The f-word

Heaven on plastic courtesy of Jordan's Fish Camp, Buckatunna MS

Lent is upon us. The bon temps have roulered and now it is time to pray, reflect, repent, and give up.

In past years I have given up cokes, sweets, and criticizing – not necessarily in that order. This year, after careful consideration and soul-searching, I have decided to give up that which calls me with its irresistibly hedonistic siren song. That which hides great pleasures not evident at first blush. That which tempts me more than sugar, alcohol, and cigarettes – the f-word…

Fried.

Yes, you heard it right. I am giving up all things fried.

You see, I have had a lifelong love affair with all that is covered in crust and floated in hot, bubbling lard. Eggplant, okra, green tomatoes, onions – all elevated to heavenly heights when battered and sizzled to perfection in a hot vat of grease. And any sort of distasteful, foul vegetable is infinitely redeemed when shrouded in a cloak of golden brown (yella squash, I’m talking about you, you mushy, sad excuse for produce).

Fried corn and fried potatoes – oops, I think I’ve drooled on the page here…

And don’t even get me started on the virtues of fried chicken, fried fish, and that most perfect of all fried bread creations – the hushpuppy, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. Sort of like me if I was a fried wad of dough.

There is little I love more than to gaze upon a plate filled with monochromatic delicacies, only differing in their various and sundry shades of aureate frydacity. Maybe a dollop of red ketchup for contrast, a splash of white tartar sauce for compliment, or the tiniest hint, just a whisper, of green showing through some cole slaw, but mainly, a plate that is gloriously golden, just like the halo of one of God’s own angels.

Now Lent isn’t totally about self-denial and personal flagellation. Lent is also a time to examine activities and practices that might make you a better person. So to counterbalance my withdrawal from grease trap deprivation, I have decided to focus my attention and energy on another f-word…

Fresh.

You see, all those veggies referenced above that ultimately met their maker in a cast iron skillet of Crisco, were once vibrant, colorful treasures found most times in our very own garden. When I was growing up, we ate what was growing when it was growing, or what was canned when it was growing. There was no endless aisle of produce from Chile, California, or Thailand. Our produce came from the garden, the back of someone’s truck, or as repayment for a favor done.

I had no idea that asparagus was anything other than tinny, green goo until I was in my twenties! Who knew the pleasures of fresh brussel or mung bean sprouts? Swiss chard? Didn’t know it existed.

So for the next forty days and forty nights, I am going to set aside my sinful and singeful ways and turn to the light. I’m going to order that CSA box from Freshfully that I’ve long said I would. I’m going to embrace the flavors and textures of my dinner, long hidden behind the batter.

And I’m going to rise from the dinner table ready to meet the challenges, spiritual and otherwise, of this mortal existence unencumbered by the weight of gluttony, grease and lard.

But you know what they say, the road to Hell is paved with…cornmeal! And buttermilk! And beer batter!

Heaven help me.