My mother's family is Irish, my dad's, British and Irish. I come from a long line of tea drinkers, a looong line. My mother used to have travel tea cups that coordinated with her wardrobe. If anything happens in her family it's accompanied by the brewing of a strong pot of tea and sitting down at the table. My father's parents like to take their tea very seriously, cream first, then tea, always with the silver, never pour the cream from the carton, always from the pretty cream pitcher. You get the idea.
The reason I bring it up is that tea can be a big help to those who want to curb some automatic eating habits. For example, my grandparents always have tea after dinner, with dessert. There is something about a hot cup of tea that makes people slow down, and pay attention, and eat less. There is something about waiting for the water to boil, and the tea to brew, before sitting down with a pretty plate of dessert that keeps me anyway from gorging myself.
The prospect of the combination keeps me from sneaking extra before hand, and keeps me from sneaking extra after. If I'm thinking about a hot cup of tea and the perfect little cookie, or piece of pie, it actually stops me from tasting it before hand and helps me to keep sweets for only that occasion. Good china helps to create that sense of occasion, as does an uncluttered pretty table. By creating these moments with our food, the atmosphere, the heightened awareness, we can bring ourselves out of the habit of eating at random, grazing while standing, and into a ritualistic enjoyment of our food that keeps us from over eating or mindless snacking. I find that the more I plan what I am going to eat, the more attention I give to menus and shopping and preparation, the less I eat. It's a strange paradox, but anticipation works to keep me from eating on the go or the first moment I feel hungry because I want to wait to enjoy the meal I have planned. This goes for planned snack food too.
So as the holiday season moves closer and those once a year treats start appearing on your table, and sometimes around your middle try this. When someone gives you a box of chocolates, don't open it up and pass it around just yet, or leave it sitting on a credenza so you can pop one in your mouth every time you have occasion to pass. Put it away in a drawer, or cupboard, and save it for after a meal. Brew a steaming cup of tea, the choices are endless you'll find one you like, and put on or two little tastes on pretty plates. Eat slowly, savor the tea, your family and friends around you, and enjoy those treats. And then put them away again, until you have another occasion to enjoy a cup of tea. Or ask for gourmet tea blends, or coffee if you don't like tea, instead of baked treats and chocolates. And enjoy savoring this almost guilt free indulgence year round.
For a middle of the day visit with family, take another tip from the British and add to your tea, sandwiches, and other finger foods that have some protein in them and are good for you to balance out the sugar. Plan to eat more lightly at supper to make up for it.
Here are some of my favorite homemade blends:
Lavender Earl Grey
1 cup hood quality Earl Grey Blend loose tea
2 tsp lavender flowers
Combine and store in an airtight jar. To brew, pour boiling water into a pot with the tea. About 1 tbsp to 1-2 cups water.
Ginger and Fennel Roiboos
This tea is wonderful on a chilly night. The fennel seed is naturally sweet so I find it doesn't need any thing extra. Roiboos (South African red tea) is very high in antioxidants, one of the highest sources in the world.
4-5 slices ginger root
1 tbsp fennel seeds
4 whole cloves
1/4 cup roiboos leaves
Combine, keep in fridge unless the ginger you are using is dried. I fresh cut the ginger before each brewing and keep the rest together in a jar.
Steep in hot water for at least 5 minutes before serving. Try this with dates and mandarin oranges, two winter delights that are fun to eat and set the table with. And perhaps one chocolate truffle too once in a while.
With indulgences like these in store, it almost makes me look forward to colder weather.