Cravins’ of the Worst Kind

 

Biscuits and sawmill gravy…biscuits and sawmill gravy…biscuits and sawmill gravy.

BISCUITS AND SAWMILL GRAVY!

It’s four in the AM and I’m thinking about biscuits and sawmill gravy.  My nearly fifteen-year-old puppy dog can’t decide if she wants to go to the potty or not and is keeping me from going back to sleep.  Did I mention she’s blind and on a drug regimen too?  I’m thinking about drugs, but my drug thoughts involve food.  Might as well write about it, the chance of returning to dreamland is nil.

Someone posted a recipe about two weeks ago and accompanied it with a photo of biscuits ‘runnin’’ in the heavenly manna called sawmill gravy.  I have been craving this staple from my childhood every day since.

Big ole tall biscuits split and dripping butter in a puddle of creamy white gravy with bits of pork sausage and black pepper flakes doing the backstroke as if in an Olympic pool.  I could hear the plaque swelling in my veins and have been fighting the urge like a pregnant woman craving vanilla ice cream smothered in sardines at three AM in the morning.

I reckin’ there are worse urges, but it is not the healthiest dish in the world, and I’m concerned about health.  I’ve been having a lot of unhealthy urges, most of them involving pork, beef or chicken parts deep-fried or slow-cooked and if not smothered in gravy, running in fat…oh man, bacon fat.

I tend to run off the rails when it concerns my diet.  I don’t do anything by half measures.  I’m planning lunch and supper while I’m eating breakfast.  A day of excess turns into a month of penance and metaphorical self-flagellation.  Why eat a cup of ice cream when a half-gallon is available.

I can hear the half-gallon calling to me from the fridge, “Eattttt me, EATttttt me, EATTTT ME!”  The call starts with a soft, ethereal, childlike voice…and ends in a scream from a horror film.  It begins as a suggestion and ends with a demand.  A demand I will pay for in my head.

Food is my drug of choice.  I will have a liquor drink or a light amber pilsner beer on occasion, but Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniels doesn’t scream at me in a gruff, Tennessee accent from the liquor cabinet, “Y’ALL DRINKKKK ME!” 

“This little piggy” who should have gone to market is rooting around in my head instead.  Pulled pork BBQ, bacon, country-fried pork chops…yum!

I have waged a battle with my weight for the best part of six decades.  I was a picky eater until my tonsils and adenoids were removed in the late Fifties.  It was as if my taste buds suddenly activated.  Active taste buds and low willpower are a deadly mix when weight is involved.

Now the memory of my grandmother’s peanut butter cookies is calling to me.  “EATTTT ME!”  She died twenty years ago and took her cookie and biscuit recipe with her.  If not, I might be makin’ biscuits with a side of sawmill gravy and a dessert of peanut butter cookies at five AM this morning instead of writing this.

My grandmother is one of the reasons I’ve tried every fad weight loss regimen known to man with only short-term successes.  She had a bad habit of showing her love through food.   “Good boy, Donnie.  I love you, have a cookie…” or five.

Lost seventy pounds on the Atkins diet, tried and failed going vegan with the MacDougal Diet, counted fat grams, the beer diet…no not really.  I finally stumbled on to something that worked in the mid-2000s.  A heart attack.

Exercise with a low fat, taste at a minimum, plant-based diet to stay alive so I could meet my grandchildren.  Heavy doses of running and walking.  Meat and fried foods…once in a blue moon….  I’m sorry, I grew up Southern with food deep or pan-fried, highly seasoned by the spirits of my ancestors, “That’ll do honey chile.  Ease back on that salt but put in another dash of those Cajun seasonings.”

Because I tend to run off the rails, I worry about giving in to my urges.  Biscuits and sawmill gravy now, fried livermush and onions later, fried catfish filets with grilled cheese and onion grits forever…all covered in pan drippings that probably involve bacon.

I’m not sure grilled salmon on a bed of greens with a simple vinaigrette is going to satiate me.

A still, small voice calls to me, “Eattttt me, EATttttt me, EATTTT ME!”  Damn it!  I did.

***

Historical-  “The legend of biscuits and sawmill gravy is that, prior to the Civil War, the gravy was created in logging camps or sawmills to give lumberjacks extra energy for a long day of chopping down trees.”

