This is my grandmother's cookbook - the classic of southern cooking, Mrs. Dull's.
Holding it brings back my grandmother's voice, her dusty apron, the green beans and potatoes simmered on the stove while corn pone toasted in the oven. The food she made was always wonderful, and every meal was finished off with a treat - lemon cookies, ice cream, coconut cake, divinity fudge, pound cake, pecan pie, and every kind of cookie you could imagine.
As long as I could remember, the women in my family made treats and goodies - cookies, candy, date bread, muffins, pound cakes, and pies. I assumed these were the essential elements of family care. This is the cooking tradition that I grew up with and I even had an updated version of Mrs. Dull's cookbook.
True to my lineage, my kitchen was well stocked with flour and sugar. These two ingredients formed the backbone of all of these recipes, two kinds of white powder that seemed to always go together - Flugar.
As a young mother in the 1990's, I kept a canister of homemade chocolate chip cookies on the counter. For breakfast, I make pancakes and biscuits from scratch. My bread machine cranked out little golden loaves for dinner. There was always banana bread or muffins or pound cake or a new cookie recipe.
I used a lot of flugar.
My family was happy with the situation, but we weren't healthy. We all had terrible teeth. Mine were painfully sensitive and full of root canals and fillings. The kids were always at the dentist or orthodontist and my husband developed gum disease. I was getting fat. And my joints hurt.
Then, about 7 years ago, I started reading about gluten and sugar. Out of curiosity, I decided to lay off the flugar
I had never indulged much in goodies, but now I was avoiding flour, too. My friends and family thought I was crazy. I got lots of exasperated looks.
But things started changing. I started losing weight. My joints felt better. But the best part was when I went to the dentist and there was nothing wrong - the first time in years.
So I kept it up. Every six months, the dentist would sadly inform me that my teeth were fine. It's been seven years since I stopped eating flugar. Seven years without a single cavity. The sensitivity is gone, too - cleanings used to be so painful that I needed novacaine.
Oddly, neither my dentist or hygienist showed the slightest curiosity about what had changed. But oddest of all is that my lifestyle is looked upon as completely bizarre. I do my best to keep my habit private, but when someone finds out they are often horrified.
They can sort of understand gluten intolerance, but sugar? It's as if I decided to give up tv or toothpaste (oops - I gave those up too....). Flugar seems to be the main ingredient in all our food.
When I recently attended a Wild Foods Weekend in West Virginia, there was a fascinating presentation on the history of food among the early settlers in the area. Over and over again, there were references to the disturbing lack of bread. Even with all the other foods available, the settlers felt a compulsion to grow wheat so that they could have bread. And growing wheat in that part of the country must have been a challenge.
How much easier their lives would have been had they harvested the abundant wild foods that we enjoyed that weekend - nuts, berries, fruit, acorns and cattails, venison and fish - some of the many foods the Native Americans enjoyed.
I remember my grandmother, shifting her false teeth in her mouth and complaining about her stiff knees and hands and all the pills she depended on for her many ailments, and I wonder.... would her life have been easier without Flugar?