Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Robert St. John: Bad Food

 It took me 60 years to start eating like an adult. I am 62 so I’ve only been eating responsibly for a couple of years.

It’s not that I wasn’t eating well and dining out. My family dines out a lot. It’s what we do. It’s my business. It’s just that most of my adult life I have eaten like an 18-year old college freshman with no regard for health. I got away with living that lifestyle in my thirties, but when I hit my forties, my metabolism slowed, yet my voracious eating habits did not. In my forties and fifties, I was shopping in the Big & Tall store, and as soon as I walked through the door, they knew I wasn’t tall.


There are still some bad foods that I enjoy.


When I say “bad foods” I’m not speaking of foods that are bad for me, health wise. I’m speaking of foods that are just bad. And, in the end, most of those are bad for me, too.


My elementary school had a line-‘em-up-at-the-lunchroom-door-and-fill-your-tray-with-whatever-the-cafteria-cooked-that-day dining plan. Those meals were fairly balanced. Not very good, but balanced for the most part. The food pyramid of that era was well represented. Though in my junior high and high school, the cafeteria served pizza, cheeseburgers, microwaved steak-burgers, fries, and chips and such from a vending machine. Those were my options every day for six years.


If my mother had prepared boiled shrimp the night before I usually brought the leftovers in a thermos and had boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce for lunch. But those were rare occasions. I ate a microwave pizza almost every school day from sixth grade through high school graduation.


It was only pizza in the loosest form of the word. It was one of those convenience-store products that was microwaved to order in the school kitchen. This was the mid to late 1970s and microwaves weren’t a common appliance in homes yet. But even though they are commonplace now, one should never be used to cook a pizza.


I have always been a firm believer that even bad pizza is pretty good. I probably developed that philosophy during my schooling because that school pizza was bad. Really bad.


Yet I ate it every day.


It was a personal-size pizza, and the entire pizza was around six inches in diameter, it came packaged in plastic and was nuked in the microwave which made it steam inside the plastic. The cooking process yielded a soft, wet, rubbery, doughy crust that had no inkling of crispness. It wasn’t even crust. It was more like a soggy, thick, pita bread. The tomato sauce was probably straight from a can. The cheese was cheap and minimal, and the pepperonis were a case of indigestion waiting to happen.


And I loved every bite.




Seriously, it was bad. But it was good-bad. And I don’t think it’s because it had sentimental value and makes me think of having lunch with childhood friends. It was bad.


I know a little about pizza. I own two Italian restaurants and have a third non-Italian restaurant that serves pizza. On top of that I spend around 12 weeks a year working in Italy and frequent places that serve amazing pizza with high quality, fresh ingredients, and thin, extra crisp crust. Yet, if someone offered me that exact microwave pizza I ate in my school lunchroom, I would eat it while I type this column. I would feel bad for two hours afterwards, but I would eat it, nonetheless. 


Sometimes bad food is good.


And owning a business that serves quality versions of perfect examples of food items doesn’t matter. I own a bakery that bakes fresh French-inspired pastries from scratch every morning. Yet I occasionally eat those whop-‘em-on’-the-counter orange sweet rolls, and have done so since I was a kid eating crappy pizza at school.


As a kid, my across-the-street neighbor baked excellent homemade orange sweet rolls. If those were in the house, I never would have chosen the store-bought sweet rolls over hers. But hers only arrived for holidays and special occasions. The rest of the year I was whoppin’ that tin on the counter. 


In my college days I lived in a one-room apartment above a garage and had no money. In those days one could buy a small frozen chicken pot pie for less than a dollar. They were bad. They are an example of a bad food from my past that I have no longing for— or fond memories of— today. You can keep the frozen chicken pot pies.


As I waddle towards my seventh decade on this planet, I’m doing my best to make wiser choices on the food front. I stopped with the fad diets and came up with a eating plan based on a breakfast conversation I had with Julia Child years ago. I asked Mrs. Child, “How do you eat all of that rich French food and stay so fit?” 


“I don’t deny myself anything,” she said. “I just take a few bites and leave it at that.” 


Based on that conversation, I developed my eating plan that doesn’t involve pills, calculations, journaling, or anything like that. My son asked me what my new plan was, and I replied, “Half.” 


He laughed and said, “What?”

“Half,” I said. “I just eat half of what I am served.” It doesn’t matter if I’m at a restaurant or home. I immediately cut my portions in half and eat one of those halves. I favor protein, fruits, and vegetables, but I’ll have a bite or two of dessert. It may be unorthodox, but so far, so good.


Though if someone put one of those bad pizzas from my school days in front of me, I might call an audible on my plan and eat the whole thing just for old time’s sake. I’d feel like crap for several hours after, but sometimes bad is good.







Sausage Cheese Dip


1 lb   Spicy breakfast sausage

2 Tbl Garlic, minced

2 Tbl          Bell pepper, small dice

2 Tbl Onion, small dice

2 tsp  Hot sauce

1 tsp  Salt

1 lb   Cream cheese, softened


In a large skillet brown the sausage. Drain the grease and add garlic, onion and bell pepper. Continue to cook three to four minutes. Place sausage into a mixing bowl and, while still hot, add remaining ingredients. Use an electric mixer and mix until everything is well incorporated. Serve warm with chips, French bread or your favorite cracker. Yield: eight servings

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS