Foods trigger memories and take us back to that comfortable place we call home.
Sharon Denise Powell, news assistant, Eastern Wake News and Clayton News-Star, writes: My quest to reach a healthy weight, strengthen my muscles, get ready for the MS Walk-a-thon next March and live to be 100, continues.
When I was six, I lived in Virginia briefly with my half-sister, Sarah. Sarah’s mother, my father’s first wife, who I called Granny, also lived with Sarah.
Granny was in her 80’s and suffered from many ailments, including diabetes. My sister, a registered nurse, strictly monitored Granny’s diet. Granny loved desserts. So every night Granny could have one small bowl of sherbet. I remember the clinking sound of the metal spoon as she slowly dipped her spoon in the bowl.
I understand Granny’s dilemma—she always wanted more. If my sister hadn't been upstairs, Granny no doubt would have coaxed me into giving her more.
Just like Granny I love the desserts I learned to enjoy when I was a child.
Our roots are deeply planted on the farms of eastern North Carolina, a region known for its vinegar-based pork barbecue, smoked hams, fried fresh fish and rich desserts. It is also where most of the adults I grew up with—Granny, my father, my maternal grandmother, and many of their contemporaries—dealt with illnesses that, though perhaps predisposed, were exacerbated by the high-fat, high-cholesterol foods of our culture.
They grew their own vegetables but seasoned them with salt pork. They raised their own chickens, which they fried in lard rendered from the swine they slaughtered. Of course, there was the whole hog, slowly cooked for hours in a deep pit, the flavor of which there is nothing to compare. I’ve eaten pit-cooked pork in other states including Kalua pig in Hawaii. No offense to our president—his state’s signature dish simply does not compare.
Family events, school picnics and church revivals always included rich, incredibly tasty, but not always healthy foods.
Now that I’m all grown up I understand that even though something taste good, it does not mean it is good for me. My maternal grandmother, who had hypertension, died when she was only 62. She could not or would not give up the high fat foods, especially pork, that she loved.
My mother, also had hypertension, but she was much more careful about her diet and lived to be 80. Unfortunately, I eat more meat than she did – I can imagine the lectures I’d get if she were still around.
I don’t make barbecue a regular part of my diet anymore. My problems arise when I take the occasional 50-mile drive east home to Nash County—oh temptation.
Since January I have attended three family funerals and the first of four annual family reunions. That’s when I see the foods ingrained in the fiber of my heritage. Every time I eat a piece of fried chicken, a plate of barbecue pork with cole slaw, or a slice of sweet potato pie I feel an undescrible joy because I know I'm home.
Next weekend I’m going to another family reunion in a park in Rocky Mount. Pork barbecue is not on the menu – this is good. My hypertension is under control, and I’m in training for a 5k walk.
Still it is hard to give up certain foods – my comfort foods. It’s not about eating because I’m hungry – it’s about reaching back in time. Whenever I eat a slice of sweet potato pie or fried chicken I remember my mother and grandmother, my late sisters Lucy and Sarah and their mother, Granny and all the other people who made me feel safe and loved when I was a child. I imagine this is true for most of us.