The turkey says gobble

Now I know why we have the Full Turkey Dinner only once or twice a year. The leftovers last three months.

The holiday season is one long graze, an endless smorgasbord of cookies and cakes and turkey and dressing and egg nog. Everywhere you turn, there's more food, more booze, more festive calories.

No wonder the average American gains 137 pounds during the period between Halloween and Jan. 1. No wonder most people's New Year's resolutions focus on diet and exercise. We have to work off all that cheery holiday gluttony. Call it The Turkey's Revenge.

A friend remarked the other day that obese people always have food within easy reach. They're in front of the TV and they have chips and beer and candy and pork rinds all around them. All they need is a funnel.

During the holidays, this situation applies to us all. Food is everywhere and you can't avoid it, even if you try. There's too much peer pressure. Fail to partake of holiday fare, and people will think something's wrong with you, that you're sick or depressed.

Try this one at Thanksgiving sometime: "No turkey for me, thanks." Your family will want to feel your forehead for fever. Your host will glare at you, because that's one serving of turkey that will be left over, and your host simply can't fit another thing into the freezer.

There's so much food during the holidays that some folks become desperate to get rid of it. They do this by forcing it down the throats of their friends and co-workers. People bring Halloween candy and Santa cookies to the office to "get them out of the house." You can't stop by a friend's house without being offered a seven-course dessert tray. And you have to lock the car to keep neighbors from stashing Zip-Loc bags of leftover turkey in the glove compartment.

We're guilty within our own homes. We leave plastic-wrapped plates of desserts sitting out, hoping others will consume them before they spoil or before Easter, whichever comes first. Eventually, all these goodies migrate to the nearest TV, where they are within easy reach. Next thing you know, it's February and we're investing in a Stairmaster.

I'd like to say this dire situation is confined to the holidays, but that's not the case at my house. We have two growing boys and they think the entire house is an open-air buffet. Boxes of cereal and bags of chips and granola bars and Popsicles wander about our house, seemingly of their own accord, following our boys wherever they go. Always within easy reach.

We parents don't encourage this behavior. Indeed, we've tried to confine food to the kitchen, where there's no carpet to catch spills. But food is portable and the boys have a full of agenda of running around to accomplish every day. They can't help it if the food chooses to go with them.

The part I find most alarming is that they aren't even stealthy about their disobedience. They leave a trail of candy wrappers and apple cores in their wake.

Imagine this scenario repeated, with variations, oh, 42 times a day:

Son: "Dad, can I have a Popsicle?"
Dad: "Sure. Eat it in the kitchen."
Son: "Okay."
Hours later, I'll find the sticky Popsicle stick on my bedside table.
Dad: "How did that get in here?"
Son, wide-eyed: "I have no idea."
Dad: (Grumble, grumble.)

And it's not just the remains they leave. They also have packages of food stashed all over the house in case of emergency.

One day, I pulled into our driveway. The shades were up in one son's bedroom window and there, sitting on the sill, facing out at the world, was a bright orange jumbo box of Cheese Nips. It looked like a billboard or a political poster, as if our household had decided to come out in favor of Cheese Nips and we wanted the whole world to know it.

I was mortified, of course. I don't even like Cheese Nips. If we're going to endorse a food product, it should be leftover turkey.

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