Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Body vs. soul food

Eating low on the hog may not be good for you, and fresh food folks can help

By Larry Gabriel
My mom made some of the best Southern-style fried chicken I ever ate. After church dinners that featured her crispy, golden yard birds, Mom would often have to pass her recipe on to other church ladies.

Growing up, I ate all the staples of the soul food diet — pork chops, pig feet, ham hocks, greens, assorted beans, macaroni and cheese — most of it cooked with requisite amounts of lard or Crisco. We ate low on the hog, high on the hog, and hogs in general. Once in a while Dad would bring home a half of a hog’s head and mom would make head cheese. I loved that spicy, gelatinous concoction. I would buy pickled pig feet from the big jar that sat on the counter at Mr. Robinson’s store on the corner of Myrtle and 18th Street in Detroit. He’d wrap it in butcher paper, and I’d stand outside and happily suck on the vinegary fat and gristle.
I know I’m not the only one who can rhapsodize about soul food. And many of you recently had your special New Year’s soul food dishes. You had Hopping John (black-eyed peas cooked with cubed fatback or ham hocks) for good fortune and prosperity. You had collard greens (overcooked and with salt pork or ham hocks) to encourage green in your wallet. There was a pork entrée (chops) to encourage family bonds. Maybe you had macaroni and cheese, sweet tea chock-full of processed white sugar or banana pudding.

Stop! Every one of those foods represents the antithesis of the purported reason for eating them. Hopping John won’t bring you good luck. It will bring you bad health. The collard greens will take the green out of your wallet when you pay your doctor’s bills. The pork will not encourage family bonds; it will kill your family members.

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