Tim and I went on a date recently. It was apparently a date a lot of people decided to go on because when we arrived at Sparrow Bakery, the socially distanced line was long. Sparrow is a Bend tradition, sort of like Dinglewoods is for the lunch crowd in Georgia, or Capt. Anderson’s is for the Panama City crowd.
By happenstance I’d heard a podcast recently talk about the emotional connection we have to these local eateries. So many of our memories are attached to the moments we spent in those local hangouts: the laughter shared, the confessions made, the loves formed, the hearts broken, the stories consumed. All while partaking in food elevated by the sheer presence of people we loved.
Recently while on a walk, I encountered a couple who moved to Oregon from Manhattan.
“Do you miss New York?” I asked.
“We miss the food,” came the neighbor’s reply. The couple spent the next five minutes telling me about all the foods they miss, from the salads, to the bagels, to the Italian dishes.
For every loved one in my life, there is a food I associate with them: Dad/peaches, Mama/Banana Pudding, Granny/Little Debbie Oatmeal Cakes, Uncle Hugh/Caramel Cake, Gordon/Salt Biscuits, Terry/In-and-Out Burgers, Connie/Red Licorice Twists, etc. The reason I associate those foods with those people is because of story. Behind each is a story that either makes me laugh or wince. Or maybe both. I am sure that when I am long gone, my own kids will be teaching their own grandkids about Mimi’s Angel biscuits.
The Biblical story of “The Last Supper” have inspired many a sermon and great works of arts. The focus of such sermons and works of arts isn’t on the food Christ and his disciples consumed, but rather on the things that were said over that meal. The betrayals and prophecies set in motion.
We are rarely told, however, that it wasn’t really Jesus’s Last Supper: “He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Acts 10:41
I can’t say I’ve ever heard a sermon about the meals Jesus ate or the wine he drank after he was crucified. Have you?
Heaven is most often depicted as a gated community full of white people roaming streets of gold trying to figure out which mansion is theirs. In this version of Gloryland, God runs heaven more like a property manager directing Zombies to their resort properties.
The thing about most of us is that unless we are on Death Row, we don’t recognize our last meal as our last meal. Like a lot of moments in life, we don’t recognize the “last” for what it is.
I raised four kids which meant I read hundreds of books to them. Yet, I cannot tell you what book I was reading when the last of the four crawled into my lap for the last time and had me read to her.
I cannot tell you the last kiss I had with a former boyfriend, or the last ride I went on that last time I went to Six Flags. I don’t know what we had for dinner during that last meal with Daddy before he shipped out to Vietnam. I don’t remember the last phone call I had with Connie before she passed. I don’t know the last thing Aunt Cil said the last time we pulled out of her driveway at Christians Bend.
Most of the time we are completely oblivious to these last moments.
Whenever I speak to my friend Ray in Wisconsin, he’s using the same landline phone he’s used for decades. I can’t remember the last time I used a landline phone. Can you? Who was the last person I called on that landline?
I can’t recall the last time I drove Mama’s green Cutlass, or the color of the last mini-skirt I ever wore. Most of the transitions in our lives happen so subtly, so seamlessly, that we are completely unaware that this is the last time we will ever eat hushpuppies and drink way too sweet tea in the private rooms at Pritchard’s Catfish house. Had I known it was the last time I would get beaten by my teenage son at yet another match of Mario Brothers, I might have celebrated his win with more enthusiasm.
That’s not true.
I would have still rued his win.
This is the last time I’ll admit it, but I am petty like that.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Burdy: A novel (Mercer University Press).