We Southern Baptists had an expression growing up which was: “You cannot be a deacon if your waist is less than 38 inches.”
The idea is that nobody can trust a skinny deacon who doesn’t understand the finer points of fried chicken, which is the basis for fundamentalist religion.
We also had a cute expression in our church that went: “If you dance at a wedding reception you will rot in hell.”
Ha ha! We Baptists sure were a fun group. This is why many of us still see therapists on a weekly basis.
But our deacons really did have large waists. One of my childhood deacons was a big man named Brother Willie. Willie sold insurance, hunted deer, and did not go to wedding receptions unless they had fried chicken. He was a chicken fanatic.
Willie was always first in line at potlucks. He would cut in front of everyone, including kids, elderly people, and brittle diabetics. Without the slightest shred of humor, he’d say, “Excuse me, ma’am, official chicken gizzard inspector.”
At first, most people thought he was joking. But you should have seen the way Deacon Willie ate gizzards. It was anything but comedy. It was more like a steamy romance.
But I’m getting off track here. Ever since my wife and I have been self-quarantining due to the COVID-19 outbreak, my wife has been cooking a lot. And I mean all day. There is not a moment when she is not flouring counters or warming the butter by placing the butter dish on the clothes dryer.
She’s been cooking so much that our walls are covered in a film of pure grease. If you trace your finger along our ceiling you’ll find a centimeter of peanut oil and atomized chicken sludge.
We have been eating tons of fried chicken. Not only because my wife and I were both raised Baptist, but because we have been stuck in the same house for 18 days. Within these last weeks, my wife has fried—and this is no exaggeration—23,934 chickens.
She has also cooked pork ribs, rump roast, ribeye steaks, pork loins, meatloaf, Virginia hams, hog shoulders, deep-fried backstraps, venison sausage, and whole roasted musk ox.
At first, all this decadence was wonderful. But now I’m noticing that my pants are tight. That’s the thing about quarantines. You don’t realize your pants are getting smaller because for these past 18 days you have not been wearing traditional pants. The pants you’ve been wearing are pajama pants, which all have elastic waists and cute little Teddy bears printed on the fabric.
Pajama pants are great, don’t get me wrong. When you’re wearing these little babies you’re in a happy place. You’re eating ham sandwiches, popping biscuits like aspirin, dancing around the house like you’re at your aunt Cheryl’s wedding reception. But then everything comes to a halt when you try on your trousers.
Today, for example, I tried on my jeans. I couldn’t get them buttoned without using a crowbar and a jar of Vaseline. So I called my wife in from the other room. “Help! I can’t get my pants buttoned!”
Here is exactly what happened: My wife came walking into the bedroom holding a spoon, saying, “Will you taste this pimento cheese, is it too oniony? I thought we could use something to snack on.”
So now you see why I’m gaining weight. But don’t feel sorry for be, because the thing is, I don’t want to go back to eating like we did before the quarantine. Back then we were eating boring things. Occasionally we even ate, if you can believe this, whole-grain cereal.
But now our lives are rich, well lubricated, and everyone is in a good mood because our diet is 90 percent bacon grease.
My wife descends from a long line of cooks who believe that all prepared dishes can benefit from dollops of bacon grease, including peanut butter sandwiches and tossed garden salads.
I am still not making this up when I tell you that my wife’s father used to home-make salad dressing with bacon grease. Even his barbecue sauce was loaded with bacon grease. When it sat at room temperature, the stuff turned into a red fudgy brick.
Hey, I’m no prude. I love grease, I love pimento cheese, I love biscuits. But something has to give, and I don’t mean the seams on my Levis, if you catch my drift.
Then again, I know that nothing is going to change in our household, at least not any time soon. Because while I write this, I can smell strong aromas coming from our kitchen.
My wife is baking a pound cake.
I don’t know why she’s doing this. Is she trying to kill me? I’ve told her time and again that there is no need for pound cake. She totally ignores me.
Just like she ignored me yesterday when I insisted there was no need for a hot apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream, melted caramel, crushed walnuts, toasted butter pecans, and a crumbled Heath bar. Neither was there a need to prepare banana pudding in a dish the size of a No. 9 washtub and leave it in the fridge.
But I guess there are some burdens in life that you have to bear. Maybe that’s what this quarantine has been teaching me all along; that the world is unpredictable, uncertain, and there’s nothing you can do to control it. So you might as well break out the pajama pants and practice being a deacon.
Now if you’d step aside, I need to check those gizzards.