As a kid, I remember my stomach growling in church.
The lady who sat in the pew in front of us wore a fur wrap that still had the fox head attached. One Sunday morning, as my stomach began growling during a verse of “How Great Thou Art,” Mrs. Fox Head raised a finger to her left ear to signal that my digestion was messing up her perfect pitch.
My mother, mortified, put an index finger to her lips, as if to say: “Son, please be quiet.”
“What should I do?” I replied, frantic to shush my gut. I even tried a self-administered Heimlich maneuver.
As the sermon droned on, my stomach yearned for lunch. I thought of the feast awaiting us at home: round steak with mushroom gravy simmering in a Crock Pot, cornmeal-battered okra ready for the deep fryer, home-grown tomatoes sliced and dusted with table salt, hand-snapped green beans prepared in a pressure cooker with bacon drippings and new-potato wedges, squash casserole topped with buttered Ritz cracker crumbs, cornbread baked in an iron skillet.
As they used to say on “Hee Haw” — Yum. Yum.
Food is the great divide between me and my sons, ages 9 and 4. If my boys had to subsist on old-time country cooking, they would starve. My guys wouldn’t eat a green bean if I put them under anesthesia and shot it down their throats with a blow gun.
My 9-year-old son once mused after ordering a fried chicken breast at a downtown restaurant: “How did they get that chicken on a bone like that, Daddy?”
My sons’ idea of a mouthwatering meal is chicken nuggets and yogurt washed down with grape Gatorade.
When I was a kid in the 1960s, we got one Popsicle a year for perfect school attendance. Now, my boys think they are being mistreated if they don’t get two or three a day.
My sons don’t eat meals; they eat appetizers to prime their taste buds for a dawn-to-dusk buffet of snacks: pretzels, frozen grapes, apple wedges, grated cheese, dry cereal, boiled eggs, saltine crackers, dried cranberries.
I have watched my 9-year-old son eat enough pretzel sticks in one sitting to build a log home. My 4-year-old son will gnaw the icing from a hunk of cake like a starving beaver.
They don’t eat horribly, but they do eat constantly. I would be worried if they weren’t both of no more than average weight.
Someone once asked me earnestly what we fed my older son, who has done well at cross-country running.
I evaded the question, muttering something like “nothing special.” His actual prerun meal was a cheeseburger and Skittles.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...