Growing up in the Butter Belt, I learned to cook with layers of butter, shortening and lard. Everything was battered, breaded and fried. Grilled chicken was something that was stuck to the front of the car when one of Grannie’s roosters failed to cross the road fast enough. I had a finger lickin’ good diet for the first twenty five years of my life, but soon after I married I realized my arteries were probably on a fast train to Plaque Town, and I started to clean up my act. I dragged my family along with me.
I weaned the Hula-gens (thanks janjanmom for that moniker. It’s totally appropriate.) from whole milk. Over the course of about six months we went to 2%, then 1% and finally skim. Now the only time we have whole milk in our house in when I make homemade ice cream, and Teen Angel laps up the leftover drops in the jug like a wino slugging back Mogen David. My bunch is content with the stuff under the pink cap and doesn’t whine (anymore) about watery milk. I quit frying everything. I bake and grill. I threw away the lard and shortening and cook with light touches of olive oil and canola oil. I found sneaky ways to pass off meat free meals, and I don’t keep snack cakes and high calorie drinks around the house. We don’t eat out during the week, saving the junk food and fatty stuff for the weekends. I can’t get Hubby to use the flaxseed on his oatmeal yet but he loved the low calorie, high protein smoothie I made with soy protein powder that tasted like a banana milkshake. While we haven’t given up the occasional chili cheese dog at our favorite bar and grill, we’ve made some big changes over the last seventeen years. I hope we’re not done. I hope we continue to evolve into life long healthy eaters. However, I have decided there are a few foods that I simply cannot give up. There are a handful of things I refuse to eliminate from my diet. I love them and cannot let them go. They are dear friends that enrich my life, make my heart sing, generate world peace and save the whales. Okay, maybe not those last two.
1. Fried potatoes: Not French fries. I’m talkin’ slivers of potato fried in a thin layer of oil in a skillet with lots of black pepper and maybe some green onion until they’re soft in the middle and slightly crunchy on the outer edges. The kind that have to be drained before you slide a big old wad of them onto your plate. These can stand alone as a meal for me. If you give me a choice between ice cream and fried potatoes, I will choose the potatoes any time. Hand to God. Because they’re so bad for me, I make them only about three times a year, when I just can’t stand going without them any longer. Fried potatoes and biscuits al a mode makes me want to sing Yankee Doodle Dandy from the rooftop.
2. Italian cream cake-I like ALL cake. To me there is no bad cake. Only cake and better cake, but Italian cream is my favorite. I can resist a big piece of German chocolate or red velvet, but I cannot pass up a piece of Italian cream cake when it is within a four mile radius of my eyeballs. One of my favorite local restaurants sells this, and I thank the good Lord they do every time I belly up to their serving line. I then ask the Lord to forgive me for the sin of gluttony that is soon to follow.
3. Iced tea-The nectar of the south. The beverage that has sustained my people through depressions, recessions, wars and potato famines (as in going without fried potatoes). The genetic makeup of anyone living below the Mason Dixon line is mutated by the mass quantities of sweet tea ingested over generations. I’m told it is possible to determine during autopsy which state you hail from by assessing the levels of sweet tea in your DNA samples. We go through a gallon of tea every 24 hours at my house. I’m personally responsible for drinking about half of it. I’m a little different from most folks in these parts in that I don’t like my tea very sweet. I like it a little on the stout side. That’s probably because I grew up in a neighboring state just north of here and transplanted to Kentucky. If I had been born here, I would require six packets of sugar per eight ounce serving.
4. Circus peanuts, Sweet-Tarts and a variety of other small candies that are perfect for nibbling on while reading a good book in the comfort of my recliner and wallowing with my lap dog. I have to be careful though. If I leave the candy on the end table when I get up to go to the bathroom, the dog will eat it. Have you every seen a miniature schnauzer eat banana Laffy Taffy? I’m not big on truffles or chocolate bon bons, but I cannot kick the circus peanut, Sweet-Tart habit. And I make the most of January and February when the Brach’s Conversation Hearts (large please-no knock offs) are in season. This is the biggest flaw in my diet; a big black gaping hole that swallows me up and coats me in sugar. I have learned to cut back, but I can’t eliminate this crap completely. If I didn’t log 60 gazillion miles on my running shoes each week my backside would be the size of the Hindenburg solely because of candy.
With a little effort I could give up meat. I like pizza but could do away with it. I could even say goodbye to ice cream. Heck, I could give up hamburgers if I tried. I am disciplined in many ways when it comes to food, but my Achilles heel is the stuff listed above. However, I have decided these are the vices I’m keeping around. I don’t smoke. I rarely drink. I don't do drugs. Jeepers! A girl’s got to have something bad in her life. And Johnny Depp is taken.
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