up in countless mealtime concoctions. The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on January 1st is followed by the Parade of Pumpkins in our kitchen throughout the entire month of January. They are baked and broiled, mashed and minced. Grace hides them in casseroles, pureed sauces, and pasta dishes. I swear, once last year, she hid them in my oatmeal.
These dishes are simultaneously served with a sermon about the benefits of winter squash: “It is chock-full of vitamins, beta-carotene, antioxidants, and fiber.” I want to respond: “There is fiber in mulch, but I don’t eat mulch,” but I know better.
“These are good for you,” Grace will declare. “Plus, they are yummy.”
I’ve often theorized that there must be some kind of law or rule that “good for you” and “yummy” are at two ends of a spectrum, inversely related. But, as I do each year, I will eat the winter squash and say, “Yep, this is yummy.”
“So, what is your New Year’s resolution?” the panther asked from across the kitchen island.
“You’re not supposed to tell, or it won’t come true,” I replied.
“That’s when you blow out birthday candles, you ninny,” Grace answered, adding, “Dr. Phil says the first step to improvement is acknowledgment.”
“You mean, according to Dr. Phil, if I tell my resolution, it will improve my odds of accomplishment?”
“That’s what he says, and Dr. Phil tells it like it is.”
“Then my New Year’s resolution is to make a hole-in-one.”
“Dalton, you are impossible, and so is your chance of making a hole-in-one.”
“Okay,” I replied, thinking quickly. “My New Year’s resolution is not to eat winter squash.”
“Giving up something is what people do at Lent, but as a sacrifice!” Grace shot back. “I suggest you think of a better New Year’s resolution—one with a higher purpose.” After a pause, she continued, “I think I’ll bake us an acorn squash for dinner, with a touch of butter and brown sugar. It’s good for you and yummy. You’ll see.”
Grace’s “You’ll see,” like her “We’ll see,” served notice that the conversation was over.
Later that evening, I considered a resolution with a higher purpose. Then it hit me like a ton of tubers—my new New Year’s resolution. I’m going to shred some carrots, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes, then mix in some Metamucil and add it to Grace’s bourbon pecan pie recipe. That way, I think I can make a dish that is both truly good for you (Metamucil is full of fiber, after all) and yummy. Maybe I could even get on Dr. Phil.
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