I grew up in a small church just outside the city limits of the charming little town of Laurel, Mississippi. The First Baptist Church of Shady Grove was where I spent my Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, while on weekdays I wandered through the halls and playgrounds of St. John’s Day School, whose affiliation with the Episcopal Church often sent mixed signals during the structuring of my formative years.
I’m certain both of these molded me for the better in some way, but to add more confusion, the youth group of First Presbyterian joined forces with the Episcopalians and I found myself with my friends on Sunday evenings in some sort of interfaith celebration where we ate spaghetti and watched plenty of movies, sparing no expense at the video store to keep us adolescents off the mean streets of our sleepy sawmill town.
I vaguely remember some of my friends giving up things for Lent. I never did. My parents never stressed that we should. It was a bit of a foreign concept that wasn’t discussed at our dinner table, so it had no bearing on my behavior from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Someone might mention catechism or Lent, and I was thankful that I had just the right amount of churching that I didn’t have to pay attention to the rest of the conversation.
Then one day a girl told me she was giving up ketchup for Lent. That hit me like a ton of tomatoes. The horror! Ketchup? Who could go that many days with dry French fries and hamburgers? What about pizza? Was pizza sauce considered ketchup? How about spaghetti sauce? If so, what in the name of all that is holy will this girl eat at our next Sunday evening’s interfaith youth group? They don’t keep the sauce and the noodles separate, so I guessed she’d have to make a meal of garlic bread and brownies.
Giving up ketchup did not seem like the healthiest of choices. Therefore, I never really gave the Lent sacrifice much thought other than that there were as many people who considered themselves religious and did not sacrifice as there were people who weren’t religious at all that did.
Sacrificing for Lent needs to be for personal reasons, I guess. I have a friend who gives up drinking just to prove to himself that he can. He has a fairly boring St. Patrick’s Day, but his Easter weekend is a riot. Some people use it as a chance to restart those routinely neglected New Year’s resolutions by giving up sugar or fast food or whatever deprivation is certain to result in weight loss.
It can be religious or secular. It can be spiritual or for your health. Either way, I do think sacrifice is a great way to clear your head and do yourself a favor every once in awhile. I’ve seen some fast in honor of an event or a loved one. I’ve seen others fast simply out of the “high” it gives them. Either way it gets you doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do, and I like that.
So, you may wonder what it is I am giving up for Lent. Well, as I see it the origins of Lent are food-related fasts, and since this is a food-related column, I may as well stick to that. I’m not giving up push-ups or exercise. I’m going with food that sings to me like sirens of the sea. I’m giving up potato chips.
Chips in general, to be clearer. I work a fairly fast-paced schedule these days and am right next to a Kangaroo gas station. When I get 15 minutes for a quick bite but left the lunch pail at the house, you can guess what it is I reach for. Salty snacks in a bag half full of air are not my weakness. Trigonometry is my weakness. I excel at potato chips.
My chip fast will include all of my favorites. Here is the list you should hold me to. Snatch them from my greasy hands should I fall off the wagon.
Regular potato chips are Heaven. Lay’s original may be the best. Pringles are addictive. Zapp’s have the crawtater market cornered. If it’s made from potatoes, I will eat it.
Hot Fries. Wow, I wish I didn’t have to include these. Andy Capp’s are kryptonite with just the right amount of heat. Chester Cheetah’s Flaming Hot Fries deliver more heat but remain a substitution for Andy Capp’s.
Corn chips or tortilla chips are on the do-not-consume list. First, Doritos are hard enough to bid farewell, but this will hurt the most in that we eat a lot of Mexican food. Guacamole with a fork, salsa with a straw and I suppose hard taco shells are close enough to be condemned, right?
Pig skins, pork rinds and cracklings are technically not chips in the carbohydrate sense of the word, but they have to be out of my life for six weeks. The cracklings are the hardest to let go. I love the red pepper seasoning so much that I open the bag from the bottom so the settlement has the greatest impact.
So, what am I planning on replacing my salty snack cravings with? Granola. You can’t take that away from me. I’m currently experimenting with making granola versus the expensive store-bought kind.
Cashews, sunflower seeds and almonds with rolled oats suit my need for a salty chip substitute. I prefer this to sweeter recipes, though I do add a bit of honey with olive oil. Bake whatever ingredients you prefer on a cookie sheet at 300 F., stirring every 15 minutes for an hour.
If you like dried fruit, such as raisins or apricots, be sure to add them in the cooling phase of this process. For me, I’m sticking to a little sea salt and a dash of cayenne to keep the kids away from my creation. Mmmm, I can’t wait for a handful of granola between students. Next year I’m giving up ketchup.