Eat To Excess

I believe that I should eat to excess only whatever’s in season. When I’m in the Walla Walla Valley in asparagus season, I eat a lot of asparagus. Why not? It’s cheap in season: sixty cents a pound if I drive the short distance to the grower’s place. He’ll stuff an extra pound or so into the bag for good measure, and it was cut just that morning. And there are few foods more satisfying than fresh asparagus.

I do not can asparagus. Or freeze it for later. After its short season leaves, I’m on to whatever’s in season next. This practice ensures variety, which I agree is the essential spice of the good life. Though I admit, by the end of any season, I’m fairly sick of whatever was in season. Until next year.

In the spring, I can find plenty of fresh morels. For a week or two in late May, the short sockeye salmon season intersects with the asparagus, morel, and the Walla Walla salad onion harvest. This is the season of Lemony Snicket breakfast omelets and simple grilled salmon suppers. Every day. Every day.

Later, the dog salmon will be in season. Zuchinni and meadow mushrooms will overwhelm the larder. Each fine in their own right, but none in the same class as sockeye, asparagus, morels, and baby sweet onion. Aside from eating to excess only whatever’s in season, I’m picky about what of whatever’s in season I’m going to gorge on.

I like my eat to excess rule because it’s a positive goal. Dieters are raised to be in endless denial of an essential human nature. Whatever else a dieter might do, he’s counseled to never eat to excess. To human nature, this amounts to an injunction to starve, and none of us do this well. We are feasting animals, prone to excess, aware in our DNA that the next meal is eternally uncertain. We’re surly when threatened with starvation. So we eat to excess.

By buffering this natural tendency with a little caveat, I’ve managed to avoid the common afflictions of the glutton so far. I could interpret this rule as carte blanche to eat Little Debbie Cakes until I burst, except Little Debbie Cakes don’t have a season. There’s the trick. I’m wary of anything non-seasonal. If I can get something 365/24/7, I won’t eat THAT to excess. That, I just eat. Or not.

I reserve my excesses for food worthy of excess: fresh harvest. The off-seasonals are expensive. I’m cheap enough to be unable to gorge those. The off-seasonals are also off in other ways. Color. Texture. Taste. My lust for asparagus in the dead of winter is just that, lust. One of the deadly sins. Should I try to satisfy this lust, I will not love the result. Almost exactly unlike asparagus, forced in some climate better suited to coca cultivation, a king’s ransom wasted. I leave that table still starving. It’s like dreaming of a white christmas in July. Neither merry nor bright.

In the summer, counter tops should be inaccessible by piles of eggplant and tomato. In the fall, apples: crisp and tart, and brussel sprouts. In the winter, citrus and squashes. I reserve my excesses for what would be, out of season, simply side dishes. In season, I can make a meal of fresh spinach. Off season, it’s a side salad.

Meat, bread, dry beans, and butter are not seasonals, and therefore excluded from my list of foods to eat to excess. At Thanksgiving at my table, the garnet yams get center stage for second helpings, not the turkey. At Christmas, chestnut stuffing. If we gather to celebrate, we might as well celebrate the harvest, and not the wonders of deep freezing technology.

Sure, I’m a pig. But a peculiar, rather picky one. Consider becoming a picky pig, too. Eat to excess only what’s in season. And eat an awfully lot of that.

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