Getting to the nitty gritty of food propriety

Last week, my daughter called me while I was at work.

She doesn’t do this often and, when she does, it’s generally with a problem that’s guaranteed to tighten my stomach.

This time was no different.

“Dad, we’re going to enter the local chili cook off and I need to know if I should add beans to the one we’re going to make.”

It took my breath away because I thought I’d raised her right (properly, correctly … whatever).

I paused but for a second before responding, “Is a duck’s butt watertight? Of course you put beans in chili. Only grifters, charlatans, card cheats, flim-flammers, and people who text while driving leave them out. A wanton and depraved bunch, the lot of them.”

“So, you’re saying I should add the beans?”

“Only if you wish to be included in the will. Good grief, isn’t that the way you were brought up?”

My daughter, of course, comes from fine Southern stock and my best guess is that she’d heard that others were going “beanless” and she was merely looking for support.

The subject of food propriety, though, reminded me of a earlier time when, while writing for another newspaper, my editor changed jobs and I was wondering who might try to fill his shoes. After receiving an email from the new editor, I got down on my knees and thanked God for being a fair and munificent being — likely from the Southern part of the universe He’d created.

I say this because, in her message, she happened to ask if I was one of those damfool idiots who ate biscuits with gravy. You have to trust me here. The question was completely in context — if you give context a wee bit of room to roam.

The late Jerry Clower — noted philosopher and Southern humorist — believed that biscuits (homemade) are a fundamental part of the glue that holds society together. As an aside, he also pointed out that the staggering rise in the number of divorces in this country directly coincided with the introduction of biscuits that came in cardboard tubes rather than being prepared from scratch.

I’ve had some experience here. My wife makes homemade biscuits. She’s done this since about forever. We’ve been married for more than 42 years now with no divorce in sight, so I’ve got to go with Jerry here.

Now, your heavy-hitter statisticians will probably “tut-tut” about things like the sample sizes being too small and there not being any correlation between the data (eating homemade biscuits) and the conclusion (divorce, lack thereof), but they probably eat biscuits from tubes and are most likely Yankees to boot.

So, a question from my (then) new editor regarding biscuits and gravy told me that she was a sensitive and culturally aware individual who might also be partial to hunting dogs, trout fishing, fine shotguns and other things of cosmic import.

My answer, of course, was that I did not eat biscuits with gravy. “Gravy,” as once explained by another eminent southerner, Lewis Grizzard, “is to be sopped (past tense of the verb ‘sop’ meaning ‘to sop’) up with bread at dinner.” Biscuits are to be eaten at breakfast with butter (real, thank you) and blackstrap molasses.

When I die, I think I’ll have a shot at getting into heaven on the basis of eating homemade biscuits as they’re supposed to be eaten — without gravy — and putting beans in chili as the Good Lord intended.

“Peter, he’s sure a sorry one.”

“You got that right, Lord. Long list of problems here. Sad’s what he is.”

“But he did stay to the straight and narrow with his breakfast biscuits and chili with beans.”

“Can’t argue that, but you’ve got to wonder how much of that was due to his wife.”

“Says something that he had the good sense to marry her. I’d say he gets in.”

So, I’m breathing easier. My daughter’s chili will have beans. Still, in the deep recesses of my mind, I’m wondering does she hard-fry bacon to sprinkle over her grits? Does she understand that Tabasco has a place on the Periodic Table?

I’m a worried father and these things are important.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to:

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