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It all started with a box of salt cod I bought on a whim on Friday. I know it’s an odd ingredient, but salt cod reminds me of Greece. And I’d just finished the (hopefully final) edits on my novel (that alone is a good reason to celebrate), which is partially set in Greece. And thinking of salt cod and Greece made me think of the feasts we used to have there–tables groaning with food. So on Saturday, I began shredding the fish and my husband started making calls, and by 8:00 we had a festive crew nibbling on fried salt cod fritters with skordalia (kind of like super-garlicky mashed potatoes beaten with olive oil), vinegary beet salad, charred lamb chops and the pungent yogurt dip called tzatziki.

Now, nutritionists might thumb their noses at our feast and, divided up into grams of fat and sodium, they’d be right to do so. Lord knows, I’ve spent most of my life feeling guilty about living it up after decades of diet indoctrination. But I truly believe that there’s a place for meals like these. Rick Bayless, in his book Mexican Everyday, talks about how occasional celebrations are a natural balance to everyday moderation; “No one ever got fat on a weekly feast, but missing that feast can leave you with strong cravings (both physical and spiritual) all week long.”

I agree. Along wigh moderation, celebration is a foundation of a mindful eating practice. So I went into this weekend with eyes wide open, trusting that Sunday through Friday I would eat simply and wholesomely, that this celebration was yang to the more restrained weekday yin, and that I needed both to remain balanced. And I’ll tell you, what a world of difference it makes entering a Monday feeling fulfilled rather than remorseful.

So this week (or next if you’re not into spontaneity), I challenge you to have a feast. Make a roast, bake a cake, revel in the meal and the company. The one ingredient you’re not allowed to include? Guilt.

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Thai Chicken Larb

Larb is a type of salad made with minced or ground meat. This version uses chicken, but you could make it with duck or even pork or lamb. Serve this flavorful filling with lettuce leaves and let everyone stuff their own to give a flavor of the communal nature of Thai meals.

1-1/2 tablespoons grated lime rind
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon finely chopped serrano chile
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1-1/2 pounds ground chicken (or turkey)
2 tablespoon minced shallots
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
1 head romaine lettuce (or 1 head of cabbage), leaves separated

Combine first 8 ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and shallots, and sauté 5 minutes, stirring to crumble. Drizzle with juice mixture, stirring to coat. Turn into a bowl and mix with mint. Serve with lettuce or cabbage leaves.

Serves 4