The Dominant Gene and the Gracious Ladies
of the Ranch Readers Book Club
Guest Post by Stephanie Raffelock
A friend who will share dessert with you is the very best kind of friend.
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 stood 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. The gene causes 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 all 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, but the talk is not an afterthought. The conversations are smart and emotionally intelligent. The women are savvy and sensitively honest, relating themes from the book to their own lives, quick to praise the author’s efforts and equally quick to point out where the story let them down. Getting to know women from my new community through the discussion of books is about as good as it gets.
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 causes these women to concoct an alchemical decadence of creamy, sweet, tart, crunchy luxury with 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—some kind of made-from-scratch layered cake with a Swiss buttercream frosting—and my mouth began to water. Are you kidding me? Who bakes like this? I knew 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 a new meaning.
We have no control over the events in our life, only our attitudes. So here’s my attitude: “Bring it on!”
My life is changing before my eyes. I think about building a shrine to Paula Deen on my front porch. I dream of the ingredients these women keep in their cupboards. I fantasize about being in their kitchens and licking out the remains of chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry cream from stacks of 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, gracious 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 I 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 ten thousand 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 next month, it will happen again. I’ll go to the book group. I’ll adore all those wonderful women. I’ll participate in the smart book discussion, and when dessert is served, I’ll greedily take my portion, and hope that 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 that 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.
Or maybe just that I love living in Texas.