At lunch yesterday, in an effort to be health-conscious, I ordered a vegetable plate. Collards, fried green tomatoes, fried eggplant slices, and macaroni and cheese were my selections from the vast list of vegetables prepared by Lloyd’s, one of Birmingham’s landmark diners. They all arrived at my table escorted by a bowl of iceberg lettuce with some carrot slivers in it, three whoppin’ big hushpuppies, some pepper sauce, and a bowl of banana pudding. Have mercy, it was good!
You see, eating healthy is just a simple matter of partaking at least once a day in a balanced offering from each of the four food groups. In case you have forgotten your basic nutrition, those groups are as follows: salad, fried, sides, and dessert.
Let me explain.
The best way to commence a wholesome dining experience is with a salad. One’s first course can come in all sorts of incarnations – congealed, slaw, layered, marinated, or the aforementioned iceberg with dressing. It’s all good. Whether it be fruits, vegetables, cheese, gelatin, topped with mayonnaise, infused with marshmallows or nuts or both, a veritable farmer’s market in a bowl or a ring-molded confection, no meal is complete without it.
Next is my particular favorite: the fried group. Fish, fowl, mammal, or vegetable – if you can wrestle it into some batter and dip it in hot grease, you can fry it. Cornmeal, flour, beer, milk, and/or eggs will all embrace some delectable tidbit in the loving arms of crust when kissed by some sizzling hot fat. The only thing that makes a fried delicacy any better is that other glorious incarnation of the same flour, milk, and grease triumvirate: gravy.
Now, I want you to pay particular attention here, because I am about to tell you the answer to the question of the ages: How in the world can macaroni and cheese be considered a vegetable?
Are you ready?
We all know it’s not really a vegetable. Macaroni and cheese is merely a victim of Southern misidentification, just like when you say “I’m going to get me a Coke” but you actually purchase a Dr. Pepper. The steam table’s favorite son is actually a “side” just like your hushpuppies, and dressing, and stewed apples, and dumplings and all those other fantastically scrumptious, but hard to classify, indulgences. By the same token, a “vegetable plate” is just a conglomeration of all your favorite sides.
One’s final course might be something as simple as a biscuit with butter and syrup or some nice cantaloupe, a traditional favorite like pudding, cake, or pie, preferably a la mode, or something flat fancy and involving fire like creme brulee or Bananas Foster. But whatever it is, no well-rounded repast would be complete without dessert or as Husband likes to say, “a sweet treat.”
So there it is. The truth is out. Healthy eating is easy greasy.