A lady after my own tummy

Published 7:17 pm Friday, September 11, 2009

This week, a sweetheart of a gal passed away. Gertrude Baines, the world’s oldest person, died in her sleep at the tender age of 115 in Los Angeles. She was born in 1894 in Shellman, Ga., and worked at the Ohio State University dormitories as a maid until her retirement.

When asked about the things she liked to eat, it wasn’t healthy foods like Brussels sprouts and beets that led her to such a long, productive life. No, when asked about the foods she enjoys, Baines replied — and this was the exact moment I began composing my love letters to her — “I enjoy a steady diet of fried chicken, bacon and ice cream.” (Someone kiss that lady square on the lips for me, please.)

Now, I’m not going to go off on a tirade about how a proper diet is just bunk. We should all aspire to eat better. I just love witnessing those instances where a person throws caution to the wind and gets off, pretty much scot-free, having enjoyed a lifetime and then some of good food.

I’m not so convinced that it’s eating a healthy three meals a day that leads to a healthy, longer existence. I imagine sweet Ms. Baines outlived everyone in her life who would have told her to eat better. Subtract the stress from the process of eating and I believe you are free to eat whatever you want well into your 100s.

That’s the attitude I’ll be carrying with me to the Taste of Suffolk festival this Saturday. When I photographed the event last year, I was repeatedly tempted by all the good foods available on Main Street, my sense of smell peaking at the fried turkey leg cart.

Mix that with kettle corn, barbecue sandwiches, ice cream and goodness knows what else, and it was a spread that would’ve made sweet Ms. Gertrude very proud.

Plus, the live entertainment, contests and vehicle show makes the Taste of Suffolk such a great day out.

Luckily, this year I won’t be photographing the event and it’s right on Main Street, just around the corner from where I now am writing. I know there are those who will criticize the eating exhibition I intend to put on at this year’s Taste of Suffolk. (It’s probably the same faction of people who think I shouldn’t eat half a chicken and potato chips for breakfast. But whatever.)

Just know, as I always need an excuse to make a pig of myself, I’m going to this year’s Taste of Suffolk festival for a sweet old lady in California who had the nerve to gum down fried poultry and pork on a pretty much daily basis for well over a century. I will honor her with every bite I take this weekend. You wouldn’t deny a sweet old lady would you, critics (doctors)?

Though I never even met you, I love you, Gertrude Baines. For me, this year’s Taste of Suffolk is all about you.