“Biscuits and gravy! Heh, I can’t believe she ordered it.”
“Heh, I can. Heh, biscuits and gravy.”
The worst part? Those biscuits were the consistency of spongy hockey pucks, and the gravy something between glue and edible. I picked at them, had maybe one bite, and any part of my appetite not killed by the sad copy of food on my plate was killed by humiliation.
We were on a road trip, to some hot state in the middle of the summer. Hotel prices in the sweltering states were cheaper in summer, and my parents more likely to take vacations. So in the van we packed pillows, Walkmans (Walkmen?), luggage, sandwiches, and our sorry selves. Twenty hours later we reached some kind of human destination, unbearably humid.
The best part of the trip, I remember, was when my dad drove and I kept him company, up front in the passenger seat. It was midnight or thereafter; my stepmother and brother slept in the back. We drove through the orange groves in Georgia. The air was spiced with the scent of the groves and honeysuckle. We played the game from the Albert Finney version of A Christmas Carol, “The Minister’s Cat”.
I’ll include it here, since I still feel warm and fuzzy thinking about it:
The next morning we stopped at a southern version of Denny’s. Shoney’s, maybe. As a kid I hated breakfast foods, except hot and cold cereals, and toast. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, English muffins, bagels? Blargh! Breakfast foods were either too sweet or too salty, and sometimes they combined the two in freakish horrors like bacon covered in maple syrup, or the abomination that is chocolate chip pancakes.
At any rate.
So, of everything on the menu, “biscuits and gravy” looked the least breakfast-y. I was hungry, having stayed up all night to keep my dad company while he drove (I was probably 10 at the time). We didn’t have biscuits and gravy for breakfast up North; to me, it was the perfect solution to my breakfast-nausea-dilemma.
I was duly mocked, as noted above. But it didn’t stop there. It turned into the joke of the trip. Then, the joke of the year. The last time I heard it was maybe five years ago, so that’s a good 14 years of torment.
And why was I tormented and mocked for my breakfast choice?
Because that 10-year-old girl was also chubby. And chubby people love gravy, donchaknow!
Maybe they didn’t realize how much their jabs hurt. Maybe they didn’t realize how deeply I internalized the shame I felt, how an intelligent little girl heard, “Biscuits and gravy, heh!” and translated it to mean that she was bad, out of control, a terrible person, a terrible daughter. So when my dad told me later that I should eat veggie burgers, plain popcorn, plain cucumbers, and drink water as my whole diet? I tried, for him. Because I didn’t want him to think I was some gross, out-of-control chubster, some human eating machine that goes bonkers at the idea of gravy. He was the first person to give me diet pills. I lost rapidly, and when I refused to eat even vegetables out of fear of remaining fat or gaining back lost weight, I thought about how I’d vindicated myself. No way he’d accuse me of the sin of “biscuits and gravy” again!
Sometimes, when I’m sitting, my heart flutters in my chest for no reason. I wonder if it has to do with all the diet pills I took when I was a teen. That, maybe, biscuits and gravy would have been a better option than diet pills.
But I guess I’ll never know.
This post is dedicated to my husband, who has never made me feel bad about what I eat.