Monday, May 19

Aunt Gaddy

My Aunt Gaddy came to town the other weekend for a visit. Although she hails from Long Island, Gaddy has always affected a down home, common folk, rural persona. Family legend has it that as a teenager she had "spent time with" a touring country/western singer and from that point on it was all "Darn tootin'" and "Mercy me".

It happened that I was planning a small dinner party for some friends that Saturday night, and once she found out about it Gaddy insisted that she would prepare the meal. She fancies herself an excellent cook, especially when it comes to what she calls "real" food. If you spend some time discussing this with her you soon find out that anything that is not fried, salted, fatted or glazed is not "real".

Gaddy happily began pawing through the kitchen cabinets searching for ingredients.

"Where's the lard?" she asked.

"Lard?" I tried to disguise the panic in my voice. "For what?"

She didn't seem to hear me as her head was stuck deeply into the bowels of our pantry. "I need lard, pickling salt, blackstrap molasses and a deep fryer," her voice echoed ominously from inside.

"F-f-for what?" I repeated.

She pulled herself out of the pantry and looked at me with a self-satisfied smile. "Why, fried mayonnaise, of course!" she jubilated.

I tried to picture what I imagined - I admit unfairly - would be a glutenous, quivering mass. Then I thought about the effect this dish might have on my dinner guests, a group composed of vegetarians (lacto and ovo), vegans, pescatarians, macrobioticals, and one young man who refuses to reveal what he can't eat until he sees what you are serving.

I did my best to disguise my desperation. "Um I don't think we actually have any mayonnaise."

"Oh, mercy me, don't you worry about that," sympathized Gaddy.  "We can use Miracle Whip if that's all you have. It won't be quite as glutenous, but it will still quiver nicely."

"Look, Aunt Gaddy, I'm a little concerned that my friends might not have acquired the taste for fried mayonnaise."

She considered this. "I see. You know your cousin Harlen is the same way. He won't touch fried mayonnaise unless I put soured okra on top! Can you imaging?" She wrinkled her nose and thought for a moment. She stuck her head back in the panty. "Where is the soured okra?"

"No, no, no, no, no..." I was beginning to babble. "I think we'll need something else..."

A chuckle echoed from inside and her head reappeared. "Well, of course there will be something else! You can't just have fried mayonnaise for dinner."

Seeing a glimmer of hope I replied, "No. No you can't."

"Let's see? What goes with fried mayonnaise?" She said this as if there were a panoply of choices, each more delightful than the one before.

"Why don't I just order..."

"Catfish melt?" she pondered to herself. "Double stuffed gut rind?"

"Actually, Gaddy, I already promised my friends that I'd be serving Thai food."

"Thai? You mean like Thailand?"

"Yes. That's right. Thailand. You know, Asia."

"Oh, of course. Thai."

"Exactly. So I thought I'd just order from a restaurant..."

"Isaan, Central, or Southern?"


"Isaan, I think. How does Grilled Pork Neck sound?"

"It sounds disgusting..."

"Pickled blue crab," she mused, "with fermented fish sauce..." 

"Wait, Gaddy..."

"I know!  Grilled chicken livers with..."


"...tamarind dipping sauce...Why, what in tarnation is wrong, darlin'?"

I tried to compose myself. I gently put my hand on her shoulder and leaned into the pantry. "Sakes alive," I drawled, "where did I put that lard?"

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