The other afternoon, like a lot of them, I was scrounging in the freezer for something for supper. Now by no means am I a chef, not by a long shot, maybe the best description would be along the lines of a short order cook. And if I put my mind to it I can even fry a chicken, or a mean pork chop. To be honest, you might say I learned on the job, when we first got married Mel was going to school and working, and if we didn’t want to eat too late, well it was up to me. But back then it ran to hamburgers and fried baloney with pork and beans, but hey, we didn’t go hungry. But through the years I have expanded my résumé, except for one thing, I still can’t cook meat loaf. But as I was starting supper the other day, already a little stumped over what to cook, one of my college-educated kids through me a curve ball, “Daddy, why do we always have to have meat for every meal?”
Now before you get the wrong idea, she’s not a vegetarian, or vegan, or what ever the latest term is these days, she was just asking an honest question. One I had never thought of before. And to be honest one I really didn’t have an answer to either. After a few sputtering starts I finally just said, “We just does.”
And as you guessed that really wasn’t a very good answer. To me that’s like asking, “Why do you put your pants on one leg at a time?” That’s just the way I’ve always done it. Oh don’t get me wrong, not every meal, a lot of times Mel will cook a pan of biscuits on Saturday, and she won’t cook any thing with it, like bacon or something. But that doesn’t stop me from looking for it. Syrup and jelly is pretty well enough, but it’s still like something is missing. And come to think of it, that might be the key.
Like most of us in the South, when someone asks what’s for supper, what they are really asking is what kind of meat are we having? You don’t believe me, next time someone asks you what’s for supper, tell them mashed potatoes. See if there isn’t a delayed reaction there for a minute. It’s because they are waiting on what comes next, like for instance, what is the main course. Then a couple days later, when they ask, tell them fried chicken, “ALRIGHT”. See it doesn’t matter what you are going to have with it, it could be spinach or fried okra, but you’re having FRIED CHICKEN! Ok maybe not fried okra, but you get my point.
But maybe it’s in our DNA or something. When was the last time you told somebody you were going out for supper and get a salad? I’d rather stay home and open a can of pork and beans and eat them straight out the can. Which isn’t half bad, with a little ketchup and onions mixed in. with maybe a piece of fried baloney, see there, even when you’re trying to think healthy, we’ve got to have a little grease thrown in for good measure.
But getting back to my original idea of meatless meals, made me start thinking, could we actually do it? What if when you say, “What’s for supper?”, the answer was, rice and gravy, black eyed peas and corn bread. Be honest now, wouldn’t there be a little hole in your soul? Deep down wouldn’t you be wondering where the love had gone? Why is she doing this to me? Why would she bring me to this feast of plenty, and then jerk the rug right out from under me? And don’t tell me as you’re sitting there passing the gravy, you wouldn’t be searching the horizon for where she has that country fried steak hidden. And as you’re finally leaving the table and the dishes are being done, and still no country fried steak is to be found, wouldn’t thoughts of the good times being over for good, cross your mind? Oprah and Dr. Phil have finally won, and the next thing you know something called tofu burgers will be on the menu, and turkey bacon, and kale Tuesdays.
Before long you will be eating bran for breakfast, and drinking soy milk. Hey soy milk comes from a bean and not a cow, and those beans are green not white!!
I have a friend who explained it to me one time, a lot better than I could. I noticed a few times he always started on one side of his plate and went around, winding up with the meat last. Not trying to embarrass him, but I asked him why he ate like that. He told me that when he was growing up, he didn’t have much, and when they had meat at all it wasn’t a whole lot. So what he would do was fill up on every thing else then eat the meat last, and that would be the last thing he could taste. Through the years I’ve noticed a few more that eat that way. Always the meat last.
But if you think about it, in a round-about way he was a lot luckier than a lot of us, because he learned to appreciate even the small portions in life. Because when it’s not always there, while we might miss it, we can get along just fine without it. We have come to expect so much stuff without ever really appreciating it, that when the simplest thing like meat for every meal is taken from us our world seems to fall apart.
It’s something to think about anyway.
You can reach Robbin Brtuce by e-mail at email@example.com.
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