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Southern Food Frustrates Health Officials


rjwong
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Here's the link to the article: Southern Food Frustrates Health Officials / by DANIEL YEE, Associated Press Writer

February 13, 2005, 9:47 PM EST

DECATUR, Ga. -- Amid a national obesity epidemic and the South's infamous distinction as the "Stroke Belt," health officials have been trying to get diners to flinch, at least a little, at the region's trademark fried and fatty foods.

But nutritionists have found it's hard to teach an old region new tricks. How can Southerners give up delicious staples fried chicken, fried seafood, fried green tomatoes and cornbread slathered in butter? ....

Oh boy, where do I start? :unsure:

One must admit that most Southern food are prepared fried, even the vegetables. The article later describes two artery-clogging items, "The Hamdog" and the "Luther Burger":

The dish, a specialty of Mulligan's, a suburban bar, is a hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions and served on a hoagie bun. Oh yeah, it's also topped with a fried egg and two fistfuls of fries.

....

the "Luther Burger," a bacon-cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun, ....

In Atlanta, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is leading the way with their anti-obesity campaign. Ironically, their cafeteria serves such things as biscuits and gravy.

MIND YOU, Southern food tastes so good!!! :wub: When I was in Chapel Hill for two years doing graduate studies, I enjoyed eating fried chicken, fried okra, pig pickin's, hush puppies, Virginia ham with red eye gravy, .... Not all the time, just once in a while, somewhat regularly ... :wink:

With its long history of flavorful and fried favorites, will Southern food be changed by the efforts of CDC et al.? Should Southern food be changed?

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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One must admit that most Southern food are prepared fried, even the vegetables. The article later describes two artery-clogging items, "The Hamdog" and the "Luther Burger":
The dish, a specialty of Mulligan's, a suburban bar, is a hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions and served on a hoagie bun. Oh yeah, it's also topped with a fried egg and two fistfuls of fries.

.... the "Luther Burger," a bacon-cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun, ....

I thought that Hamdog looked suspiciously familiar ... :hmmm::laugh:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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One must admit that most Southern food are prepared fried, even the vegetables.

Why must one admit something that is not a fact? That's like starting out with a statement like, "One must admit that all Frech food contains stunning amounts of butter", "all italian food has pounds of garlic in it and always involves pasta", or one like, "All food in Britain is bland and tasteless mush".

Perhaps a more accurate statement might be, "One must admit that the general perception by those not acclimated to the diverse offerings of the Southern U.S. is that all food is fried-even the vegetables. These people have never spent any time with Southern cookbooks, or in Southern households, and have no clue what the daily fare of the average Southerner who cooks at home is. These people have no idea that the giant array of vegetables available, for large part, year round in many Southern Farmers Markets are not taken home and floured and thrown into a big boiling vat of lard (not that it is a bad idea, just that it is not an everyday thing), but many of them are lightly stewed, steamed, baked, etc. While frying is certainly an option, and when done well it is a tasty one, the Southern United States is also the center of the BBQ world, where meats are slow cooked over various kinds of heat sources to tasty, and many times, healthy results."

I would say that this is a more accurate statement and I will be glad to admit to that. Sure we fry alot of stuff, and in fact, what most tourists seek out are fried offerings, as that is what they expect and they can't find these sorts of food done well back home. But to say that all Southern food, even most, is fried-is not true. At all.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Southerners eat a lot of fabulous GREENS! Okay, maybe they're cooked with a bit of salt pork or bacon, but i mean, eating lots o' greens got to account for something in the health sweepstakes.

i think it is the whole modern fast food thing that is to blame. surely there must be some health giving properties to gumbo, and grits? surely? and jamalaya?

well, at least there is awhole lotta greens, and my god are they good!

marlena

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Southerners do not have exclusive rights to "bad for you" cuisine. Think Philly cheese steaks, New England clam chowder, Chicago's deep dish pizza, Wisconsin's fried cheese curds, etc. And while Krispy Kreme hails from North Carolina, the deep fried Twinkie was created in Scotland!

Of the top ten in the top 25 fattest cities in the US, 50% were NOT southern cities -Detroit, Philly, Chicago, NYC, Las Vegas.

And you're right, Mayhaw Man, not all southerners fry everything. But I believe we should all be allowed to indulge ever now and then.

Regardless of age, Lang doesn't recommend the Hamdog, even as a one-time snack.

As my mom says, what's the point of living a long lfe if you're miserable!

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One must admit that most Southern food are prepared fried, even the vegetables.

