Week 3 with no gluten. All is lost. My strength is fading, and as I crawl across the floor, reaching out for the last flicker of light…

Actually, it’s not that bad. Really. Pecans make it better.

I lead a charmed life. One of the best parts about living in the South is pecan orchards. They’re all over the place. There’s this little store out in the middle of nowhere that sells fresh pecans, and honestly, it’s a wonder they last long enough for me to put them in anything. I can eat half the bag on the way home, if I don’t stop myself. Nothing you will ever buy in a grocery store can compare. As it happens, my husband’s butcher shop is also out in the middle of nowhere, just down the road (relatively speaking) from the pecan shop, and there are pecan trees behind his store. I’ve often thought I should just go by there when they’re in season and pick up the ones we already own. But I buy them from the pecan store anyway. Why?

High school, that’s why. I spent two fall seasons picking up pecans in an orchard. Here’s how it works. You take a big net bag and walk out into the orchard. You stoop over and pick up each pecan. You examine each of them to make sure they don’t have holes or black spots. Then you throw the bad ones back down and the good ones in the bag. One. By. One. For days. I learned quickly not to throw the bad ones down where I was working, after I kept picking up the same one over and over again. And as you work, you drag that bag across the ground. It gets heavier and heavier. I was fifteen, and after all of that bending and straightening and dragging, my back hurt for days.

I haven’t been fifteen in a long time, and my back hates me a lot more now than it did when I was a teenager. So I cheat and buy them already picked, shelled and cleaned. I should feel a lot worse about that than I do. My husband has customers that ask him if they can pick up the pecans (and pick the blackberries) around the shop. I figure I’m doing them a favor. Whatever it takes for me to come away with a clean conscience, right?

Anyway, fresh pecans make an amazing addition to this chicken salad. So do the grapes. I’ve been tempted before to skimp and buy only red or green, since you don’t use all the grapes in the bag. Don’t. They each have a different flavor that gives the salad a fuller taste.

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Chicken Salad

1 rotisserie chicken, deboned, skin removed and shredded
½ c. light mayonnaise
15 pecan halves, chipped
20 green grapes (seedless), sliced
20 red grapes (seedless), sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Dump all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.