i think the way we eat -- then and now -- varies from region to region and depends a lot on ethnicity, tradition and culture. when i was a kid in south carolina's low country, my great-grandmother always kept a large vegetable garden in her expansive backyard, which was speckled with fruit trees and wild grapes. my great-grandfather, grandfather and uncles hunted and fished seasonally, so there was plenty of fresh seafood and game. my grandmother kept a garden, too. i remember green tomatoes ripening on the kitchen windowsill, her house surrounded with carefully tended plants, gorgeous roses and flowers that bloomed year-round. and rice. rice with almost every meal.
we weren't big on what usually passes as soul food. red rice and roasted oysters and venison were fixtures on our dinner table, not fried chicken with all the fixins. and junk food was hardly an issue.
it's not that we didn't hit the grocery store for what we needed but when you grow and hunt for most of what you consume, you really don't have to make it to the piggly wiggly every week. not surprisingly, growing your own food and hunting it down is physically hard work. you try killing a 5 point buck and carrying it around until you get home.
my great-grandmother wasn't the big momma type. she was lean and strong, and so was my grandmother. their husbands weren't overweight, either. that's not surprising because everybody had work that required hard manual labor. when that was done, they had two or three side jobs that wore them out. my grandfather and my great-grandfather worked in a steel mill for decades. my daddy had a day job and seven -- SEVEN -- union cards. (joe the plumber, in comparison, doesn't have one.) daddy never stopped working. when he left this world a few years ago at the age of 92, he was outside working on the house. there were fun times and happy moments but there was never any room for foolishness. the men and the boys in the family were way too busy being great outdoorsmen, or they were off doing man things like fixing cars. the women and the girls were keeping house: cooking, baking, cleaning, sewing, knitting. they had their children to discipline and instruct, their work that kept them running, their side jobs and whatever.
i don't know where some people get this black people are lazy stuff. the movies? stupid comedians? pop culture? step n. fetchit? people who don't know any black people?
so as it turns out, eating clean means
that i'm simply shifting gears and going back to my low country roots. i
had to do it a few times to break some bad habits and make it stick. thankfully, it is sticking. the thing is, there are moments in my life when a herculean amount of discipline is required to stay away from a bag of baked cheetos. my great-grandparents didn't have that problem.
this handy little infographic is an interesting snapshot of america's nutritional arc over time. the picture gets much more interesting when you get specific.