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STOP ME BEFORE I.....Posted Tuesday, September 7, 2010, at 9:45 AM
After a long hot summer, a lot of people have been looking forward to fall and its cooler temperatures.
I am reluctantly looking forward to the end of summer for another reason.
I grew up in South Bend, Indiana, just miles from the Michigan border. But my parents were both from Arkansas.
So, I learned at an early age there are two ways to cook meats and vegetables: fried or southern fried.
Fried means throwing food into a skillet of hot oil and letting it boil.
Southern fried means dipping that food in milk and flour or corn meal before it's oil bath.
"That's good eatin'...," as my father used to say.
My father had a thing for cooking gadgets. Shelves in the utility room were full of hot dog cookers, electric egg poachers, doughnut makers, popcorn poppers, you-name-it.
But, for my father, the truly great moment in kitchen gagetry history occured when the first Fry Baby hit the shelves.
Imagine the possibilites when you have a container of oil sitting on the counter ready to be fired up to fry just about anything at any moment!
As I hit adulthood, though, I began to question the wisdom of a diet based on frying.
Heart disease runs on both sides of my family and my father's sudden death, at age 69, made me wonder if decades of bacon and egg breakfasts, hamburger and fries lunches, and steak and gravy dinners hastened his departure.
So, I have tried to live a life of steamed vegetables. Poultry rather than beef and pork. Very little fast food and lots of baking, broiling, or sauteing (a quick fry in a small amount of vegetable oil).
My first summer in Salem has been a real challenge.
Instead of living in the middle of a big city, where you find vegetables at the supermarket or weekly farmers markets, it has been great to live in the country where there are fresh vegetables on demand, thanks to the fact almost everyone has a garden and there is almost always someone selling fresh grown good stuff on the square.
Spring meant nice lettuce and greens, asparagus, potatoes and onions.
But, when squash and okra started appearing this summer, I just had to get out the skillet. Nothing wrong with an occasional dietary detour, I told myself.
The problem is, there's nothing better than fried yellow squash dipped in flour or okra rolled in corn meal and fried dark, almost burnt, brown.
My good friend Dylan York, a 13 year old gardening whiz, kept me well supplied and introduced me to other fried temptations: white squash and zuccini. Then, green tomatoes and potatoes started coming in.
Soon, I was ignoring the risks and shame of shunning my healthy diet.
Almost every night, I found myself frying up a storm.
I finally realized I had hit rock bottom the night I had okra going in one skillet, sweet potatoes frying in another, and a couple brats sizzling in a third.
That feast climaxed with a fresh FRIED PIE. Dylan had charmed a grandmother into teaching him her secret family recipe (fresh rolled dough stuffed and fried in lard).
I realized I needed help. An intervention. A 12 Step program for fry-a-holics.
But those closest to me were in no shape to lead me back to the path of healthy eating. They were too busy also enjoying the fried fruits of my labor.
The only solution on the horizon was a bitter one: the cooler weather of fall when garden production would finally peter out.
Long ago, I made a pact with myself never to complain about hot weather and I almost never do.
After growing up in South Bend, a northern city where summers are mild, a "hot" day is in the 80s and wickedly cold and snowy winters never seem to end, I say. " the hotter the better".
But, here I am, wishing for fall and winter, when vegetables are scarce and expensive and tomatoes feel and taste like baseballs.
I know it is for my own good. Maybe a return to healthier eating is just around the corner.
In the meantime, I can only ask for help: STOP ME BEFORE I FRY AGAIN!!!!!!!
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I used to call this blog "Stranger In Town" but time goes by quickly. After a year in these parts, I realize people will still say, 'he's from off' but I now proudly claim I am a "Stranger No More"! After a lifetime in living in big cities, small town life has produced surprises, good and bad but, after more than a year, I love it (most of the time!). I promise to keep on writing about stuff that interests me and things I think of to complain about. I hope you will continue to check in occasionally to read and comment.
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