Several years ago, after spending an embarrassingly long time pushing a grocery cart up and down the aisles of my neighborhood Harris-Teeter, I finally ended up in the checkout line.
Gazing into the buggy, I laughed out loud, because after nearly an hour of hunting and gathering, surrounded by every kind of vittle imaginable, I’d ended up with just two items - a bucket of fried chicken from the deli and a watermelon.
I wasn’t laughing last week, though, when my doctor – alarmed by my so-called pandemic weight gain (Yeah, let’s blame the pandemic) – started listing things I could no longer eat.
The first two things he named were – I swear – fried chicken and watermelon. (To be fair, I'm not sure if I asked if I could still eat the latter or not.)
The first thing one does upon hearing something so jarring is ask "Are you a real doctor?"
The second thing you do is look around the office to see if there are hidden cameras fixin’ to broadcast your stupefied reaction around the world on some prank TV show.
But Dr. Love was serious, and when I told him that cutting out those two life-sustaining entities was like taking away Popeye’s spinach - or fried chicken - he offered what he must’ve considered a suitable compromise: I had to eschew fried chicken, but I could chew chicken that’s been baked or grilled.
Hmmph. Some compromise. I immediately thought of that old Shakespearean sonnet:
When ol’ Sawbones said it could only be eaten baked, I almost cried
Don’t he know chicken ain’t chicken unless it’s been fried?
Unlike a lot of people, I’ve never tried to hide my love for the barnyard pimp or watermelon, nor felt any shame for it. If anything, I’m wary of anyone who doesn’t like them and regard such people with the same wariness that I view people who don't like Elvis, Al Green or sugar in their grits.
Comedian Dick Gregory spoke about a neighbor who used to have her watermelons gift-wrapped so no one would know what she was carrying. Not I: I carry – make that carried – mine proudly and aloft.
Years ago, America’s favorite misanthrope, Archie Bunker, objected to having a black female doctor give him a blood transfusion prior to his surgery. She – speaking in a heavy Caribbean patois - sought to reassure him.
BFD: Don’t worry, m’dear… Everything’s going to be marvelous. Only one thing, though.
Archie: What’s that?
BFD: When you come out of anesthetic, you may have a straaaaange craving for watermelon.
I must’ve had that same transfusion, because I always wake up craving watermelon – especially since my doctor told me I couldn’t have any. Funny how that happens, isn't it? If the doctor told us we could no longer eat caramel-covered kumquats - as if we ever would - I'm guessing many of us would become ravenous for just that.
My doctor is a wise man who has never led me astray, so I’m inclined to follow his advice. When you see me in a few months I’ll be looking a lot better, but deep inside I’ll be in mourning for two lost friends.
UPDATE: After this story originally ran, Dr. Sawbones - no doubt responding to my threat of organizing a Million Hungry Man March on his office - called and said he didn't ban watermelon from my diet (yes, he did) but only told me to eat it sparingly.