Romancing the Palate

Renae Brabham


I'm a lifelong lover of Southern eating and cooking. My curious palate has obliged some doozies, but I draw the line at possum and coon. Oh, and that pot of pig tails and rice...uh-uh.  Alligator, rattlesnake, and turtle soup have been the extent of my adventure.


We eat pretty healthy during the week. But like everyone on those (more frequent) tired "What's for dinner?"  nights, we pick up the phone or grab that frozen entree and canister of tater salad from the Teeter. Sunday is my splurge. I go all-out bona fied country—fried chicken, mashed taters, gravies, casseroles, etc. 


But, as a whole, my food pyramid included pastas, mounds of fresh veggies, whole wheat, seeds, nuts, fruits, grains, proteins, chocolate, wine, and cheese. Not necessarily in that order. Until the brakes were put on. 


In a cruel twist of fate, I landed in the hospital this year with issues that relate to most of the above. I was in denial and had another bout with the same issue a few months later. Ok—time for an eval. Out of necessity, I took that long look in the mirror. Narnia it wasn't. Wow, I was tempted to ask the matron who faced me what she had done with my young self!  


Ok, time to put the flare jeans, big hoop earrings, and blue eye shadow away and address this new season of my life. Actually, I need to go deeper than that: I must take better care of the piping and bones. No more eating old Twinkies out of the glove box just because I read they were good for years.  


My malady could be much worse! I can't have healthy foods—whole grains, whole wheat, seeds, nuts, raw fruits and veggies, spicy foods, and leafy anything. So, I've become a label reader. It's a scary world, folks. I have seen things! Things people shouldn't see on their food packaging. There are some things you just don't want to know about that Oreo. 


As well as scary, label reading has become quite hilarious. I have laughed out loud in the aisles at enticing product adjectives that just roll off your tongue like a new word, except that they aren't.  
Gooey/creamy = Laden with trans fats.
Macerate = Just sounds like something "Thou shall" not do—ever!
Emulsion = Someone already ate of it. 
Infusion = Someone has taken the goodies out and left the stock. 
Anything ending with "ites" = Leftovers of the original size, reformatted. Like mini Reese's Cups. 


The health and beauty aisles are fun, too.
Infusion = Poured it in the bottle.
Hydra = Water.
Aqualliate = Added water. 
Velocitate = Totally made-up word meaning to add volume.
Aqua Aura = Your water has a soul.   


For poetic labeling, I head to the wine racks and cheese counter. Reading these labels is just about as good as your mama's romance novel. 
Wine—Austere, robust, bold bodied, deep, elegant, flesh, hard, mature, noble, supple, woody, tantalizing, earthy. And don't forget the music! Notes of this and that. Now, add Sommelier as the main character. Rolling tundra, seaside cliffs, or France as the scene—you get the picture. 
Cheese—Aged firm Gruyere. Or my personal favorite, Humboldt Fog Chevre—creamy, earthy, covered in ash reminiscent of early morning fog. Just blissful. 


All in all, it seems the shortest route between field and stream to table is the best. My haiku version of food labeling will have fewer ingredients and the ability to pronounce them. There is still romance in freshness as well. At the seafood market, the crab and the oysters will blow bubbles at me. Fish will call to me from a bed of ice with their shiny eyeball freshness, and a friend is bringing over yummy fresh venison this week.  


With Thanksgiving and Christmas looming, it may seem daunting to begin this romantic food journey. But I'm up for the challenge. Just as soon as I finish this box of chocolate-covered cherries.