Why must one admit something that is not a fact? That's like starting out with a statement like, "One must admit that all Frech food contains stunning amounts of butter", "all italian food has pounds of garlic in it and always involves pasta", or one like, "All food in Britain is bland and tasteless mush".

Perhaps a more accurate statement might be, "One must admit that the general perception by those not acclimated to the diverse offerings of the Southern U.S. is that all food is fried-even the vegetables. These people have never spent any time with Southern cookbooks, or in Southern households, and have no clue what the daily fare of the average Southerner who cooks at home is. These people have no idea that the giant array of vegetables available, for large part, year round in many Southern Farmers Markets are not taken home and floured and thrown into a big boiling vat of lard (not that it is a bad idea, just that it is not an everyday thing), but many of them are lightly stewed, steamed, baked, etc. While frying is certainly an option, and when done well it is a tasty one, the Southern United States is also the center of the BBQ world, where meats are slow cooked over various kinds of heat sources to tasty, and many times, healthy results."

I would say that this is a more accurate statement and I will be glad to admit to that. Sure we fry alot of stuff, and in fact, what most tourists seek out are fried offerings, as that is what they expect and they can't find these sorts of food done well back home. But to say that all Southern food, even most, is fried-is not true. At all.

Amen, brother.

Fried food is the exception in the South (even considering all the different parts of the south), not the rule.

But you left out two of the most common preps for vegetables: raw, right from the garden to the table, and pickled (particularly important during the winter).

It's the modern day departure from the traditional diet that's the problem.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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DECATUR, Ga. -- Amid a national obesity epidemic and the South's infamous distinction as the "Stroke Belt," health officials have been trying to get diners to flinch, at least a little, at the region's trademark fried and fatty foods.

http://www.aclu.org/pizza/images/screen.swf

* AB drinks one of those "Guiness Pub Draught" beers, with the nitrogen cannister in the bottom of the can.

* AB wonders what Budweiser would taste like with one of those...

<AB> . o O (Like shit, still, I should think.)

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One must admit that most Southern food are prepared fried, even the vegetables.

Why must one admit something that is not a fact? That's like starting out with a statement like, "One must admit that all Frech food contains stunning amounts of butter", "all italian food has pounds of garlic in it and always involves pasta", or one like, "All food in Britain is bland and tasteless mush".

Perhaps a more accurate statement might be, "One must admit that the general perception by those not acclimated to the diverse offerings of the Southern U.S. is that all food is fried-even the vegetables. These people have never spent any time with Southern cookbooks, or in Southern households, and have no clue what the daily fare of the average Southerner who cooks at home is. These people have no idea that the giant array of vegetables available, for large part, year round in many Southern Farmers Markets are not taken home and floured and thrown into a big boiling vat of lard (not that it is a bad idea, just that it is not an everyday thing), but many of them are lightly stewed, steamed, baked, etc. While frying is certainly an option, and when done well it is a tasty one, the Southern United States is also the center of the BBQ world, where meats are slow cooked over various kinds of heat sources to tasty, and many times, healthy results."

I would say that this is a more accurate statement and I will be glad to admit to that. Sure we fry alot of stuff, and in fact, what most tourists seek out are fried offerings, as that is what they expect and they can't find these sorts of food done well back home. But to say that all Southern food, even most, is fried-is not true. At all.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

Mayhaw Man, I sit corrected. Yesterday afternoon, I was overloaded with pies & potato chips at a tasting event. So I wasn't thinking correctly. Besides, I was surprised that Gifted Gourmet didn't start this thread first. Nevertheless, I shouldn't have assumed that everything I was reading in that AP news article was 100% true.

Please enlighten me (and perhaps others). Do you think that this article has a certain "let's pick on the Southerners" tone to it?

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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I watched Nigella Bites (and she does!) for the first time a few weeks ago, and the theme was TRASH BITES. Every single food item was from the Southern U.S. I was appalled. One dish was Elvis' Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, which I've never tasted. The rest is a blur, except the watermelon daiquiri, which, again, I've never tasted -- but I had to admit the daiquiri was tempting. :rolleyes:

It would seem if she wanted to do a junk food program she would include "trash" food from all food regions, not just ours. It really ticked me off.

Rhonda

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Do you think that this article has a certain "let's pick on the Southerners" tone to it?

Sure it does. But no big deal in that regard.

