So, we are back from our Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa holidays. I got on the plane wrapped in a scarf with a strange feeling of dread. I don’t know about you, but my holidays mainly consisted of moving from the bed to the couch and from the couch to various family lunches and dinners lasting minimum three hours. And then back to the couch. You can imagine, then, that I wasn’t particularly excited to come back to St Andrews, where I would have to not only attend lectures and work, but also cook my own meals (gasp!) and not be fed like an obese child by my grandmothers.
The first night back was the hardest. I stared at the fridge, lost. Why was it empty? Why had nobody bought food? What was I supposed to do, starve to death? I tried to shout “Mom, i’m hungry”, but my words were lost in the cold Scottish wind. There was no one there to hear me.
I am glad to announce that I did not starve to death. The reason? During these tough times since I have been back (3 days and a half), I grew strong. I learnt to survive. And I am here to share my survival tips with you.
1. Eat some food that reminds you of home.
It helped that I brought back my suitcase containing a chunk of parmesan, two packs of ravioli, my grandma’s pesto and a full roast (I am not even joking. 1.5 kilos of her roast…), Parma ham, mortadella and half a salame. Much like the scene with Sophia Loren declares, “I will not abandon my mortadella. Either she enters this country with me, or I will not enter this country!”, I refused to part from them, even when my suitcase proved to be (unsurprisingly) too heavy. But the Ryan Air lady was kind enough and allowed me an extra kilo in my suitcase when she saw the cause of the excess of weight.
So in the midst of my despair, these foods I brought from home became a beacon of light. After a month and a half away from Scotland, they were not only delicious but also familiar. Seeing my fridge full of home products helped, and is still helping me, though the transition from home to St Andrews.
Now, it doesn’t have to be mortadella. In fact, if you didn’t have space in your suitcase or you just couldn’t bring home products back (is it even legal?), fear not. Although more difficult, you can always cook the one thing that reminds you of home, or simply incorporate spices and flavours that do in your dishes.
2. Keep warm, on the outside and the inside.
Nothing sucks as much as paying for your own heating. But now that you are back to cold Scotland, do not forget to turn those heaters on and wear a warm scarf, especially if you came from a warmer country. But don’t forget to warm yourself also from the inside. Drink plenty of hot beverages. Coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate and tea are your best friends. Same goes with food: opt for soups and warm meals. If it almost burns your hands when you hold the plate, imagine how warm it will feel in your stomach. Not only do these make you instantly warm against the cold Scottish weather, but they are also great for beating the post-holiday blues.
Warm foods and drinks make us feel warm and safe, almost as if we were still home, cuddled and pampered.
3. A chance to detox
Now, although the delicious home food and comfort did wonders for our mood, it probably wasn’t the best for our waistline. My Christmas was a series of never-ending family meals, from the 24th of December to the 6th of January, and my eating habits soon became not too dissimilar to those of a small and extremely well-fed pig.
It also doesn’t help that the 6th of January in Italy is a holiday in which you literally receive stockings full of candy. Legend says that an old, tattered and soot-covered witch, la Befana, flies around in a broomstick leaving children sweets, presents, and, if you have been bad, coal. But since no one is a saint, she leaves a sweeter kind of coal. Candy coal.
Now that the holiday season is behind us, it is a great chance to take a big breath and leave the holiday binge eating behind us. This is not to say that you should disregard point 1 and 2. Do eat some things that reminds you of home to make the Week 1 transition sweeter, and do eat comforting, warm meals. But no matter how sad we are to be away from home, we should appreciate the fact that this gives us a chance to try to reduce the bad eating habits that the holidays taught us, away from possible temptations and a grandma that no matter how much you weight, will always say that you look too thin. For example, maybe avoid eating only chocolates for breakfast. Or eating tons of dried fruit and panettone after dinner. Try to drink more water. Or try to stop yourself from eating until you feel like your stomach is about to burst and give birth to the holiday version of Alien.
Or, like, don’t.