The Dominant Gene, and the Gracious Ladies of the Ranch Readers Book Group
Melinda’s divine cake, with a frosting to die for . . .
For most of my adult life I have been a carrot juice swilling, veggie chomping, sugar eschewing, fitness buff. I’ve made good choices. I value health. I stand strong and somewhat smugly in the light of that truth. And then I moved to Texas.
Texas women are belles. That means they are beautiful, elegant, smart and gracious all in one package. I’ve never met women like them anywhere. And they all have a certain gene. The more Texan they are, the more dominant the gene. It’s a cross between mothering, welcoming, sisterhood and baking. Oh my God, the baking.
Early on in my new Austin life, I was invited into a book group. I’ve been in groups before. Writing groups, book groups, bang-on-a-drum women’s groups, but nothing in my past could have prepared me for the change that this group would thrust upon me with its room full of belles, seeking expression for their dominant gene.
I’m talking about Texas hospitality. I was warmly welcomed into a sisterhood that conducts its book group in a way that would put Martha Stewart to shame. And they make it look easy. First, a light dinner is served. It’s perfect. Everything is arranged in an inviting way, and even though the food is being dished out as guests arrive, the kitchen remains mysteriously clean and sparkly.
Only after the meal is consumed, and wine is poured is there talk of the book. The conversations are smart, and emotionally intelligent. Once the book has been discussed, that genetic snip raises itself up, and the hostess brings out dessert.
Please keep in mind my earlier statement about “sugar eschewing.” The first time dessert was served at a meeting, I wanted to be polite, and so I took a little bite. There are no store-bought desserts in this group. The gene to which I refer concocts an alchemical decadence of creamy, sweet, tart, crunchy, luxury that has powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Like a siren calling to the mariner, I am moved to another bite, as I try making deals with myself: “Okay, just one more bite, and that’s all.” Ha!
And then came the second book group. Dessert was brought out and my mouth began to water. Are you kidding me? Who bakes like this? I knew that I was hooked when I began to moan. “Oh God. Ohhhhhh. Oh, this is so good. So good, Yes, yes, yes.” I’ll have what she’s having takes on new meaning.
We have no control over the events in our life, only our attitudes. So here’s my attitude: “Bring it!”
My life is changing before my eyes. I think about building a shrine to Paula Deen on my front porch. I dream of what ingredients these women keep in their cupboards. I fantasize about being in their kitchens and licking bowls.
Last night, I wanted to throw myself into a tray of banana pudding, so I can’t really be held responsible for what escaped my lips as I finished the last bite of pudding. In front of these warm, kind ladies, the words just wouldn’t stay in my head and without my knowing it, escaped into the space: “This is so fucking good,” I moaned, unaware that I had pierced the veil between thought and, “did she just say that?”
But, no one judged. They laughed, so I don’t think I’ve been thrown out of the group for bad behavior just yet. I am not a belle, more like a street urchin who has probably been exposed to one too many Fitbits and too much kale.
I’ll get in my 10,000 steps today. I’ll prepare vegetables and protein for dinner. I’ll drink a protein smoothie for breakfast . . . with fiber. I know that for the next month, if I have dessert at all, it will be fresh berries with coconut milk and a little stevia. Then in May, it will happen again. I’ll go to the book group. I’ll adore all of those wonderful women. I’ll participate in the book discussion and hope that when dessert is served, I can behave.
My life is different now. My design on the pure and healthy diet has met its match. The sweet taste of homemade dessert served up on a bed of southern graciousness is too difficult for me to resist. The truth is I want to fill a bathtub with their chocolate torts, vanilla cakes and banana puddings, inserting myself naked into the center of it. This is probably an indication that I need serious therapy.
God I love living in Texas . . .