The issue to me is a bit more deep than that. Everyone, even writers from here, to some degree anyway, tend to talk about "fried food" as it is some kind of local invention. The thing is, we do it well and we do it probably with more frequency than in many cuisines, but it is hardly the most common cooking method. Pick up any of the much discussed "church cookbooks" or "Jr League books" that you see often discussed in these forums and the variety, non fried, is pretty astounding. No offense to the good folks in other parts of the country but it is a safe generalization to say that the average church cookbook from St Francisville, LA is about 50 times more interesting and diverse than one from the same group of church ladies in Dubuque, IA. It's just a fact.

And when you peruse those books, take a look at the in meat sections first-while you will almost always find the usual "Gramma's Best in the World Fried Chicken", and along the gulf coast, all kinds of fried seafood recipes, the rest of the offerings will be broad and not fried. We just do it better than everybody else, so we get the recognition. The vegetable section might include fried okra or eggplant or something like that, but generally there will be many, many more recipes that are stewed, boiled, sauteed, steamed, or casserolled (new adverb, you heard it here first :wink: ).

It's all about stereotyping. That's what I take issue with. While I can always go find a brogan wearing rural type without a whole bunch of trouble, I can also find 10 times more sophisticated home cooks here that I can find in the same demographic in any other part of the country. We have cooks here, even if they don't recognize themselves as such, who have a much broader range of culinary expertise than their counterparts in other parts of North America. Much of it has to do with the food that is, or heretofore was, available in the South year round. Thanks to modern transportation and shipping techniques much of this is just as available in Minneapolis as it is in Mobile, it's the end result that counts and the average skilled home cook in the South can deliver.

Am I talking about fast food? Nope. We have the same offerings as everyone else, by and large, although I remind you that for every Krispy Kreme and Kentucky Fried Chicken started in the South there are two or three chains that started elsewhere-McDonald's, In and Out, Jack in the Box, etc. We do not have the corner on food that is bad for you, and that is where this whole argument gets to be kind of stupid.

Part of the argument is that many of these foods have only become unhealthy through the change in the labor force here and the change in the household incomes in the Deep South. We burn less calories as the daily labor level has moved into the late 20th and early 21st century-primarily because farm related labor and factory labor has gone by the wayside, much as it has elsewhere in the US-we can't burn off the calories the way we used to. The second part is that, with families working two incomes and having more money but less time, there is alot more fast food consumed here-just like everywhere else. Fried chicken, for example, used to be an expensive meal in the relatively poor and agrarian South and was eaten on Sundays and special occasions. Now it is available all the time, cheap, and as it is good and in fact, (stereotype or not) a prefferred food here-we eat lots of it. Popeye can whip Old McDonald's ass any day of the week, in my book.

You know, some of the largest Urban areas in the US are now located in the South. We are no longer toothless rednecks behind a plow. We are urban and, sadly in my mind, but whaddya do, and much more like the rest of the US than we were 25 years ago and certainly more than 50 years ago. It's just that the writers from other parts of the country come here-see what they want to see-and them go home and write about it.

So yeah, it is unfair, but not entirely innacurate, to say that we eat more fried food than everybody else. On the other hand, it is wholly inaccurate to say that fried food is all that we eat.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Speaking as a Southern cook and a working mother, I can say that I rarely make fried foods at home. It is too time consuming and tedious for every-day type cooking.

We have a catfish fry twice a year, and I probably can be coaxed into frying chicken a few times a year. Biscuits and gravy are reserved for time-off and vacation, or really cold weather. Add chicken-fried venison backstrap a few times a year, and that is about the extent of any deep frying that goes on in my home.

It is easy to make sweeping generalizations and stereotypes about the South or Texas or any other place. We just seem to be the favored target of the moment.

I would bet that the average diet in rural Wisconsin is just as bad or worse as that of deep Alabama. Have you seen those butter burgers?

Edited by Lone Star (log)

If you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen - Calpurnia

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The incidence of gestational diabetes-an obesity related disease- is the same in California as it is in Louisiana. Ditto for Virginia, North Carolina and New York. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/maps/map1.htm

True Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have the nations highest incidence of diabetes. But most southerners believe that Florida south of the panhandle isn't really the south anyway. :wink:

This map shows obesity occurence nationwide:

http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/maps/index.htm

Again, AL and MS are the big losers, but so is Indiana.

This article must have been written on a slow day by a reporter who wouldn't know fried okra if it hit him in the face. I don't have time for simplistic, stereotypical arguments.

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I do think that the inconsistency in the CDC cafeteria offerings vs. their position on healthful eating is interesting. One might expect them to be the shining example of healthy, diverse, seasonal institutional food.

