But what is it?
Not just bread and cheese and sauce, no. This meal fit for God himself is so much more.
It is the sound of the loveliest doorbell. It is the acceptable apology for the mealtime “oops!” It is the welcoming party when the vacation ends.
It is the taste of summertime birthdays. It is the texture of picking which movie to watch first. It is the height of soda can towers.
It is the singing clock’s twelve chimes reminding all that Friday is gone. It is the placing of a small hand into a big one. It is the compromise between parents and children.
It is soda’s groom.
It is breakfast. It is lunch. It is dinner. It is the substance of every moment in between.
It is nourishment. And as nourishment, it is life itself.
Is it worthy of worship, this pizza?
Yes. An unapologetic, unabashed, unable to understand yes.
“All aboard!” he yelled in his best train conductor voice. She loved riding on the front of the shopping cart as they made their way through the grocery store.
“All aboard!” she mimicked, smiling and grabbing hold. “Faster daddy!”
It was Wednesday night. They were buying enough supplies to last them for the coming week. Racing through the produce section, skipping past the deli on the right, and taking a hard left with a little too much speed, they made it to the back of the store in record time, narrowly avoiding a collision with the lobster tank.
“Let’s see. What do we need H-? I think we need lunch meat for my lunches, bread-”
“Milk, daddy? We need milk, right daddy?”
“That’s right, but that’s all the way on the other side. What else do we need before then?”
“Yep, cereal,” he answered.
Passing the Pepsi shrine, he turned down the breakfast aisle. They were alone. With one big shove he jumped onto the back of the cart as they cruised towards the off-brand bags.
Beaming with joy, she could only ask, “What are you doing, daddy? What are you doing?”
“Oh, just having fun. Errrrrrt!” he sounded, halting prematurely at the sight of pancake mix. “I think we need pancake mix too.”
“Yep. What’s this? Look here H-. It says we can make 130 pancakes out of just this one bag. That’s a lot of pancakes, huh?”
“A lot of pancakes?”
“Yes, a lot of pancakes. Can you eat 130 pancakes?”
“No, that’s silly,” she said, laughing.
“Yeah, me neither. Do you believe this bag has enough mix to make 130 pancakes?”
“What do you say we put Krusteaz to the test this weekend?”
“Your friends like pancakes right?”
“Yeah, your friends. What do you say we invite all of them over for breakfast on Saturday, and see if we can really make 130 pancakes?”
The special operations warriors segregated themselves from the rest of the soldiers in the DFAC. “Deefak” is how everyone referred to the dining facility–the chow hall. After only a matter of days in-country, it became apparent to all how to distinguish those who worked inside “the fence” from those who worked outside “the fence”. These men worked outside the fence. They weren’t necessarily more dedicated, or smarter, but they had always wanted to do what they were doing and happened to be good at it. And they were dedicated. And they were smart.
On the ceiling of the DFAC hung flags. There were flags of the different nations of the world that were in the coalition of forces, and flags of the 50 states.
Suddenly, after a break in the conversation, one of the men spoke up.
“Hatu. Huh, where’s that country? It sounds familiar, but I can’t seem to place it. South America? Africa?” he asked.
“Definitely Africa,” chimed in one of the men more respected for his book knowledge.
“I don’t know,” said another.
“It doesn’t have an African ring to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in South America,” challenged a third.
Without the internet at their fingertips, the hard men were left with all the nuances of communication to determine who to believe–conviction in the voice, the tone of voice, facial expressions, and look of the eyes. Lastly, all waited to see if somebody would wager that they were correct. No one was so bold.
At last, all eyes found themselves gazing at the flag, trying to look for clues. The stocky mustached reader finally broke the silence.
“Hatu. Ha. Morons. It’s not Hatu, it’s Utah. You just read it from the back side of the flag.”
In all caps, it was an easy mistake we suppose, but one that silenced this proud group of men for some time.
And with that they were out the door.
As usual, she ran to the car, and verbalized her victory upon touching the driver’s side passenger door–her door. He simply shook his head and said, “Yep. Looks like you beat me again.” He opened his door, placed everything in the car and started it. Then he opened her door and put her in her car seat.
Getting back into the driver’s seat, he backed the car out of the garage. Next, he put the car in park and got out. The recent week of sub-freezing temperatures took their toll on the garage door opener, so he was forced to use more than just his finger muscles to open and close the garage. In a jiff, he was back in the car and they were on their way.
At the daycare, he grabbed her nap stuff from the front seat and told her she could start unbuckling and get out. Like always, she seemed to not hear this command, and he was at her door before she could comply. She happily dropped down to the cement, and reminded him about the dangers of walking on ice.
Leaving her with the teacher, he walked out of the building briskly. He had time, but never liked the feeling of being rushed. There was something rewarding about getting to work early enough to be able to sit in the car for a moment before going in.
He pulled into the parking garage, and turned off the car. Reaching for his lunch, he nearly jumped.
“MOTHER EFFER!” he shouted. “GOD DANG IT! I know I grabbed it this morning.”
His mind raced to figure out what he would eat for lunch now that he had discovered he left his on the counter.
Walking past the passenger door, his peripheral vision picked up on a grocery sack which looked awfully similar to the ones he packed his lunches in. Turning for confirmation, a shudder of relief almost knocked him off his feet.
“I knew I didn’t forget it,” he said, impressed at his ability to believe a lie.
Opening the door, he simultaneously managed to drop into the seat, press the brake, insert the key into the ignition, and start the engine. “Finally,” he thought, “I’m outta here.” He turned up the Christmas music and began his drive to pick up some dinner.
