Thank-you bites and lizard tails

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Anyone remember Holly Farms Fried Chicken, and those giant, delicious potato wedges they used to have as a side? Unfortunately, the restaurant went out of business years ago, and many have tried to replicate the Holly Farms potato wedge, but according to my personal palate, no one has achieved the feat. Sorry, Chester’s.

It must be the lizard tails, or lack thereof.

“As God is my witness, my mother doesn’t allow me to eat lizard tails.”“As God is my witness, my mother doesn’t allow me to eat lizard tails.”

(Here’s where the post ceases to be about anything trucking, and you realize this is a flashback induced by potato wedge intoxication. You’ve been warned. Don’t read the whole thing and gripe about it not being “trucking” beyond a belly full of Chester’s potato wedges from a truck stop, which may or may not be the reason I bloat.)

When I was little, my dad would bring home Holly Farms chicken every once in a while for a treat. (This is before McDonald’s was a staple of life in the food chain — fast food was a rarity in our home.) Dad would announce with a flourish that he’d secured us a dinner of “chicken lips and lizard tails,” and believe it or not, we were thrilled every time, because we’d eaten the chicken lips and lizard tails and they were freakin’ delicious, no matter what they were made of.

My little brother happened to have a friend over on one of the “lips and tails” evenings, and of course, my mom invited little Brian to join us in a feast of chicken lips and lizard tails. Little Brian suddenly went from being caught up in our collective joy of seeing daddy walk in with Holly Farms Chicken bags, to looking like he’d rather swallow a live frog than eat chicken lips and lizard tails for dinner.

This was the late 70s. Kids didn’t get away with “thank-you bites.” If someone’s momma dished you out a plate and sat it in front of you, that was it. You were trapped. You ate it or got in trouble for it. Picky eaters like me developed skills that rivaled the Viet Cong in tunneling and funneling unwanted food into obscure places when no one was looking. (Remember that pile of hash and peas you found on the inside leg of your antique buffet, Mrs. White? Yeah, that was me. I’m sorry. I didn’t know what an antique was, but I did know hash was gross mixed with green peas.)

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Little Brian did the only thing he could conceivably do, in order to remain at our home and continue his fun-filled visit without having to eat chicken lips and lizard tails. He lied.

“Mrs. Benton, my mother doesn’t allow me to eat lizard tails.”

The sincerity with which this child uttered the phrase was unrivaled – Vivien Leigh herself couldn’t have done a better job. It stopped my brother and I from our maniacal “lizard tails for dinner” dance around the kitchen. We were stunned. Had someone’s mother really made such a decree?

Again, this was before anyone talked about gluten allergies or being lactose intolerant. The only kid we had ever heard of with a food allergy was allergic to peanuts, and we were all pretty sure she was going to die, because who could live without eating peanut butter?

(The only reason we knew she had an allergy is because she swole up like Violet Beauregarde when the city tried a new thing called “recycling” and used shredded-up factory discard shells as ground cover under the swing set in our apartment complex. It was horrifying. Danny Watson’s momma was a nurse and gave her a shot and half the kids who saw it were forever traumatized by recycling efforts from there on out.)

We remained poised, waiting for an answer, while poor little Brian sweated it out, praying his lie would hold. He didn’t have an allergy or food disorder to reference, he went for the gold standard of things we didn’t question in 1979 – because my momma said so.

And even after own own mother reassured Brian that his mother wouldn’t mind him eating Holly Farms potato wedges and chicken strips, Brian still opted to cut his visit short and skip dinner altogether. Apparently he just couldn’t get comfortable with the outside chance that he may actually be eating lizard tails and chicken lips, and our family didn’t have an antique buffet to stuff unwanted food behind.

Hard to believe that was 39 years ago and it’s still a vivid memory. I can’t tell you the times I’ve wished I could successfully use some version of the excuse — “My mother doesn’t allow me to eat lizard tails” — in my adult life, but I do hope little Brian did choose to experience at least one Holly Farms potato wedge before they disappeared from the face of the earth, and I hope he thought about Mr. Benton and his lizard tails.

It’s the lizard tails that make life taste good.