Sharing a meal is one of the most effective ways to connect with our fellow man.
Whether we warm last night’s leftovers as we sit with a co-worker in the office lounge, enjoy conversations about our day during family dinners or gather around a large table to celebrate special occasions, we forge kinships.
Food unites us regardless of our differences. Food evokes memories, manifests love and sets us on common ground.
When someone is sick or grieving, we take them food in an effort to ease their pain and to bring them comfort. When we celebrate birthdays, weddings and awards, we often share a special meal to honor the moment.
We welcome guests into our homes by offering food and drink. When we break bread with those we hold dear, we take mental photographs that can endure a lifetime.
Recipes are passed down through generations because food can take us back to a place of peace, joy and comfort. Food nourishes the spirit as well as the body.
As my boys were growing up, celebratory meals were not limited to “The Big Three” (as I call them): Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It became my mission to use as many holidays as possible to teach a lesson.
In January and February, on Three Kings’ Day and Mardi Gras, respectively, we always indulged in the luscious cinnamon delight of a King Cake.
Also, in February, Valentine’s Day took center stage with heart-shaped dishes, food, and napkins. St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Chinese New Year were all opportunities for my boys to learn about other countries – their traditions, cultures and tastes.
Halloween-themed dinners are among my favorite of all the special meals we shared as family. When the boys were young, it was important for me to serve a healthy meal prior to the escapade of amassing a treasure-trove of sugary treats that was sure to follow.
Through the years, I learned ways to create haunting and appetizing healthy options. Spaghetti with eyeballs can be made by placing meatballs with black olive “pupils” on top of a mound of whole grain pasta and red sauce. Cookie cutters can be used to create garlic bread skulls from puff pastry.
Orange bell peppers can be hollowed and carved like Jack-O-Lanterns. Fill the peppers with your favorite lean ground beef recipe or with chopped vegetables suitable for roasting. Vegetable trays can be made in the shape of any Halloween character and are easily served with a spooky dip of your choice. Low fat ranch was always a favorite in our home.
Let your imagination take flight as you look for festive ways to serve healthy Halloween food.
Whether it’s a smiley face pancake served for breakfast on a birthday, your mother’s secret recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing or Grandpa’s barbecued chicken, we all share memories centered around food. Eating these foods instantly transports back to a place and time of shared meals with special people, even if they are no longer with us.
We are quickly approaching the time of year when opportunities abound to create healthy meals laced with memories. I challenge you to use your imagination to prepare healthy recipes that will create memories fueled by fun and good health.
Thadd White is Group Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance, Chowan Herald, Perquimans Weekly, The Enterprise & Eastern North Carolina Living. He can be reached via email at [email protected]