For me, looking back,  thinking abut my exquisite  and tragic past is one of the hardest things.  For those of you who don’t know me, here’s a brief retrospect.  My dad and brother died when I  was sixteen. My mom committed suicide ten years later. That left me and my oldest brother, Granger. He died a year and a half ago. So here I am, a zebra without a herd.

Since then,  God has given me the most extraordinary children, family, extended family, husband and friends.  I think he kind of owed me; but that’s between me and God.

This Thanksgiving is tough for some reason.There are lots of wonderful people in the house but I’m thinking about my Granger. I’m listening to Johnny Cash as I make corn bread stuffing and I’m wishing he would call me to talk about the NFL.

Granger thought of himself as a Poncho and Lefty kind of guy, maybe Folsom Prison Blues.  But for me Granger’s song is The Highwaymen. He was Chris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. He was a gift that lives forever, comes back and helps us, he is a part of the universe, the heavens and the earth.

Granger is everything for me right now and I would give ten years of my life for a few minutes with him. He was the beautiful, handsome bad boy, the heart breaker hero and I miss him so much because we were zebras from the same herd.

The family story goes like this. When I was born my brother Jack was 8 and Granger was 11. They brought me home from the hospital while the boys were playing catch in the  yard.  When my dad called them in they  weren’t interested in looking at me. Finally, my Grandmother, Bubba, offered them a quarter each to look at me. Jack said, “She’s pretty cute.” and Granger said, “She’s ok. Come on let’s go.”

Now when I think about Granger, who died 15 months ago, I realize, he is the mist a pilot whale exhales into the black night air,  the exhaust on the interstate and the fog hanging over the Everglades. Granger is a Hot Wheel streaking down an orange track on Christmas morning and , clean socks, and strong coffee.  He is a Cuban pork sandwich in a little shop in Islamorado, a blues riff floating up Beale Street and the perfect three pointer in a college basket ball game. Granger is a hail Mary pass as the crowd holds their breath, he is a cheerleader calling the Hogs at an Arkansas Razorback football game. He is the coral reef off  Key West. He is an elegant sentence in a trashy novel, a dancing old lady and a group of school kids saying the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Granger is all I breath and see and hear and miss. He is the stuff that keeps my heart beating when I don’t think I can take another breath. And I will love and miss him forever.

Granger was my brother. He was a foundation in my life since the day I was born. I can only imagine but never understand the pain and pride his daughters feel.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and a thousand times, I will give thanks for my brother Granger.

Love your family while you can.

This Thanksgiving, Pass The Gravy, It Might Be Good For You

Two nights ago I had a fight with my husband, who’s a chef, about gravy. Yeah, how stupid is that? I was mad because his home made, delicious truck stop gravy was full of calories and therefore obviously unhealthy.

Last night I fixed a frozen bag of spicy chicken oriental stuff for dinner. It was kind of low in calories  but was it healthier than his gravy? I don’t know. I looked at  bag and read the list chemicals, preservatives and flavors  added to my “healthy” Asian meal. There were more than fifty ingredients in one bag. I only recognized six. That’s gross.

“Alex,” I hollard across the house, “how many ingidents did you use to make your gravy?”

I could tell he thought I was trying to trap him so we could argue about gravy again. Finally he said, “Five counting the salt and pepper”.

So why does “soul food”, “comfort food”,  “Southern high truck stop fare” have such a bad reputation. I’m about to fix a big fat Southern Thanksgiving meal, in fact the turkey is already in the oven.  And I don’t think any dish has more than six ingredients. My beautiful mashed potatoes are simply made of potatoes, butter, milk and salt, no msg, to coloring no perservatives.  Are they high in calories? Probably, but at least I know exactly what’s in there and what it does to my body. The stuffing is kind of complicated but again, it’s all natural,  bread crumbs, chopped onion and celery, chicken stock and fresh herbs. Even my green beans and black eyed peas are Southern style awesome  and  idiot proof.  Fresh beans, bacon (I am from Arkansas and everything is better with bacon) onion and salt.

Just because a dish is “low calorie” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I think we loose sight of that sometimes. I’d rather have a few extra calories, natural flavors and textures than processed goop flowing through my veins.   I believe my body knows how to process butter, but I not sure it knows how to handle massive amounts of MSG and perservatives. 

I could go on but you get the idea. So, next time a friend from California or Connuticut gives me that  “you’re going to eat gravy made from meat drippings?” look.  I’m going to throw my shouldrs back and say “hell yes…and it’s all natural!”

I hope you have a happy and joyous Thanksgiving, love your babies, hug your momma and don’t nag your husband about the gravy.