As a native Atlantan (and resident of Texas, who has never lived outside the South) I can attest to the fact that when I think of "Southern food," I don't necessarily think of what was actually on my plate growing up... I think of what my parents talked about being on their plate... the fried foods, buttery biscuits, gravy-smothered everything... those were rare, anticipated, relished occasions... not everyday eating (not everyday eating for them growing up, either, it's just what they talked about and craved when they wanted "Southern cookin'"). At least not 25 years ago. So I think that the reputation for what Southern food is all about has some merit, and it's certainly propogated by a lot of Southern FN chefs with national attention... Paula Deen, Emeril, etc. But the reputation and the reality of everyday eating are far apart from one another.

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I live in the south (north Florida) - and I think you have to be a little brain dead not to recognize that there is a huge problem with obesity in the south - and an especially huge problem with obesity in the African American population in the south (especially women). It is probably a combination of things - bad food - bad eating habits (too much food) - and bad exercise habits (i.e., no exercise). But it is a problem. And just because there are some other areas of the US (or the world) that have equally bad problems doesn't make our problems go away - especially for those 200 pound 6th graders with adult onset diabetes. Robyn

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Southerners eat a lot of fabulous GREENS! Okay, maybe they're cooked with a bit of salt pork or bacon, but i mean, eating lots o' greens got to account for something in the health sweepstakes.

i think it is the whole modern fast food thing that is to blame. surely there must be some health giving properties to gumbo, and grits? surely? and jamalaya?

well, at least there is awhole lotta greens, and my god are they good!

marlena

Most southerners don't eat greens - except perhaps for New Year's - or as a side in addition to the mac and cheese and the veggie/cheese souffle of the day. Grits are for breakfast. Want some ideas about what you see on lunch platters at traditional places? How about chicken fried steak? Fried chicken? Ribs with fat dripping off them? The fish or seafood (if there is any) is almost always fried. And the vegetables southerners eat a lot (or the sides - like mac and cheese - or fries - which are normal sides on a meat and 3) are usually loaded with fat and salt (just the thing so someone who's 40 pounds overweight can retain 5 extra pounds of water).

I live here - and I have to tell you that if I ate average restaurant meals at average restaurants even a few times a week - I'd be fat as a pig. Quite frankly - I look at most southern cuisine that's served in restaurants these days as an occasional treat - not as a steady diet. And I'm not only talking low/medium kind of places. I'm talking high end too. There is so much salt in the average meal in New Orleans that when I go there - I wake up in the middle of the night with a parched throat (not to mention that I wind up weighing 2-3 pounds more in the morning due to fluid retention due to excessive salt intake - i.e., Chinese restaurant syndrome). By the way - I'm not an extraordinarily fussy eater - nor am I thin. I just never want to turn into a "doublewide" with high blood pressure and diabetes. Robyn

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At least the nice thing about sodium is that it is a very temporary issue. Just drink lots of water within the next couple days and it is all flushed away.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Most southerners don't eat greens - except perhaps for New Year's - or as a side in addition to the mac and cheese and the veggie/cheese souffle of the day. 

But many do. I bring my lunch most days, but when I don't I can get greens from the cafeteria virtually every day. Greens and cornbread, and maybe some black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes... There are weeks when I eat greens every day, and I'm not the only one (though it's nice to think that the cafeteria prepares greens every day just for me :smile: ).

Can you pee in the ocean?

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That article was absolutely ridiculous. Just goes to show that you can't believe everything you read.

I think it's entirely too simplistic and naive to solely blame the health problems of Southerners on their diet of "fried foods." Mayhaw Man goes in the right direction, as do others when they point out that Southerners don't get as much exercise as they did in the past.

I grew up in the South on a farm, as did my grandparents and mother. Almost every morning for breakfast I enjoyed biscuits, gravy and homemade jams, sausage and bacon, and depending on the time of the year, wonderful tomatoes. My mother would send me out to the garden about five minutes before she put the breakfast on the table. That was just for breakfast. We then went out and worked our butts off, literally.

None of us have ever been, nor are we presently, overweight - and we love our fried chicken (and we eat it more than twice a year). Granted, we're still active (at least my mother - my grandparents have long since passed and I suppose that makes them pretty inactive). We don't sit in a car for an hour going to one place and then sit in our car for another hour as we inhale some awful-tasting and vapid burger from the local Mickey D's. We never ate fast-food.

