I come from a long line of fearless women and at various times in my life have been called upon to dip into that gene pool. Sometimes when I reflect on those occasions, I marvel at how I wrestled my way through this or that miserable or terrifying chapter, but somehow did, and suppose I would again if I had to.
My great-grandmother Gracie did all the time, even when she didn’t have to. Case in point. She loved bacon more than any person I’ve ever known, ate it every day of the week, sometimes more than once during the course of a day, and would go to just about any length to obtain it. Late in her life, when her eyesight had failed her but she still lived independently, she leaned on a particular man named Howell Kellogg—everybody just called him Kellogg—to help her. Kellogg worked in various capacities, mostly as a handyman and groundskeeper of sorts, for our extended family. In fact, three family households, including Gracie’s, occupied abutting properties on the main channel of the Tennessee River, and so most of the time you could find Kellogg knocking around somewhere if you needed him.
Here is the truth: Kellogg was a shotgun-toting heavy drinker, and it’s fair to say, a scoundrel. Gracie was unimpressed. So when she needed another pound of bacon from the White Store, a local grocery chain now long gone, she’d ask Kellogg not to go and get it for her, but instead to please carry her up one of the most dangerous highways in East Tennessee to get it. Sometimes the store knew she was coming and would have her groceries waiting on her.
Picture an elderly black man behind the wheel of a beleaguered 1960s-model pickup with an even more elderly white woman riding shotgun, headed north from the Blount County line on Alcoa Highway. It would not surprise me at all if there were empty booze bottles rattling around their ankles on the floor of the cab, nor if Kellogg had already tipped one back that morning. But when bacon called, Gracie answered. And I’ll bet you anything she looked forward to that outing.
Later on, you’d find her sitting on her wicker sofa in a high-up room overlooking the river, with her skinny legs crossed, one forearm folded across her round belly, and the other held aloft at a right angle to it, with a cigarette burning between two tar-stained fingers, its ash column grown way too long. She’d have the volume cranked on the telly so she could hear the pundits, brow furrowed, and would argue with them from time to time. At her right elbow would be a cup of black coffee and a saucer loaded with thick slices of tomato and several crisp strips of bacon, on the glass end table. If you came into the room, she’d beseech you to turn off “that idiot box” and then would pat the cushion next to her and beckon you to sit. If you mentioned anything at all about the perils of smoking or eating all that fatty, salty bacon, she’d only shrug her shoulders and take another long drag, and then tell you her age.
My doctor recently informed me I have high cholesterol, a less welcome genetic gift from my great-grandmother, perhaps. I have ‘til June to get the number back into a reasonable zone.
Yesterday The Chef and I were talking about cooking with onion, after I wondered out loud about their benefits. Yes, they’re incredibly good for you, he put in, and then said all the old French cookbooks start everything with onion. This inspired me to make a new breakfast omelet with sautéed onion as its first ingredient, using olive oil spray, and then adding chopped Campari tomato, about an ounce of low-sodium ham, some fresh basil chiffonade, and turmeric and black pepper. No eggs for me, but egg whites instead. I’m still allowing myself one of Gracie’s biscuits as part of my weekend breakfasts.
In case you’re interested, here’s how the numbers break down: 329 calories, 36g of carbs, 11g of fat, 19g of protein, 849g of sodium. As you might surmise, the bulk of the fat and sodium comes from the biscuit. It’s the most indulgent kind of food I’ll allow myself on the weekend, and it is appetizing and satisfying. But I’ve also increased my daily running mileage and pace in an effort to offset some of this little indulgence.
In other news, after doing some research ahead of Scout-the-Goldapeake-Retriever’s first visit with his North Carolina vet, I was able to suss out his actual age as nine. Suffice it to say, he’s now officially a senior canine citizen. Seems like that deserves some kind of trumpet fanfare. Scout is running with me when it’s cool enough and he’s of a mind, which is still most of the time. We’re also getting him acclimated to his new doggy goggles, courtesy of a brand-new client at the marketing agency where I work as copy editor. Eventually we’ll swap out the clear lens for the sun lens and he’ll wear them on our beach walks.
The balance of the time he seems content just to snuggle. I’m fairly certain that’s guaranteed to lower one’s cholesterol. I’ll keep you posted.