(This article originally published in the Mendocino Beacon and Fort Bragg Advocate newspapers on 12-27-2018)
The holidays bring a beautiful array of rich foods that most of us aren’t used to eating. These extra rich foods can cause painful indigestion when the stomach isn’t stimulated to deal them. Fortunately, flavors of bitter and sour work to stimulate digestive fire and prevent indigestion. When we mix these bitter and sour flavors with the rich, creamy flavors of the holidays we get a more interesting meal that is easier to digest.
Serve a bitter or sour drink before the meal
Herbal bitters with soda is available at a bar or your health food store and a lovely way to start a meal and stimulate digestion. You can also make a sour beverage with just a squeeze of lemon or a splash of unfiltered apple cider vinegar in water, juice or tea. A fruit shrub is a fancy sour drink that stimulates digestion.
A fruit shrub combines equal parts vinegar, sugar and fresh fruit which you mash, then leave for 24 hours to meld. Mix the syrup with sparkling water and you have a sour fruity beverage to stimulate digestion. For example, pick fresh backyard huckleberries then mix with maple sugar and organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar. All of these drinks are delicious ways to entertain and to start a meal plus they stimulate digestive juices so that the rest of the meal goes down more easily.
Serve bitter olives and sour pickles as appetizers
There’s a reason pickled vegetables are served before a meal.
They are all deliciously sour and salty and they work to stimulate digestion, while starting to fill up your stomach with healthy veggies and vinegar. Think of pickled cucumbers, onions, carrots and green beans. Sprinkle the pickled vegetables with black Kalamata and green olives for a tasty bitter bite before your meal. Why do you think restaurants serve olives while you’re looking at the menu? Olives stimulate digestion, which makes you hungry while choosing food.
Use bitter greens as a garnish for the main meal
Radicchio and endive are leafy vegetables that are pretty, bitter and sweet. Radicchio has a red leaf and endive has a light green leaf which looks lovely around a plate of turkey, prime rib or baked Brie. While they may be too bitter for some people to enjoy on their own, a single bitter leaf tastes wonderful alongside rich food and helps your stomach to deal with the rich food. For the sour component in your main meal – finish off Brussel sprouts and asparagus with a squeeze of fresh lemon. The lemon will brighten up the colors, flavors and your digestive power for the rest of the meal.
This holiday season, think of a beverage, appetizer and garnish that will make your meals more interesting and help your stomach to enjoy the wide array of traditional holiday foods without discomfort.