Some of the best times in our lives are those spent with family and friends centered around celebrations and it seems there is always a reason to celebrate. There are holidays, weddings, graduations, birthdays, new babies, etc. They are all opportunities for people to assemble into groups large or small. And one thing these gatherings have in common is food. Not just any food, but exceptional, festive, indulgent, “feast for the taste-buds” food. Those recipes that we don’t pull out everyday just for ourselves, or perhaps dishes that are a bit richer than we would normally eat. Like the Thanksgiving feast with all the comforting side dishes around the turkey and the luscious desserts that follow. Or the rich pastas and seafood recipes we prepare for anniversaries or for Christmas. For special occasions, these dishes help to create an atmosphere of joy and celebration and wonderful memories, so we should savor them without guilt. In fact, I believe that if we recognize and enjoy these indulgent foods as part of the overall experience (in moderation, of course), then their benefits far outweigh any “negative” health impacts they may have. Because if they are awakening feelings of gratitude and happiness, then they are promoting our emotional well-being and this has a strong positive impact on our overall health. And seriously, life is too short to deprive ourselves of the beautiful things in life, like beautiful food.
Well, a few weeks ago was such an occasion for me and two friends. We hadn’t seen much of each other since before the summer because of busy schedules, but we made it a point to get together because we were all celebrating our birthdays within a few weeks of one another. So we met on a cool, Autumn day at my friend’s house and spent the afternoon preparing Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon, a recipe that begins with bacon, but which is absolutely necessary to use if you want to truly experience this dish. If you’d like to see some of the cooking process and what it looked like, you can watch this video:
It was warm, tender, deep with rich flavors and we devoured what we had in our plates and were thoroughly content afterward so I would say that the afternoon it took to prepare was worth the effort. Of course, no true birthday celebration would be complete without dessert but we broke with tradition for this one and instead of cake, we made a chocolate fondue with lots of fruit that we lingered over as we chatted. It was a smooth and silky, not-too-sweet chocolate nirvana that paired well with strawberries, bananas, pineapple and melon. It also made an ideal ending to a perfect meal which was simple but rich, decadent, heavenly and worth every calorie. And I am happy to say that it helped to shape a gathering we will remember very fondly.