Believe it or not, Christmas has never been my favorite holiday. As a kid, I was always interested in Halloween – not just because of the candy, but also because of the adventure of going into the black night with your best friends and looting all over town. As I got older, Thanksgiving took on special meaning in my life for obvious reasons – the food, the gratitude, the family gathering around the table to partake of the county before us, the lack of jewelry and the Focus on what is really important. As a kid, I wasn’t that fond of gifts, I preferred mowing lawns or painting houses to pay for my own things. Or maybe it was my parents who preferred to work for my property and who instilled that into me. But that doesn’t mean Christmas wasn’t a big deal. It was.
I have to admit: there is something special about the Christmas or holiday spirit, whatever that is. You can feel it in the air, and I’m not exactly sure what’s behind it. I just know that it exists.
Many of you have asked what I do for Christmas.
What i give
First, we don’t really give gifts. * Certainly nothing big. In a time when you can hop on Amazon and have just about anything delivered to your doorstep in a day, it’s not very exciting for anyone to do it for someone else. Chances are that the person you are giving the gift to may regularly do the same for themselves.
* Except for my granddaughter, of course. It is my responsibility to pamper her even before she is even aware of the concept of a “gift”.
When we give gifts, we try to stick to smaller, local items that cannot easily be obtained elsewhere. Or meaningful books. If you can’t tell, I haven’t made any purchases. ** Always wait until the last minute. I do.
** Except for my granddaughter.
If you are interested in gift ideas, I have a post for you.
What I eat
The food. It always comes back to the food, the dinner, the parties. This is a human constant across culture and epoch. People love to meet over a good meal.
I’m cooking a goose that my friend shot and saved for me. I’ve always wanted to try that in the kitchen. I’ve had goose before and crouched a lot, but I’ve never roasted a goose.
We have a goose recipe on the blog that is great. I’ve never made it myself, but I ate it when the staff tried the recipe. Since the weather isn’t exactly suitable for blowing the oven up to 450 degrees, I’ll be doing a hybrid method that uses most of the same spices in the recipe.
FirstI’ll salt the goose for a day or two. Basic saltwater brine, likely with a few orange peel thrown in.
NextI’ll steam the bird to get some fat out and save it for later (there’s nothing like fried potatoes or vegetables in water bird fat). Otherwise you will either lose the fat or it will explode all over the place. Plus, the method I use to fry the goose without adding any fat would be disastrous.
NextI spatchcock the bird, remove the spine, and spread the bird flat to make cooking easier and faster.
Then I grill it over coals. I start with the bird skin facing up with the coals on the opposite side of the grill. Put the lid on and let it roast indirectly. This not only cooks the bird, but also dries out the skin.
After the bird is almost done (which I confirm by grabbing a drumstick and gently squeezing it; when the leg is loose and the juices are clear, it’s almost done) I flip it skin down right over the coals crispy for a few minutes. This is my basic method for grilling chickens and turkeys. I haven’t confirmed it will work for a goose, but I don’t understand why it wouldn’t work. (If I make a fatal mistake, let me know in the comments.)
There is also something waiting in the wings just in case: a leg of lamb. Sometimes I do bone-in, but this time it’s boneless.
This is always a hit. It’s really hard to mess up.
I get the leg of lamb on the cutting board. I butterfly the leg so everything is laid out flat. This involves slicing some of the muscle tissue and flattening it with the palm of your hand to make everything as flat as possible. It won’t be smooth, but the general trend will be a large flat roast.
Brush on all sides with garlic, lemon zest, chilli flakes, pepper, salt, avocado or olive oil, fresh thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Be liberal with your spices. Then squeeze some lemon juice over it. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
Then I grill it over coals like a big steak. I fry it on all sides and then cook it over indirect heat until I’m happy with the temperature. You can even grill it to start and put it in the oven to finish if you need the space on the grill.
What am I doing
The normal urge to sit on vacation is to vegetate, to do nothing. It’s cold, you’ve eaten too much and drank more. Let’s just sit around, shall we?
Under no circumstance.
Christmas is my cue for moving. Going for walks, doing sports, exploring my surroundings, swimming, paddling, playing ultimate frisbee, driving over the sand with my fat tire. And the nice thing about Miami is that I can do all of these things regardless of the time of year.
So that’s what I do.
One reason for this is that I eat more than usual. Not because I “have to burn those calories”, but because I have to do something with all of that excess energy. When I eat extra calories, my body converts them into energy. Energy that I can actually use. Energy that I have to use up. This is actually the sign of good metabolic flexibility: converting extra calories into subjectively strong energy that needs to be burned. Of course, not all energy is fungible. The same wouldn’t happen if I was eating tons of seed oils and refined sugars. That would only make you bloated and sluggish.
We will have a family – my son Kyle from Germany, my daughter Devyn, her husband Jerry and her daughter (and our granddaughter) JJ, as well as my wife’s parents and sister – and her husband and daughter (my granddaughter) We will be many Going for walks, spending time on the beach. I could even try to convince my daughter to let JJ go on a paddle board, or at least kayak.
I was thinking of the winter solstice. Apparently this year will be a special one with Saturn and Jupiter aligning and forming an incredibly bright and distinctive “star” in the sky. So what is the solstice?
The shortest day and the longest night of the year. It’s the ground. The pits. Nowhere else than above. From dark to less dark and eventually light. And to a society like ours, embedded in artificial light and modern technology, this may not be registered or significant. Heck, most people don’t even notice any more than complaining about time changes. But imagine what that must have meant for an old society. For every old society – and almost all of them were, because most of the old population groups had and still have winter solstices. It meant the days would finally be longer. The chickens would lay more eggs. It meant the growing season was approaching. It meant you could spend more time outdoors without things going pitch black. You wouldn’t have to burn as much fuel to stay warm and keep lights on. All in all, the winter solstice meant that the “worst” was over and better times were ahead.
I’m not sure you can repeat the effect it had on ancient populations. You can never go all the way back, can you?
But I wouldn’t be surprised if the meaning of the solstice was somehow anchored in our DNA, even if we didn’t look at it intellectually, let alone think of it. It’s still important. This year I gather everyone around a fire. Most of the ancient solstice celebrations included a campfire. I’ll just sit there and look at heaven, the world, my relationships, and life itself. This has been a wild year for most of the people on this planet, and it looks good from here.
What are you doing for the holidays What do you eat? What are you giving? What are you thinking about?
About the author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Marks Daily Apple, godfather of the Primal Food and Lifestyle movement, and the New York Times best-selling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, which describes how he combines the keto diet with an original lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which is credited with the growth of the Primal / Paleo movement in 2009. After three decades of researching and educating people about why food is the key component to achieving optimal wellbeing, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real food company, the Primal / Paleo, Keto and Whole30 friendly kitchen staples manufactures.
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