The Power of Personal Essays

How to tell your own and why we desperately need them

Lea O


Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash

I get this craving so deep it makes my blue-green bones ache. My mouth waters, and my ears ring a little. I feel like a child sneaking a nibble of something she knows is off-limits.

I don’t give in to this craving, except at gas station checkouts on random days in the summer and long road trips. I’m convinced convenience store checkout counters are the place every person has confessed their darkest craving sins.

Stripped of all dignity by hours of hot sun, fueled by desperation to make time pass faster, or both, the anonymity of a gas station checkout counter makes a feller braver than they might be some other time.

Carefully choosing my prize from the field of wild candy bars and off-brand potato chips, I’m a little ashamed to lay it down on the counter, but always manage.

My counter confession is a fat stick of hot, pickled baloney, wrapped in cellophane and second best to fresh from the jar.

A true Appalachian delicacy originated in Michigan because poverty doesn’t have any boundaries or particular regions. Poor is poor, and as my Granny used to say, baloney’s just as good as steak.

She’d only eat Kahn’s; others “tasted funny.” A hilarious opinion to have about a product made up of scrap meat and leftovers, but she stood by it until the day she died.

I didn’t explain the culture of pickled baloney nor its significance where I come from, but Appalachian author, teacher, and Kentucky Poet Laureate Silas House did in his 2014 personal narrative essay, The Indulgence of Pickled Baloney.

Source: Screenshot from Amazon

“No wonder Kentucky has produced such a rich literary tradition — we are a complicated, complex people who have many different ways of being and thinking. That diversity of thought is what makes us a commonwealth. Art brings us together in the same ways that food does.”

Silas House

Personal narratives aren’t dead