Based on the quality and quantity of food Mama put on the table, I should have turned out big as a sugar barrel but such was not the case. Through no fault of hers, I wound up skinny despite eating copious amounts of groceries in the form of roast beef, ham, pork chops, a few selected vegetables (which I’ll get to later) and enough pies, cakes, and other sweetmeats to put me in a permanent diabetic coma. I’m still a notorious lover of all things sugary and can to this day still elicit a few appreciative oohs and aahs from my dinner companions when dessert time rolls around.
Mama took good care of us in the food department and as a result our overall health rating was superior. In fact, my brothers and I rarely missed a day of school or had any kind of illness. Thinking back, that could have also been partially due to the fact that Mama also had a two-pronged approach to medicine she used if we got sick.
Part one was a potion that would, she believed, cure anything from the common cold to malaria. The other part of her therapy for sickness was a good, old cleansing enema and I won’t elaborate further on that. I believe her concoction was comprised of one part castor oil, one part horse liniment, with a double ration of bat droppings. It tasted awful and it was so effective that just the thought of taking it would help us get better. I think she stole that recipe from an African witch doctor, and it definitely worked wonders for our constitution. Had Mama’s double- tiered medicinal theory been in place during the 1500s it would have stopped the Black Plague in its tracks.
With those things noted, I must admit that a few of the items routinely found at our dinner table did not suit me at all. At the top of the list were diced carrots and those little round English peas. When those evil-tasting veggies were served I would break out in a cold sweat because I knew that the rule was to clean my plate. You could have laced them with ammonia and they wouldn’t have tasted any worse to me. Every time I was made to eat them it caused me some severe gastric difficulties varying from the green apple quick-step, to the vapors, to the plain, old dry heaves.
Eventually, I had to come up with some strategies to get through a meal that included carrots and peas so, with a high degree of motivation I learned how to cope with this situation. I certainly didn’t want Mama to think that I was getting sick because I’d quickly get a dose of her witch doctor medicine — and hoo boy — rapidly turn a bad situation into a catastrophic event.
Strategy No. 1 was to leave a couple of inches of milk in the bottom of my glass and surreptitiously sneak as many diced carrots and little round peas into those murky depths as possible. That tactic backfired when she noticed the leftover milk and ordered me to drink it down. That turned out to be a gagging nightmare and so another approach had to be found.
Strategy No. 2 turned out better. I would stuff the carrots and peas into one of her cathead biscuits and slather it with a generous dollop of sorghum syrup, thus negating most of the bad taste and allowing me to get them down without having to actually taste them to the same degree. The only adverse side effect was that many dozens of those beautiful mounds of buttery bread were ruined — but sacrifices had to be made in order for my stomach to survive.
Those two vegetables topped my list of inedible items but they had certainly had a significant effect on my overall dietary cravings. Since those days I have much preferred a carnivorous selection at supper time with some potatoes and bread thrown in and a good measure of dessert to top it off. There are a few types of meat that don’t do it for me like pigs feet, baked possum and cutlets of rattlesnake, but most any other kind of meat is good by me.
I’m pretty sure Mama knew what she was talking about when she told us that eating our carrots would make us big and strong and improve our eyesight. After all, she was right about most everything else. When I went to get my first driver's license, the guy doing the eye exam just laughed at me and told me to come back when I could at least read the top letter on the chart. Pretty sure that was a result of avoiding those good-old diced carrots and, unfortunately, my eyesight seems to be getting worse all the time.
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Articles and columns by Alvin Richardson about hunting, fishing and other outdoor sports appear weekly in the Statesboro Herald. Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.