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What we eat as well as how much we eat are determined by a multitude of factors that go well beyond physical sustenance, such as culture, religion, income level, family, cooking skills and accessibility, to name a few. Social forces also play a significant role, especially when it comes to making healthier food choices.

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Back in my personal chef days, I worked for a wonderful family that had a bit of a dinner conundrum. The father longed for his Sicilian American mother’ s beef ragu, but his kids wouldn’ t touch it because it contained— gasp! Wanting to find a compromise, I added something to the recipe that few kids can resist: cheesy garlic bread.

In our family, holiday gift giving dissipates in favor of indulgences at the table. We splurge on special wines and cocktails, imported charcuterie, fine chocolates and beef. Great steaks, prime rib roasts and briskets— all connote special family gatherings.

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