Now we're cooking or at least eating - Bob Paslay

I love food. When I am not eating it, I am thinking about it or talking about it. My friend and colleague Ruth Ann and I engaged in a brief conversation the other day, sparked by a press release about a company that is now marketing instant mashed potatoes with flecks of red potato skins in them to make it appear that mom slaved over a stove for you.

Eating is a specialized thing. I was sharing with Ruth Ann about my cousin who used to not eat anything if one vegetable or food on the plate touched an adjoining one. Don't ask me why. She offered that in her family some don't want any condiments or lettuce and tomato on their hamburgers and some eat all of one thing before tackling another.

I never analyzed my own eating habits. I do the traditional alternating of foods on the plate and I don't know of anything too odd that I do. I often will put something on grits to give them a little flavor. Growing up I had a neighbor-babysitter who put yellow mustard on them. Yuk, I said until I tried it once and it wasn't bad. At the Waffle House I will just douse them in some steak sauce. I would prefer a little steak gravy on them but you just can't find good steak gravy eating out much.

I eat out a lot since it is just me. I can cook although I tell people the only thing I could make was ice and then I lost the recipe for that and have to buy it at the convenience store now.

My cooking is confined to buying a large can of chili and then enhancing it with a panful of grilled onions or grilling some hamburger and onions and dumping the whole glop of stuff into the spaghetti sauce (Getting the message? I like onions).

In my family, we would sit around eating dinner (or for you Yankees, lunch) and would be talking about what we were going to eat that night for supper.

There is very little food I won't eat. But I have to eat certain foods in conjunction with each other. I can't eat barbecue without slaw...sorry just can't do it. And loaf bread is good with it too. I can't eat ham without potato salad. I can't eat turkey without dressing.

When I was in Europe for the first time about a year or so ago I looked around and thought everyone was left-handed like myself and then I realized they eat with their knife more than their fork and rake the food onto the fork with their knife. So the knife is the primary tool and they keep it in their eating hand. My grandmother, a school teacher and prim and proper Southern woman, taught me how to properly eat with a knife and fork, balancing the fork on the edge of the plate when it is not in use. Also, the cutting with one hand and then switching the knife to the other hand. And I am eternally grateful for teaching me these little niceties.

My mother was a country girl who said she was never allowed near the kitchen by her mother, who exiled the children to the cotton fields to labor getting in the crop. So she came to marriage with no cooking skills. She and my father would regale us children with stories of this burnt concoction and that almost uneatable experiment as they started out. We would be laughing almost in tears as they told the story, I am sure embellishing it a little along the way.

This reminds me of a joke I heard recently on radio by a comedian who was telling the same stories about enduring his wife's first cooking. He said she mad such a mess of a concoction that when she turned her back he raked it all under the table to the dog so he wouldn't hurt his wife's feelings. A few minutes later she looked across the kitchen and saw the dog licking his behind. “What's he doing?” she asked. The husband said, “He's probably trying to get the taste out of his mouth.”

Well, my mother came through her experimenting tremendously because she was one fine cook. She is no longer with us, but I will remember the anticipation of sitting down to one of her meals. In watching her I came to realize what people who watch cooking channels later learned, that cooking is an art and it is therapeutic and there is great joy in preparing a work of art and in watching that work of art devoured. I think that is why I don't cook much because I think it is probably more fun to cook with someone or with someone.

It is just as easy for me to order, eat, pay, tip and leave behind any leftovers, dirty dishes, etc.

This brings me to my open letter to the owner of Popeye's Chicken. Please fix the problem I am about to address to you. I walk into the Popeye's in Atlanta or in Clayton County and staring at me are beautiful pictures of chicken and sausage jumbalaya or etouffee. While I am in line I debating which one I want only to get to the cashier and be told they don't have either. I guess it comes in large plastic bag containers, probably frozen, and all they do is puncture the container, heat it up and then serve it. They say they can't get it. Well there is no shortage of either chicken or sausage so why can't we get some of this up this way. If you advertise it and get our juices flowing, then make sure you have it. My stomach asks, Mr. Popeye, not it does more than that, it demands that you fix this problem. Thank you.

Bob Paslay is editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com .