God Wants Us to Eat Up: An Essay by THE Sweet Potato Queen®, Jill Conner Browne

There is no mystery a-tall as to why the Sweet Potato Queen Wannabe groups from around the world have fallen deeply in love with Jackson: All of our Basic Food Groups (sweet, salty, fried and au gratin) can be had easily and with abundance in the City With Soul.

Credit: Find It In Fondren

It's been pretty well established, I think, that the Sweet Potato Queens are what we in the South call "Good Eaters." By this, we mean you can put pretty much anything in front of us, and we'll eat it with enthusiasm, although this in no way dampens our ardor for fine dining as well.

"Picky" eaters are unanimously vilified in southern states. Nobody wants to cook for them or eat with them. They can and do, as the maxim states, foul up a sack lunch and pretty much any other mealtime experience. Whiners, they create extra work for dining-out experience for their tablemates with their tedious questions and stringent demands.

Then when the specially prepared food does arrive, they tend to inspect it as if they were 9th graders about to dissect their first frog, and they eventually eat it with reserve, apparent suspicion and often thinly veiled revulsion at every bite. They don't LOVE their food. This is inexplicable to Us, and therefore, naturally, we hate them.

(Please note: we understand and acknowledge the vast and complete difference between a "picky" eater and a person who will actually swell up and die if a pine nut has been in the room with their plate. We hold no grudge against the Allergic. Indeed, we are frequently moved to tears of empathy and compassion on their behalf as we dive, carefree and happy, into all manner of nut-bearing delicacies, while at the same time, we must confess to experiencing an undeniable twinge of pleasure at the prospect of, well, More for Us.)

We do, in fact, LOVE food. We love to see it, smell it, taste it and ultimately, gobble it up in vast quantities. We love to talk about it, watch television shows about it, we write and sing songs about it. I am not alone in the pleasure I derive from reading cookbooks page for page as if there is a plot to be found between the covers.

We eat at almost any entertainment venue. We eat AS entertainment, no venue required. Any and all special occasions are only made truly special by the menu. Emotional upheavals, regardless of where they fall in the spectrum – from the joyous at one end to the woebegone at the other – and all the intervening episodes involving fear, fury, loathing, lovesickness, apathy, aggravation, hopeful, hopeless, sanguine and/or sleepy, whatever has happened, it has made us hungry.

Eating is required to properly celebrate or commiserate at any momentous occasion in the lives of humans, including, if not especially, death. Suffice it to say, unless you are the, shall we say, honoree, at a Southern funeral, you most likely came primarily for the food.

So, basically, what I'm saying here is: we are definitely Pro-Food, and we actively resist all efforts by Anti-Food types to foist their ideals upon us, which, if they were to succeed, would result in the fouling up of all manner of lunches, sack and otherwise.

My very first massage therapist used to wonder aloud how it was possible, given the staggering (in his opinion) amount of chocolate that I regularly consumed, that my pancreas was not the size of a VW bus and bulging visibly through my clothing. He never failed to ask that rhetorical question at each session, and I never failed to offer the same unacceptable (to him) answer: Chocolate is GOOD for ME – so sorry if it is bad for YOU.

But, time passed, research was conducted, and whaddaya know? Turns out chocolate IS O-fficially good for you. Some of us didn't need years of expensive science to tell us that. And to think, if only they'd taken MY word for it, they coulda spent all that money looking for a cure for cancer or even purse-mouth.

Our mealtime enjoyment is enhanced if any (or all!) of the following are true:

- We didn't have to cook it ourselves.
- It has a lot of cheese (or bacon or chocolate) in it, on it and around it, and it also helps if it's got fried components.
- There is a whole big lot of it.

As always, there are those naysayers and killers of joy who try to get between us and our favorite foods. This is really not a safe place for them to be, but there's no running them off or shutting them up, trust me. They just do love to be all up in everybody else's pantry, dictating diets and prophesying doom, but I have just found proof that God Himself has CALLED us to be "Good Eaters."

Don't you just HATE it when people quote Scripture out of context to further their own ends? Yeah, me, too, unless, of course, it's ME doing it, in which case I am rejoicing that I have found Divine Support for Whatever It Is I Feel Like Doing at the Moment. And at this particular moment, I have found – in the Holy Bible – an Old Testament verse that is making me reeeally happy. I think this just may be the O-fficial Bible Verse of the Sweet Potato Queendom: Nehemiah 8:10.

"Then he said to them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy to our LORD: neither be you sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

Well, Amen, my sistas!

I just don't see any other way to interpret that–it's practically a Commandment. God wants us to eat GOOD. And as long as we remember to feed the po' folks, we are cleared for landing at the big, big boo-fay of Life.

Initially written in 2016, Browne's wise advice has been updated for 2022 and used with permission from the author and Find It In Fondren.