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RONDA RICH: A Southern conversion

THE DIXIE DIVA: Low-fat buttermilk has no place in a Southern home

Ronda Rich

Ronda Rich

When business called Tink back to Los Angeles, he decided to take the opportunity to have his annual check-up. When it ended, he called home.

“My doctor said for me to back off from the fried food and to watch the buttermilk,” he said cheerfully.

I blinked. I couldn’t even comprehend what he was saying. It took a second before I could respond.

“What are you talking about?”

Proudly, he continued. “She said I needed to be careful. Especially with the buttermilk.”

Finally, it hit me. My husband was bragging that he had become a full-fledged Southerner and was eating like us. This is not the complete truth. Yes, at Louise’s Sunday dinner table, he does have fried food. And, sometimes he has it at home. But when we are eating out, he will always eat the California way: Grilled, broiled, tasteless. He has never had gravy over a biscuit or grits slow cooked with cream and butter. He always says, “No thanks.”

“John Tinker, you did not tell her that you’re eating like that, did you? You’ve never even tasted buttermilk!”

Now, the way I look at it is that we shouldn’t be making a mockery out of the foods sacred to the South. Especially my beloved buttermilk.

“Yes, I have,” he replied evenly. “I’ve tasted it. And she said that you need to switch to low-fat buttermilk. You should be careful about your cholesterol.”

Oh, now it was time for war. “You keep my cholesterol out of your annual check-up. I have perfect cholesterol, for your information. It is the envy of every doctor who tests it.”

This is true. I always get smiley faces and happy exclamation marks on my blood work when doctors read my cholesterol numbers. My “good” cholesterol is particularly admirable, probably owing to the amount of aerobic exercise I do weekly. Like my mama, though, I never met a fried food I wouldn’t eat.

But I think there’s something to the scientific theory that the bodies of a species will adapt to their environment. In the mountains, my ancestors were forced to subsist on meat, dairy and lard-smothered vegetables, fresh grown though they were. Our genetics, apparently, adapted because high cholesterol is not a medical problem in our family. On the other hand, tofu and soy milk causes us all kinds of digestive problems.

Tink continued on, completely disregarding my to-be-envied-at-all-costs cholesterol dominance. “So, you need to start buying low-fat buttermilk.”

“There will be no low fat buttermilk in this house,” I retorted indignantly. Uncharacteristically, I failed to remind him that it was I who had insisted that he go from whole milk to 2 percent. To be honest, the reason for that is that milk with less fat doesn’t spoil as quickly. I am more frugal with money that I am with calories or fat.

After I hung up the phone, I started laughing. After all, how funny is it that he went to the doctor and actually bragged that he was eating greasy, fat-laden food? That he wasn’t even eating? Most people go for a check-up and lie about eating that stuff. Yet, my husband, eager to be a full-fledged Southerner, went all the way to the land of sushi and sunshine and claimed a false diet. How funny is that?

Incidentally, if I were going to make that false claim, I would choose a Southern doctor over a health-fussy California physician. And, I would choose a fat doctor. Not one who trains for triathlons.

I have a doctor friend who is extremely overweight and he claims that most of his patients choose him because he’s fat and, therefore, less likely to fuss at them for their diets.

Anyway, back to my husband. He’s coming home soon and we’re going to have a dinner celebration: fried chicken, fried okra, fried potatoes and fresh churned buttermilk.

He’s gonna love it.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.