Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Festive Eating - A Guide

You know the drill. A holiday (or dinnertime, for that matter) is approaching and you get invited to a local family's house for a meal. Being a veteran of the country, you know this means an immense amount of food and the expectation that you will eat as much as humanly possible. Anything less will be insulting to your gracious hosts. Definitely wouldn't want that, would you?

Having eaten my way through hundreds of these meals, I think I know a thing or two about how to get the most out of your stomach. Follow the steps below and all parties will be happy. You might not be able to move for the next four hours, but that's beside the point.

1. Don't fill up on bread - too many festive eating attempts are destroyed because the hunger experienced at the beginning of the meal is hastily vanquished by space-occupying bread and likely a variety of spreads, salads, and other appetizers that usually go on bread. Patience is a virtue in this case. You'll be thankful in the heavy meat courses come later.

2. Vigorous exercise the day of and the day before (at least) - the more you work, the more fuel your body needs. Pretty simple mathematics. I've been able to chow voraciously on at least ten occasions simply because I had depleted my muscles of glycogen.

3. Committment to the cause - you need to be mentally prepared going into the meal. If you take it lightly, all is lost. Trust me, staying focused will get you through the rice course and still hungry for the three rounds of dessert and tea/coffee.

4. Pace - don't eat too fast, don't eat too slow. How do you know what pace to eat at? Practice. Your meal will probably consist of multiple courses (some of which you may not even know exist until a giant cauldron of something heavy is brough out and put down in front of you), so always expect that more is coming. If not, there will be plenty left on the table for you to fill yourself up with.

5. Order - if possible, try to eat heavy meats later in the meal. Start with things on the table that are light, so you can build up to the heavy meats. If you eat the latter first, you'll be bursting at the seams when dessert gets brought out.

6. Pain tolerance - it's going to hurt. Know that going into the meal. Once you sense that you're reaching a "fullness" point, swallow the pain and keep going. Let's just hope you've made it far enough into the meal to not regret this decision five hours later.

7. Eat like it's the last meal you'll ever have - festive eating is much easier when you actually like and saviour the food. If you trick your mind into believing that this may be the last meal, you'll create a sense of urgency that your tastebuds will surely act on (and, therefore, make everything taste better).

Hopefully the above will help you at your next festive eating extravaganza. I know they have helped me get through 72 pieces of sushi, a nine-course Polish Christmas dinner, an Egyptian dinner for five with enough food for twenty, a Mongolian Lunar New Year feast complete with fatty mutton dumplings, a Indian dinner with a full Chinese food meal as an appetizer, and countless Azerbaijani eat-fests.