My Mother and I in the mid-80s...
My mother loved to cook. I have early memories of her canning and putting things up for the winter. Growing up we farmed and picked most of our vegetables as well as some fruits, corn and potatoes. My summers were usually spent shucking corn or hulling peas. It seemed as if my fingers would be permanently stained purple from all the purple hull peas (my favorite)! I remember sitting in the middle of the living room floor with a huge blanket filled with bushels of peas to be hulled. While I hulled them, my mother was in the kitchen blanching and canning. Anytime family would get together, she always had food. She could cook just about anything. She cooked for family. She cooked for friends and near the end of her life she spent a lot of time cooking for the elderly from our local churches. She was loved by many.
Growing up, I never really learned to cook. My mother did not allow anyone in the kitchen when she was cooking. I understand now what she meant when she said she had a one-track mind; I have it too. One might think that since the majority of what we ate was farm-grown and healthy that we would be healthy eaters. However, this is not the case. I grew up putting gravy on everything; brown gravy, white gravy, tomato gravy. We put it on anything from biscuits for breakfast to fried steaks or chicken for supper. We put it on potatoes; all potatoes. One of the most popular breakfast items that I remember was homemade biscuits smothered in tomato gravy or sugar cane syrup and cup of strong hot chicory coffee. Besides gravy always being readily available, bacon grease was another fixture in many kitchens! I remember many southern cooks would always have an old coffee can filled with bacon grease sitting on the stove. It was used for a variety of dishes. The most popular use that I remember was heating it up to FRY eggs for breakfast. Bacon grease and lots of butter, sadly, are staples in a southern home! A southern saying that comes to mind is, "Everything is better with butter." Gravy was not the only thing we poured over our food. We also poured a variety of sauces over many dishes; ketchup, bbq sauce, butter sauces, salad dressings. You name it, we used it! Our healthy dishes didn't have a chance in hell by the time we got through pouring the "unhealthy" on them.
So I've talked about the gravy, bacon grease, sauces and butter...but what about the fact that many foods in the South are fried?! Southerners can fry up anything...right down to some desserts. I grew up living on fried chicken, fried steak, fried seafood, fried fish; anything fried. One of my favorite dishes was chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and white gravy, green beans, corn and oh yes FRIED okra. This is a basic food plate at many southern "hole-in-the-wall" cafes. There is nothing more comforting than a dish like this. It's like being wrapped in happiness...even if only for a little while. Meals were always followed up with a big glass of very sweet brewed tea. We have two ways of making tea where I come from...either by a coffee pot or boiling in a pot on the stove or by putting it out into the sun in a glass pitcher. There is nothing more refreshing than sweet tea that has been kissed by the sun. Generally a gallon of tea required 2 cups of sugar. TWO CUPS! I know now that is too much.
This should give you an idea of what I grew up thinking "good eating" was. This is how I have spent the last 39 years of my life. It wasn't that bad when I was younger. You would think that I would have had a weight problem with all that food I was being served. However, I did pretty well keeping my weight pretty normal. It probably helped that I was an active child/young adult. I was always on the go or playing a sport or running around outside. Those were the days of no computers and technology that would keep us inside sitting on our butts. When I graduated high school at the age of 18 I was 5' 6" and weighed 105 lbs.
Here come my 20s. Luckily during the first half of my 20s I continued to be active...sometimes working two jobs, dancing, playing softball; generally keeping it together. I did put on a little weight and by the time I was pregnant with my first child when I was 25 years old I weighed 125 lbs. I put on 35 lbs with the pregnancy and lost it all within a few weeks of his birth. I was pregnant again before I was 28 and after he was born I began to show struggles with my weight. It fluctuated and I weighed approximately 160 lbs. It was at this point in my life that I joined the Navy and by the time I completed boot camp I was back down to 135 very healthy pounds. I stayed at that weight until I was discharged a few years later after being injured during my time in the service.
Unfortunately I was a cigarette smoker until I was 30 years old but within a year of leaving the Navy I stopped smoking cold-turkey and I have not smoked since. As healthy as it was for me to stop smoking, it was the start of an uphill battle with my weight. Hence the title of this blog..."Weigh Into My 30s." There are many battles that I have faced during these last 10 years and in the following postings, I will begin to document them to show what I have had to face and learn during this decade of my life.
Cheers and Much Love!