I don’t dance. I don’t dance because Nana said I’d go to hell. I’m afraid of going to hell. I’m afraid of how hot hell is and of the devil poking and prodding me with its pitchfork and its snake-like tail whipping around me. Why is it when I hear music, it bubbles inside me and I’m giddy? It makes me feel like there’s another person inside that wants to come out and laugh and have fun and move and sway. I like the idea of being that fun person who doesn’t care that people watch her move in response to the rhythm and makes up her own swirls and twirls and is just flat out happy. Nana’s voice always stops me.
I didn’t want to dabble with the devil and dancing. When you’re a rule-following first-born (mostly) and spent most of your formative years with your Pentecostal grandma, that’s what you do. No questions allowed because you respect your elders.
“¡Los bailes son del diablo! Dios no quiere que estemos en los bailes. Debemos estar glorificando al Señor.”
No matter how fun and harmless it seemed, dancing never worked for me. I’m stiff and have robotic dance moves. I imagined myself having a good time and maybe even having a boy pull me in close to move in sync with the music. I stared wistfully at other kids while I stood around, the poster child for a wallflower.
I didn’t understand the harm. If people have fun how can dancing be the devil’s work? Why is it so evil? Most kids didn’t even touch each other while they danced unless it was a slow song. Even then, why was that worthy of getting to hell when there were other people around?
I didn’t ask Nana why, she just said to stay away from it. I found that confusing, coming from someone who bought deviled ham on sale from Piggly Wiggly. She fed it to me on days she took care of me while my parents worked. She spread the pink mush on slices of white bread when she packed lunches for all of us as we piled into Papá’s pick-up truck early summer mornings to work the cotton fields. She bought tons of little pull-tab cans, neatly wrapped in white paper stamped with a red devil holding a pitchfork, its pointy arrow tail snaking around, mocking me. You can’t dance because it’s the devil’s work, but here, eat the devil’s meat.
I hated the stuff but ate it anyway because that’s what she packed: sandwiches with salty slimy pink sludge that tasted nothing like ham, smeared on bread. I envisioned a bunch of mashed up devils’ tails packed into those tin cans, with the red faces daring me to eat, winning my soul through hunger.
When I see anything with fiendish depictions, I think about how Nana would respond. I’d take her to Torchy’s and probably get an ear full of Bible verses for taking her to a taco joint emblazoned with cute devilish cherubs tempting you into gluttony. I might order her the Democrat and a margarita, especially since she wasn’t a drinker. She’d denounce the place because she could make better tacos at home, for less, and feed twice as many people. And she’d be right.
She might even top them with a possible nemesis, maybe the devil’s brother, Diablo Verde sauce I found at HEB. The hot one is too damn hot for me, but if you mix it with sour cream, the heat is worth it. The devil is always among us, even in our food. Every time I see a feisty little sprite or hear soul-stirring music, Nana’s voice pops into my head with advice for staying out of hell and I’m reminded about how much I miss her. Except now, I eat at Torchy’s and I might even dance a little.
One thought on “Big Tent Revival: Deviled Food”
I love the connections between Nana, dancing, and food, and how they affect you even today. It’s an interesting stage of development when we start questioning our elders’ actions, even if just in our thoughts as we dare not speak them aloud. You captured that perfectly in this post; great writing!