“The dish started with cooking sausages in a pan and then making a roux by tossing flour and/or cornmeal into the pan and cooking to a light blonde color. Cooks deglazed the pan with milk and scraped off the sausage bits stuck to the pan, called fondly by the French, “fond”. If the gravy was served too thick and chunky, lumberjacks were said to accuse the cooks of adding sawdust to the recipe. The original recipe most likely consisted of only breakfast sausage, pan drippings, milk, and black pepper.”

From AmazingRibs.com, Classic Southern Biscuits And Gravy (Sawmill Gravy) Recipe By Meathead Goldwyn

THIRTEEN TURKEYS

Move it Boss! Move it. The calendar says this is the second day of Spring. Someone should have told the weather. Low thirties are bad enough but there is a biting wind out of the west. West? That means the wind will be in my face as I try to swim against it as I come home. Today I am faced with one of those mornings when my self-speak could keep me inside. Instead I will apply my ten-minute rule.

I have been up since four. I didn’t mean to be. Despite sleeping on my couch I was in a warm and happy place. No I had not been banned to the couch by an irate wife but because of my battle with sciatica. A battle that I seem to be losing or at best locked in a stalemate. I find it more restful to sleep on my couch…restful for Linda Gail who does not have to deal with my squirming to find a comfortable position as I chase sleep or getting up every hour and a half to walk off the pain. Last night was better than most I have experienced recently. I had only gotten up once and that was to relieve a bit of bladder pressure, also a step in the right direction. I was slowly awaking from a great dream and trying not only to stay asleep but trying to hang on to the threads of my dream. Why do the memories of good dreams flee so easily while the nightmares hold on with a death grip?

I am awaking because my puppy Maddie is sick. Battling a rare form of diabetes, she will never be cured but can be treated. Her sickness this morning has nothing to do with diabetes. Girl what in the world did you eat? Sick at both ends it is worse than I expected. Linda is up and trying to eliminate all signs…and smells of Maddie’s accident. How much grass can eleven year old puppy eat? If this sight is not bad enough, after turning on my TV I am reminded why I never watch the news first thing in the morning. Murders, fatal car wrecks, earthquakes, memorials and violent presidential rallies populate the newscast and we are only into the first five minutes. The wonderful and warm place of my earlier dream is long gone and has been replaced by a sorrow I feel deep in my bones that has nothing to do with my sciatica.

I eat breakfast and drink copious amounts of coffee. Linda has returned to her bedroom, Maddie and Tilly with her, they sleep on their backs, contorted but somehow comfortable on their dog beds. I turn off the TV and attempt to write. I do my best writing, if that is possible, in the early morning…but not today. I am reminded of a lyric from “Just Dropped In,” a song Kenny Rogers voiced as a member of The First Edition. “I pushed my soul in a deep dark hole and then I followed it in.” I didn’t want to follow mine in so I decided to apply my ten-minute rule. My exercise is as much for my head as it is for my body and no matter how cold or windy it was, it seemed to be a prescription to ease my pain…or some form of self-medication. After stretching I am off.

It takes me ten minutes to walk to the top of my hill. That’s my ten-minute rule. My path then leads me downhill and reasonably flat for another ten minutes. Yes, I am attempting to “whodo” myself into walking farther and today, like most days, it has worked. Ten minutes later I am faced with a dilemma, a fork in the road. Not the metaphorical fork in the road, a real one. Turn left and I am up a slight incline to the lake, continue straight and it is steeply uphill for about a half mile of screaming lungs, quads and calves before a knee pounding downhill back to the lake. I decide to metaphorically “self-flagellate” and walk the screamer. For once I am glad I did.

There is an escape route halfway up the hill. A left turn puts you on another downhill trek to the lake but much shorter. Above it, feeding in a patch of winter rye or maybe chickweed were thirteen turkeys, a dozen hens and a Tom. The hens seem to be oblivious to my approach but not old Tom. He spreads his wings in defiance and blows up in a stance reminiscent of “The Incredible Hulk” …except for his magnificent tail. What a beautiful spread. I raise my hands in surrender and turned left away from them so as to not interfere with their feeding and found my mood lifting much as a hot air balloon might find flight. I found myself thinking of yesterday and my red headed monkey with banana pudding spread all over her face when we gathered with our family to celebrate birthdays, a glimpse of Linda Gail escaping from the shower, my puppies climbing into my recliner with me, jockeying for position to have their ears stroked. Those are the best things in life along with thirteen turkeys minding their own business and a walker with no intention of hunting them. Sometimes it is best to go through life without suspecting something might be wrong or even turning on the news. Just so you know, Maddie seems to be fine to.

