Sunday, August 12, 2007

40 years later, and I am still a Damn Yankee

40 years ago today, my parents and I arrived in Weiner, Arkansas, to restart our lives, and it has been a long strange trip. That part of Poinsett County, frankly, has more in common with the southern Midwest than it does with the deep south, which I never really encountered until moving to Memphis on June 17, 1972, which many of you will remember as the day of the Watergate break-in.

My voice patterns have not changed appreciably, though my father's family in Northern Illinois thinks I sound Southern, while many people (some of whom have not lived in the South as long as I) say, "you're not from around here, are you"?

All these thoughts came to mind while watching the new season of Feasting on Asphalt, the brilliant series hosted by Food Network maven Alton Brown; next Saturday night's show will be all about the Delta and Memphis, which he crowns as "the Mecca of Southern Cooking". The show (8-9 PM, digital channel 69 on Comcast) will start off in Greenville , with tamales at Doe's, and the recent fad of Kool-Aid pickles before bringing him here. I'm NOT going to spoil it for you, but I urge you to watch.

To say that I was a fussy eater as a child would be an understatement, I was not inclined to eat much of anything besides peanut-butter sandwiches and hamburgers. Moving to Weiner changed all of that; I was introduced to catfish and hushpuppies, vegetables that tasted GOOD, and, finally, country ham. I have not been the same since.

My mother, whose strengths in cooking lie more with making game meat taste good, and whose weaknesses drove me away from pasta for 30 years, learned the techniques of her cousins from Poinsett County, and her strengths improved, while the weaknesses....well, never mind.

It is food that has such a strong grip on all of us who spent our youth in the South, we remember the cooking of our parents and grandparents (my grandfather made the best dressing you could possibly eat, up into his 90s) and that's why we have such a fondness for it, even if it can lead to lots of horrific diseases when you hit your 50s.

It was only after moving from Fall River, MA to New Orleans that no less a chef tham Emeril Lagasse discovered that pork fat does indeed rule. Sadly, as these delicacies were made for people that spent their entire days in the fields of farms, and as people evolved in to sedentary office jobs, these wonderful foods which provided so much comfort have become our enemy, not our friend.

As someone who has struggled with weight problems as long as I have been on this Earth, it hurts to think that I am going to have to give up country ham, biscuits, redeye gravy and fried foods in order to live beyond 55 or 60. These are called COMFORT FOODS for a reason; they make you feel good, but only in the short term.


leftwingcarolinablue said...

Juuuuuuuuust reaaaaaalize that you 're whipped and surrender. Ah believe that General Lee will--ev-uh graciously--allow youuuuuuu to s-ah-gn yo' papers awf suuuuuuuurrend-uh. Then Miss Helen will be mooooore than happ-ah to feed you some mighty f-ah-ne biscuits and red e-ah- graaaaavy for supp-ah.

MemphisPI said...

LWC, I have to say "been there done that". I had to give up my good friend, KFC fried chicken. The change will be a mere bump in the road of life for you I can assure. It's easy these days to eat healthy and tasty at the same time.

Might I suggest you enroll in the Weight Watchers program. It's a great educational process to learn the elementals of healthy eating.
They even have a WW program for men
now and you can track the whole thing on your PDA.

Let me suggest we have a consultation on this over a catfish
basket sans hush puppies at Soulfish.

We can also talk about exercise. Oh this is going to be fun!

Sharon Cobb said...

LMFAO--Memphis PI

Oh yeah. If Cracker takes diet advice from you,me and Kernell, he won't make it until Tuesday!

Cracker--If you have insurance, get a lap band if diets haven't worked for you. It's a one day procedure--a lot safer than bariatric surgery, and it's completely reversible if you want to take it out.

They do this procedure at Vanderbilt. Come on up!

MemphisPI said...

Yeah, yeah Sharon. We are going to take advice from a Nashville Cat.
Hey you still got that Easypass card for driving through Wendy's (grin).

You don't understand the stresses we face living as you call it in the "garden of good and evil".

My advice is good as I got more laps around the track (age) than the aforementioned.

We can settle this with the Davy Crockett challenge. We go down to the river and whoever makes the biggest splash when jumping in can advise the LWC on the road to bliss and weightloss.

Sharon Cobb said...

You win!

(Cant we just jump in your pool instead of the river?)

Anonymous said...

May I say you're growing as a writer?

Fellow Alton Fan

Mick Wright said...

Weight Watchers has worked for me, but it's one of the hardest things I ever did (and continue to struggle with). Good luck with your goal of living a longer and healthier life.

Mr Turnbow said...

I think the best thing to do is buy healthy foods and stay busy. Thats what I did and its worked so far. Ive been at 200 for the past year after being around 250 for about eight years. I go to work and then we either go to the gym or down to the railroad bridge in Muscle Shoals after work and we walk across the Tennessee river and through the TVA park every afternoon and then I eat healthy such as broccoli,yogurt and foods like that. Ive found that going to these "weight loss businesses" hardly ever works and drinking those shakes aren't much better.

dwayne said...


I've not had severe weight problems but do have some ailments (not obvious) which would be totally out of control with 15-20 extra lbs. So I've adjusted my lifestyle to keep things under control.

You've got a lot of advice here but you really have to figure your own way that will work for you. Let's get together one of these days soon over a tall glass of artesian water from the Memphis Sands Aquifer and have a major league pity party and then talk about it.

GoldnI said...

For me it's a double-edged sword...I've got the fried chicken and biscuits in one part of my culture, and bagels, cream cheese, and blintzes on the other. The reason why my grandmother's matzoh ball soup tastes so good is because she makes it with chicken fat.

Sharon Cobb said...

Another Southern Jew in the TN. blogosphere?
Yeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaaa and Oy vey!!!

The other Kosher white meat..Sharon

steve said...

Funny that you mention that Weiner is sort of a southern midwest.

My mom grew up southern as can be in Newport, 20 miles west of there, picking cotton as a kid, the whole nine yards.

I remember as a little kid driving up with my uncle to one of those lakes in the Ozarks, Bull Shoals, Norfolk, one of them, and staring fearfully across the water to the Missouri side, knowing that's where the North started and Yankees lived there.

Freedonian said...

Oh Steve, I think we're all yankees forever, brother.

I grew up here and always had people telling me I sounded like I was from up north. Moved to Michigan and was basically told I sounded like a bumpkin. I can't win.