Robyn is absolutely right that obesity is a huge problem in the South. I no longer live there, but everytime I return I'm quite shocked by the number of overweight people, including children. It makes me sick actually. But I'm just as shocked by the number of obese people in every region of the United States that I visit, not just my native South. I also find the number of fast-food joints in the United States sickening.

Hazardnc points out that the South doesn't monopolize foods that are bad for you. And regarding fried food in particular, I believe that most national or regional cuisines in the world have their own specialties, just as the South. I'm sure that they enjoy their stuff as much as we.

And why is it so wrong to serve biscuits and gravy at the cafeteria of the CDC?

My point is that personal health comes down to personal responsibility. We all make choices every day and every one of those choices has an effect, good and bad.

In the meantime, I wish everyone would just cool it with the Southern-food bashing. Any food that is made with love is good for you. The last time I checked, my mother was smiling when she was frying some catfish and hush puppies. I highly doubt that the Hardee's employee of the month really cares that much about his or her biscuits.

And yes, it might just be picking on the South, but that's nothing new of course.

"Champagne was served. Emma shivered from head to toe as she felt the iced wine in her mouth. She had never seen pomegranates nor tasted pineapples..." - Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

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No offense to the good folks in other parts of the country but it is a safe generalization to say that the average church cookbook from St Francisville, LA is about 50 times more interesting and diverse than one from the same group of church ladies in Dubuque, IA. It's just a fact.

It's all about stereotyping. That's what I take issue with.

Well, if you take issue with stereotyping, then you really can't say that the Iowa cookbook is less interesting and diverse than the Louisiana cookbook. I grew up in the North (North Dakota), and live in the upper South (formerly Missouri and now West Virginia). Every region has its own food culture, although I believe, sadly, that we are losing those identities to Generican restaurants and the fact that many Gen X'ers didn't learn those regional dishes from their parents and grandparents.

My hometown Lutheran cookbook has unique German and Scandinavian dishes that may not be as spicy as dishes in the Louisiana cookbook, but does thak make them less interesting? Even that staid ol' Lutheran cookbook has Asian and Tex-Mex recipes in it. Less diverse?

OK, vent over, back on topic.

I don't think much, if any, of the obesity epidemic has to do with Southern fried food (which I agree is not the mainstay of most Southern diets). I think the lack of exercise that comes with urbanization and XBox, combined with highly processed foods full of high glycemic index high fructose corn syrup and trans-fats, are the major culprits. We exercise less and eat worse. I think the South may have been on the leading edge of the obesity epidemic, but that has more to do with socio-economic status than regional food differences.

Edited by Darcie B (log)
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  • 6 months later...

With regrets I inform you all that the obesity rate in this country has reached an all-time high at 25%. I just read an AP report yesterday.

I'm incredulous. :blink: I wrote several months ago that I didn't think it possible for the people in this country to get any fatter. I stand corrected.

And by the way - every state in the "Top Five Most Obese" (whew-what a title to earn!!!), is in my beloved South. My native Tennessee was in fifth place. What a comeuppance after my original post on this thread. :sad:

"Champagne was served. Emma shivered from head to toe as she felt the iced wine in her mouth. She had never seen pomegranates nor tasted pineapples..." - Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

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. . . or is it that there are more people being considered as "fat"?

I was just about to ask that. Didn't "they" change the rules sometime or another that would classify some atheletes as "obese?"

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I think a part of that obesity problem stems not from what is eaten, but how much is eaten. And people get upset if their plates are not overloaded when they go out. I do not remember eating that much when I was growing up as a child. And we had 3 meals together as a family. The large portions are totally out of hand to me. And I grew up in Northwest Florida, the old South region, as opposed to the South of Florida, the new South region.

And I have seen this huge portions outside of the South in my travels. That is one reason I enjoy dining when we can order a chef's tasting menu. The portion sizes are enjoyable without being piggish. When the meal is over, most often I feel satisfied, not bloated.

Overweight is not a problem just to the South, it has footholds everywhere.

When we were growing up, we had a lot of meals that were not fried or greasy. My mom made sure we ate lots of greens and other vegetables with a pot of pinto or navy beans as the main course, often served with a side of rice. Meats at everymeal was not a part of our regular diet. Breakfasts were also rotated, many times we had oatmeal or cream of wheat instead of bacon, eggs and grits. Biscuits were a treat, not an everyday thing. School lunches were a balanced meat, veg and starch with small portions. They were not the tastiest things, but they were filling and balanced and small portions.

enough, i am rambling.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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