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A Hunka, Hunka Heartburnin' Love

A Hunka, Hunka Heartburnin' Love

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As with many rustic, salt-of-the-earth people, my Southern family shows affection through food. A lot of food. Bushels, baskets, overwhelming amounts of buttery, saucy, oh-Lordy food.

Perhaps our good intentions greased the path to many an enlarged waistline and a clogged artery. When my grandfather (whose slim build belied a lifetime of lard) needed a quadruple bypass surgery back in '95, we knew it was time to drop the boudin. The jig was up: We had been found with trans fat-filled crumbs on our faces.

Initially, we had learning curves that were as daunting as the north face of Mt. Everest. The more pleasant days were fragrant with olive oil, tomatoes and garlic, reminiscent of what we imagined to be a heart-healthy Mediterranean kitchen. Other days resembled dietary trials at best: a purgatory of plain rice cakes and bland steamed veggies.

We reached a low point when my parents had a foodie tiff, because Mama had deigned to use a low-fat roux in her gumbo; later, she found vindication - "I told you so!" - when Dad's doc put him on statins.

Then we finally hit rock bottom upon reaching a stark conclusion: We were feeding our pets better quality food than what we ourselves were eating. Sure, the family's love was as strong as my grandmother's heavy-duty coffee, yet we couldn't quite get over the psychological hurdle that comfort food didn't have to kill us.

The lesson learned: Love could take the form of a hug or an "attaboy," just as easily as a cookie from the now-absent cookie jar. We needed to share our feelings of love and appreciation for one another, instead of eating them with a side of bacon. The new paradigm started to stick.

So what's in this Tex-Mex-turned-Tex-Med kitchen nowadays? You'll find us enjoying healthier versions of our favorite dishes, plus the occasional decadent treat. Dad has even learned to tolerate the use of low-fat roux - well, uh, not completely, but he did finally release the doughnut hostages, except for one nut-glazed casualty. We're making progress.




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