Monday, January 7, 2013
Would you give fake sugar to the Dowager Countess?
Having just survived the holidays and trying to decide if MLK is enough of a reason to break out the haystacks once more, I realized that sugar is all around us and is an integral part of what makes a Southerner Southern as opposed to merely from the South. Our tea is sweet, our belles are sweet (at least as far as you know) and our desserts are diabetes-inducingly sweet. We even coat our criticisms with a sugary, ‘Bless their hearts’ when we meant what we said but needed the recipient to still feel as if the Junior League wasn’t suddenly out of reach.
The reason I bring this up is I have been fake sugaring all sorts of things of late and today, I am loath to admit, I sugared my chili. Now, before you get all judgmental, bear with me. I merely added 3 individual Splenda packets to a pot of chili that contained 2.5 pounds of hamburger. It’s not like I was trying to make a red meat soufflé; I was simply trying to recreate this amazing chili I had as an appetizer at dinner last night. It was some of the best I’ve had (Willow Pizza in San Jose, check it out) and had a slight sweetness that was just divine.
So I bought the ingredients for chili and was trying to figure out how to make it sweet. I add grape jelly to my baked beans and they are loved by all and sundry. But I thought that wouldn’t be quite the flavor profile I was seeking.
It is a known fact that Clara Herrington of Tylertown, MS makes the best tuna salad in all the land. And I’m not kidding. As someone who used to weigh 422 pounds, I know great food. As someone who lost 220 of those pounds (yes, I’m bragging) you should trust my tastes. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. I have great taste in clothes; as I write this I am wearing fuchsia chinos and a navy cardigan with navy suede wingtips and a matching belt, and my most recent fortune cookie fortune stated, “You are admired for your impeccable tastes”. So there you go.
Now, I have never been known for violent tendencies other than scathing remarks about tacky people, but I can assure you that if you were to stand betwixt me and Ms. Clara’s tuna salad, fisticuffs would ensue. I am not proud of that reality; I am simply being honest.
A couple of years ago, I was visiting Mississippi on a tiny book tour (buy my book A Gone Pecan online) and had an offering to stay at the Herrington Clan’s house on the Bogue Chitto River. As I was taught to do, I politely declined at first (we are very British) but when they upped the ante to include, not only Ms. Clara’s tuna salad, but Ms. Clara herself, I would have been a fool not to accept. I love me some Herringtons, do you hear me?
Now, I realize that having just admitted to spending the night alone with Ms. Clara is tantamount to a scandal is the not-otherwise-occupied minds of Tylertownians, unless you think about it for, I don’t know, say, 4 or 5 seconds and you realize the players in the story are Ms. Clara and me. I think Andy Griffith’s Aunt Bea was more scandalous than the sainted Ms. Clara. Well, sainted if Baptists had saints, whose designations I assume would be somehow tied to popularity of casserole recipes or number of prayer circles started.
I said all that to say this, her secret ingredient is sugar. I apologize if that was meant to be a secret, but Sharon told me at the river one time so it’s her fault, Miss Clara.
Now I know that sugar is bad for you. We all know that it will one day take my Daddy’s feet. Fear not, however, as I have been using fake sugar for quite some time. Sweet ‘n’ Low (the pink one) is the first I tried and used to be the only one. It reminds me of old ladies and/or Tab. I switched to Equal (the blue one) when Cher started advertising it in the 90s, I think. My Daddy and I had been using that for our morning coffee until recently. A friend, who is a nurse, told me some story about Equal having the same effect on your organs as formaldehyde or somesuch. I don’t know if this is an urban myth but I switched to Splenda (the yellow one) as I was told by this same friend that at least Splenda was real sugar that had been altered to be bereft of, well, sugar. I assume it was some chemical engineering process but I like to think it was magic like in Harry Potter.
And speaking of Harry Potter, my Daddy and I have been enjoying Downton Abbey, which he calls Down Town Abbey, then wonders aloud (each week) why they’re in the country, not the city. He can’t remember who is who so there’s a lot of questioning throughout the show, which requires the use of close captioning. Not so much for him, but for me.
I am adept at understanding English accents, idioms and slang, being an unabashed Anglophile. He, on the other hand, being a citizen of Ala-Miss-La-Tex, doesn’t even understand me half of the time, much less someone British. Watching with him is not unlike sitting beside a child with ADD and no Ritalin. Who’s that? Why’s she wearing that? Boy, that one sure is ugly. She’d make a haint take a thorn thicket! Why’d they pick an ugly girl? Why do you need a house that big? Would you like a house that big? I wouldn’t. I like log cabins. I want a Harley. Why don’t you let me eat candy bars? Did you bring me a Coke Zero from town? You know I lost 2 more pounds. Why’re you lookin’ at me like that?
We were watching TV this past weekend as I do only when he complains I don’t spend time with him as his activities consist of sleeping, eating and crocheting while watching TV. I had found a Harry Potter movie and we were both enjoying it when he suddenly said, “Hey! There’s that old lady from Downtown Abbey!”
I responded that it was, in fact, the Dowager Countess and although she is a two-time Oscar winner (1969 Best Actress for the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and 1978 Best Supporting Actress for California Suite in which she played an Oscar nominee on her way to the ceremony) she is best known to the Millenials, which apparently includes 71 year-old rednecks, as Professor McGonagall.
This set him off on another tangent: Boy she looks terrible, don’t she? What year was that movie made? Can you look it up on your little computer? I wonder how old she is? How old is Ziva from NCIS? I know Abbie is older than she looks. You know she’s from Loozeeana? You find out the year yet? What’s takin’ you so long? How old is Abbie? Who’s that old man? Can I grow my beard and tie a ribbon in it? Why d’ya always make that face? Is it time to eat yet? I’m hungry. I sure would like a chocolate shake this big. Where you goin’?
I just realized that it is almost 6 pm and time for Downton Abbey out here on the West Coast. I will bid you adieu and head to the TV viewing room. I must prepare myself to read my new favorite TV show because Daddy is wide awake and while over-medicating a crazy old man isn’t actually illegal, it borders on rude and being British, I’d rather someone think I were poor than rude.
Happy New Year, y’all!