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An Ode to the Meat and Three

Meat and three image

One assumes the stewed apples are stage right in this photo

Oh, how I yearn for the return of the meat and three. The simple joy of knowing that with a quick turn off the highway, any small town in the South yielded a diner that served up the sacred trifecta — that assurance brought comfort to restless, dark nights.

The daily break for lunch, the communion with one’s people. They have given way to the blight of Hardees and its ilk, the shuffling herd inching forward at the drive-through, devouring at the wheel, afterward pitching leftover hamburger wrappers out the windows. Our collective soul has been starved, even as our collective waistline has expanded.

We were a people of the garden once, the content of our favorite diner’s lunch fare reflecting the abundance of the seasons. Served in modest portions that allowed us to eat healthy, but not to excess or somnolence, the choices were varied and yet consistent: two or three meats, perhaps six or more vegetables. The daily decision was made while waiting for the iced tea to arrive.

The chicken was a smaller bird, the cuts done to maximize the number of servings. Each breast was cut in half, and when it was served on a small plate, it did not dwarf the other choices. The meatloaf was divvied into small squares, the country ham shaved in modest slices, the vegetables simply prepared with minimal seasoning.

Meat and three 2

“Yes, ma’am, we are ready to order. Hmm, I will get the chicken today, dark meat, please. And let me have the okra and stewed tomatoes (which still counted as one side), turnip greens, and the crowder peas. Roll or cornbread? Cornbread, of course. Yes, ma’am, that is all today, no dessert for me. Peanut butter pie? Oh, that’s tempting, but, no.”

Y’all have a good day. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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