December 09, 2011

It's the eating time of year.

Which means we feeders are on double duty. In addition to the breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack, we're on the hook for lots of baked goods, edible gifts, and cookies for bake sales  It's easy to feel overwhelmed (and dare I say) underappreciated when you're going double-time for the holidays.

But let's face it: we choose to feed. And somewhere deep inside, we like feeding. But stepping up your game requires motivation and inspiration.

Maybe you get that motivation from your friends, your children, or your parents. I know I'm very inspired by my Aunt Chery Davis who has been known to forego her holiday feast and work at her local soup kitchen instead. For my Aunt Chery, the holidays are not about the big meal shared with the people she loves; it's about feeding people she doesn't even know.

My Aunt Chery inspires me to feed people I don't know.

My friend (and Cooking Light contributor) Tamar Haspel left her cozy writer's life in Manhattan three years ago to live (or as she says, "starve") off the land in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It sounded like a smart idea in the summer, but for those 5 months of cold, unforgiving winter, the living is not quite as easy.

But Tamar made a commitment to an adventure, and commit she has, right down to the chicken coop, the oyster farm and the turkeys she bought one June that would become Thanksgiving dinner the following year.

These days, we're all thinking more about growing our own, for the benefit to the earth, our health, and let's face it, our wallets. Is it cost effective to raise a Thanksgiving turkey yourself? No, not if you consider the building of the pen, the plucker, and the general care and feeding that goes into it. But Tamar wasn't doing it to save a few bucks. She was looking for something else.

Tamar inspires me to cook and eat mindfully; to take a moment and consider what I eat. You can read her turkey story in her own words here.

There's another story having to do with a shared meal that I found a few weeks ago on NPR.org. Every day since I heard it, I think about it.

This one goes into the inspires me to be a more generous person category.

This is the story of Julio Diaz, a Bronx man who was mugged by a teenager on his way home from work. Something about his young mugger made Julio do something unusual: he offered the mugger his coat as well as a wallet. His act of generosity startled his mugger, who then, caught of guard, agreed to go to a local diner with his would-be-victim.

What triggered this act of exceptional kindness? Listen to the story, in Julio's own words.

This December, I challenge you to give an act of kindness. Bake a cake and throw a party for no apparent reason at the local senior center. Bake a lasagna for that neighbor you just can't stand. Give an act of food kindness this year -- in addition to the canned food drive. Do something unexpected. Maybe it's just the way you respond to a person in need in the moment; but seek out that moment; and leave your comfort zone for your act of kindness this year.

Do it for yourself, for the recipient of your generosity, and because it has tremendous power to motivate others to similar acts of generosity. This is one of those simple acts that can be far more powerful than you may realize. Whether it's a dinner you buy for a stranger, taking the time to get to know the animals and vegetables on your table, or doing your holidays differently this year to take care of others who are less fortunate.

If you're inspired to do something exceptional this year (or you know someone who has), let us know in the comments below. We'll cheer you on!

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