The day my family goes to decorate graves (whether that be on actual Memorial Day or not) is one of my yearly Planned Cheat days.
We go to southeast Kansas, where most of my people are buried and where I spent a good deal of my childhood. To me, southeast Kansas is about joy and freedom and fields of ripening wheat to the horizon. It’s about standing in a nearly abandoned cemetery in the silence of miles and miles of green rolling hills, and listening to the sound of God’s voice in the wind, and the touch of His hand as it blows through your hair. It’s also about Chicken Mary’s.
Now, Chicken Mary’s sits a quarter of a mile from its rival restaurant, Chicken Annie’s. It’s a very Montague and Capulet issue as far as which you prefer, and ne’er the twain shall meet.
When I was a kid, going to Chicken Mary’s was a serious treat, and one not taken lightly. The spaghetti and onion rings and bread were just fabulous, and since I could never get gizzards any other way (gizzards were always kinda scarce in the grocery store in those days, you know), I always had my LARGE order of gizzards.
Well, I can only chalk my ecstasy over Chicken Mary’s up to the unsophisticated palate of a kid. Every year I eat at Chicken Mary’s it gets worse. The food is no different, mind you, but it’s just not haute cuisine, if you see my point. The onion rings are the only things that one could consider to be even approaching gourmet. (They are fabulous!) The spaghetti is pretty bland, but has a unique flavor that is about childhood. The water is horrendous, but it’s memories, so I drink as much as I can just for the chemicals. The bread is Italian, so that’s fine, as Italian bread is my favorite after sourdough. The gizzards aren’t anything special, because now you can get them that way at your local super grocery store.
But I had my meal and I completely binged (didn’t take me an hour), and I had my emotional payoff which is always good. (Christmas gave me no emotional payoff for my cheats – that sucked!) So I’m sitting in the car with my mom on the way home, and I’m feeling very stuffed. I said, “Man, I porked.” I was slightly ashamed of my vacuum-like table manners that day.
She said, “In comparison to what you usually eat, yes, you did. In comparison to what you USED to eat, you didn’t even come close.” She continued, “You left onion rings. You ordered a small order of gizzards and left a few. You had only two pieces of bread. You stopped eating before the food was gone.”
I got to thinking about that. Nothing happened to my weight (meaning, I didn’t gain, but I didn’t lose, either), but I had no cravings, no illness (very unusual), and got my emotional payoff. But I didn’t eat as much as I would have two years ago, and I had no desire to continue my binge.
Personally, I think that, in and of itself, is an accomplishment.