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
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
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.