If you enjoyed this post Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

GROWING OLDER GRACELESSLY

Lying in bed I go through the same progression every morning. I wonder if I move, “Am I going to break?” I begin by wiggling, first one little toe, then the other and gradually work my way up. My goal is to get my feet on the ground and stand erect without making the same noises my father made when he was my age…I am now faced with the realization I have out lived my father by five years. That is a sobering thought. My second goal is to check the local obituaries and find that my name is not listed there.

While I am aware of my age, it has not been an issue until recently. For the past year I have battled an arthritic knee that keeps me from running and rocked a vertebra onto my sciatic nerve while splitting wood that, for a month, kept me from doing just about everything else. Bad enough but a conversation with a friend of mine really made me pause to consider the question of my age. Married, hers is a May-December romance. She is May and he is December…which is not true. She is more April and he is more, say, October. With his impending retirement she has suddenly become concerned about her husband’s age or rather what her husband’s age might have in store them both. Seeking enlightenment from me, I was not able to give it. My mind asked “Why is she asking me? I’m not old?” My body answered “You’re three years older than her husband.” Gee, where is my cane?

Today I got to do my “Medicare Wellness Profile.” It included an eye test, whisper test, walking test and questionnaire with such thought provoking questions as “Can you bathe and wash yourself without help?” Yes, and I can wipe my butt to. All went with the normal check of BP, ability to process oxygen and EKG. “You want me to get out of a chair, walk six feet return and sit down again?” Oh me! The nurse in charge said I passed with flying colors until you consider I am being compared to “really old people,” something the old bat pointed out. Funny, I think like a young person but I guess the mirror doesn’t lie. Why couldn’t I have at least had Sam Elliott’s hair?

Forty years ago during the first jogging craze, I began a haphazard exercise regimen. Haphazard in that I would allow anything to get in the way in order to avoid it. Finally getting my mind right in the Early-Nineties, I got into the habit of exercise…until a side lunge put me in the hospital to have cartilage removed. No more lunges of any type. Later a miss step on the baseball field would require the other knee to be scoped for the same reason and in 1999 I had the second of two operations on an arthritic big toe. I found myself out of the habit of exercise and into any habit that involved sitting on a couch and consuming mass quantities of fried foods and beer. Forty pounds later I could not deny what the mirror was showing me. Two hundred and thirty-two pounds on my five foot nine frame could no longer be hidden. I was sloppy fat. On April 8, 2006 I made the decision that I had to make radical life style changes. My realization would be further emphasized the next day.

In a month I will celebrate another birthday and a ten-year anniversary. “Happy birthday to you…How old are you? F@#$ YOU and your horse!” Family had gathered to celebrate my birthday on April 9. Always irreverent, my brother presented me with a birthday card featuring a grim reaper reflected in a car’s rear view mirror and the warning “Objects may be closer than they appear.” Five hours later I found myself hooked up to a gazillion monitors after having just survived a heart attack and having had a catheter and stint surfed into a clogged artery. One month later the original stint would be joined by three more in three different arteries. I was six months away from a loss of seventy pounds and running a 5-K. Yes, it was a radical life style change. My brother was so broken up about the card he had given me, I got it again the next year. It is now framed as a constant reminder of what I am trying to outrun or out walk at least.

For ten years now I have drug myself out of bed and done something. Now at least I wait until the sun is up. At any age, walking, running, cycling, stretching and strength training, I guess it’s all about movement. Moving your ass out of bed and onto something more productive. If I happen to live to be ninety-five I want to be mobile and not in bed…wait. Bed? I just thought of a great way to die…traumatic as it might be for the other individual…or group. I would have to stay in good shape to do it. I believe I will get out of bed in the morning and do what I have been doing for the last ten years.

Move that butt Lard-O! Time’s a wasting!

For great #nonfiction try Don Miller at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM