HomeOpinionOPINION: Read the labels to save time, trouble

OPINION: Read the labels to save time, trouble

By Todd E. Brady


My son, William and I go to breakfast each week.  Saturday night, we decided that we would go to the Old Country Store the next morning before church.  In addition to spending time with William, I started anticipating the red eye gravy and biscuits I would get.  You know you have a great life when the last thing you think about at night and the first thing you think about the next morning is red eye gravy.

It was hard to keep my eyes open at church.  It had nothing to do with the preacher.  My breakfast was sitting heavy.  I think there is a direct correlation between sleepiness and red eye gravy.

Red eye gravy and biscuits were a part of my growing up.  We regularly ate at my grandparent’s house, and when we had biscuits (Which were always homemade—none of those biscuits in a can that you whop on the counter!), we always had gravy—either brown gravy or red eye gravy.  Oh, those were the days.  I can feel my arteries clogging up now.

After church, I slipped into a red eye gravy-induced, two-hour coma.  It was raining and it was a Sunday afternoon.  All was right in the world.

When I woke up, I decided to make a dish my grandmother would often make.  Thunder and Lightning–tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions mixed with vinegar and sugar.  A perfect snack in the afternoon to follow up a breakfast of biscuits with red eye gravy.

I looked for vinegar and couldn’t find it, so I asked if we had any.  Knowing what I was making, Amy turned up her nose and said, “Check the cleaning closet.”  The Cleaning Closet?  The place where we keep the toilet bowl cleaner, and the tub cleaner, and the floor cleaner?

There I found Cleaning Vinegar.  I asked about using it, and we both figured “Vinegar is vinegar.”  I went ahead and added a cup and a half cleaning vinegar and a cup and a half sugar to the tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.  When finished, I still had my doubts.  I then looked at the label.  There it was in black and white.  It said “NOT FOR FOOD CONSUMPTION.  IRRITANT.  KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.  FIRST AID:  EYES: FLUSH 10-15 MINUTES WITH WATER.  SKIN: WASH THOROUGHLY WITH WATER.”  Now, my second thoughts became third, fourth, and fifth thoughts.

A friend stopped by and joined in our doubting.  The three of us huddled in the kitchen around a phone and Googled “Can you drink cleaning vinegar?”  It said, “You should absolutely never cook with or consumer cleaning vinegar.”  Well, that was pretty clear.

Not to waste all the goodness, I immediately poured the concoction in a colander and let the sugary vinegar drain into the sink.  I rinsed the tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions like I was scrubbing for surgery in the Jackson Madison County General Hospital.  Then I went to Kroger, got some cooking vinegar, came back, and rinsed everything again.

The Thunder and Lightning is now in the refrigerator out in the garage.  I’m not allowed to put it in the kitchen refrigerator.  I am told it stinks up the kitchen.  Miller and I are the only ones who eat it.

Red eye gravy and Thunder and Lightning takes me back to my childhood.  I’ve thought a lot about my grandparents today.  They’ve been gone now for about 30 years.  If my grandaddy witnessed today’s Thunder and Lightning/Cleaning Vinegar/Cooking Vinegar fiasco, he’d shake his head and just laugh at me. 

Then he’d tell me what I already know—”You’d  never go through all that if you’d just read the labels.”

Todd E. Brady is vice president for university ministries at Union University. Write to him at 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson TN 38305.

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