Odds were slim you would have left Madge and Forrest’s home hungry. Especially when they hosted their annual Kentucky Derby party. These two are Kentucky-born and bred, after all. And you can bet they know how to feed a crowd.
Everything — I mean everything — was Derby-themed in Madge’s home this day. Horsey pillows and pictures greet guests as we arrived in big hats and other Derby-wear. On the sunporch, Forrest prepared mint juleps (with or without alcohol as guests prefer) garnished with fresh mint from their garden.
As we sipped our juleps, we were invited to “pick” our winning horse from (what else?) a jockey’s cap. This is horse racing at its finest.
When all the guests arrived, Forrest said grace and thanked God for friends and family and food. And I believed I would run a mile and a quarter through the mud for this prized meal.
Under a spray of red roses, Madge’s dining room table was saddled with Kentucky fried chicken, country ham and biscuits, Kentucky Burgoo (a stew mixture of chicken, pork and beef), a colorful parade of fruit and vegetable salads and the best yeast rolls I have ever eaten.
“I’ll give you the recipe,” Madge offers in her “it’s-no-big-deal-to-prepare-a-feast-like-this-single-handedly” voice” when I comment on her rolls.
Then comes dessert. Strawberry shortcake. Derby Pie (pecan and chocolate pie on steroids). Walnut pie. Chocolate cake. Cookies.
All homemade. All impeccably presented. And immensely enjoyed by her guests.
Nutritionally, one may wonder if all bets are off with such a meal. Yet as I savored every bite on my plate, I had an encouraging conversation with Madge and Forrest’s daughter, Nina.
This young lady suffers with a rare lung condition making breathing a struggle. She is unable to exercise and takes medications that thwart most efforts at weight control. Yet — on the advice of her doctor — this strong young woman has lost a significant amount of weight.
How did she bridle her appetite under such competition?
“I’ve done the diet thing before,” she told me. “Where you eat only watermelon or some such thing and finally just get tired of it. It doesn’t work.”
What worked this time? I asked.
“I realized,” she began, “with all my limitations, food was my comfort. And so now I really like spinach. I really like it! And I like the little muffins that mom makes. I have one each morning for breakfast. Just one. And once a week, I allow myself to have one slice … just one … of pizza. Knowing I can have some foods I really like makes me want to keep doing this.”
And so … what about today? I asked.
“My body hasn’t had food like this in a long time,” she said calmly. “And it really tastes good. But my stomach doesn’t want to eat as much as I once did. And I’m OK with that. I’ll go home tonight and say, ‘That was a nice meal.’ And I’ll just keep doing what I’ve done. Because I want to.”
When the race was over (my “pick” liked the view from behind), guests went out the gate with well-fed tummies, minds, and spirits … and a souvenir glass of the “139th running.” Thank you, Forrest and Madge. You truly are a winning combination.
(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org)