He made believe that he hadn’t decided where to go, and ran down the list of options–mostly fast food. He knew, though, that he was only craving one thing. His own version of crack-cocaine. Or at least his own version of crack’s most common feature that the planet’s comedians can’t stop talking about.
Turning into the familiar parking lot, he avoided the enormous dip that surrounded the manhole cover. He got out of the car and noticed there were a couple people waiting in line as he pulled open the door to the restaurant.
He overheard the entire conversation between the current customer and the cashier. It was shocking. The lady had ordered a pizza other than pepperoni or cheese. “Wow!” he muttered, shaking his head in disbelief. The rarity of the moment caused the cashier to take a moment to place the order during which he noticed three more customers pile in behind him. For a restaurant bent on having its food hot and ready the growing line created a palpable angst. Finally, one lady near the end of the line couldn’t take it any longer and broke the awkward silence. Gripping her cigarette pack with the familiar three-finger cradle, she nervously packed the tobacco against her left hand with the recognizable staccato “thwack! thwack! thwack!” and said, “Man! This place is hoppin’ t’night!” The others rewarded her benevolence with wide-eyed nods and exhaling.
He smiled. Then he wondered if they knew how much he loved them.
It happened back in the early 2000s. He couldn’t remember the year exactly, but for some reason he remembered seeing a PT Cruiser drive by when she said it. They were eating at a restaurant, him and his woman. She had just spilled some food on her favorite pair of pants. He was not surprised. Hell–by this time detergent companies had specifically developed pen-size on-the-go cleaner in an effort to save relationships. And on this occasion his girlfriend said, “What’s the point of trying to not spill if I have a Tide-stick in my purse? They work wonders!” Unintended consequences as they are, the invention of Tide-sticks resulted in women, his girlfriend included, becoming more daring while eating.
What happened next was unbelievable. Women everywhere just gave up on trying to not spill while eating. At first this was all silly. He would even find himself laughing at all the funny ways women would splink. Splinking–that’s what they called it. Women would intentionally miss their mouth in the most nonsensical situation possible and capture the result on camera. Like planking and duckface before it, the photrend caught on quickly. In the first month, the major social media players actually shutdown for an entire day because of the unexpected traffic. People weren’t laughing for very long though. What no one seemed to notice was that women weren’t eating as much food anymore. Weren’t-eating-as-much-food, quickly became weren’t-eating-enough-food. Sadly, unable to resist the Western-trend, the third world suffered the initial blow. Never had the planet seen such merciless loss of life. Inevitably, all eyes turned upward.
Make no mistake, God was aware of the situation. He just hadn’t exactly prepared for this. Finally, Michael spoke up.
“I have an idea.”
“All these eons, I’ve trusted in your infinite wisdom. Specifically, I tried to never complain that you gave the humans hands, while we only got wings. But with the situation they’ve got themselves into down there, I can’t stand idly by anymore. It’s time God. Give us–your messengers of mercy–hands. With hands we’ll be able to answer their prayers.”
“I don’t think I follow.”
“Here’s how it’ll work. We’ll be waiting and watching for the female humans to take a bite. Then, as the food falls we’ll fly in and reach out, with our new additional appendages, to save the falling food. In that same instant, we’ll return it to the plate and they’ll never know we intervened. After a couple miraculous interventions, they’re sure to catch on. It’s the only way.”
In the next moment Michael and the other heralds were happily dashing around the planet using their new hands to ensure women reached satiation.
He thought enough time had passed, so he finally delivered his joke, “You know hon…I always said it would take an act of God for a woman to eat a meal without spilling.”
He was wrong.
At first, like everyone, he was only slightly annoyed. As time ticked on, however, his curiosity grew. What made them such positive people? After all, they could no longer eat bread.
He couldn’t live without bread. Really, he couldn’t–he had checked. Right on the Hot-n-Ready box it listed bread as an ingredient. What could he possibly eat instead of pizza on weekends? Next he lifted the stack of pizza boxes off the top of the trash can to retrieve the wrapping on his most recent McDouble; sure enough, the material encasing the all-beef patties and cheese was bread. Even if he was able to find a pizza substitute, there is no way he could give-up his lunch and dinner staple. Not finding ‘bread’ on his Canadian Hunter whiskey bottle, he thought he was in luck. Nope. Mr. Google decreed that ‘rye’ was another word for ‘bread’.
Flustered, he shouted to the night, “How do they do it?” He couldn’t figure how the new wave of gluten-free eaters were able to stay so positive when life had handed them such a lemon. Then it hit him. Gluten itself must contain the answer. “What even was gluten?” he wondered. On his way to discovering its chemical signature he deduced the simple truth: Gluten must contain a healthy amount of realism. It had to.
Yep, life made sense again. Until now, he had found himself unable to make sense of the situation. He couldn’t believe that for the last year he had actually felt bad about himself when he was around glass-half-full gluten-free crowds. With his discovery, though, he could remorselessly return to his simplistic worldview. “Finally!” he exhaled, collapsing onto his couch.
Make no mistake, the afflicted’s resilience is remarkable. It’s just that now he knew it wasn’t difficult to be positive–what with an ingredient lacking.
(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
“I really shouldn’t eat this, what with it containing 12 grams of saturated fat. Oh well, I’ll put in extra time at the gym tonight,” he said scarfing down the burger.
“I know. I really went overboard last weekend on the late night snacking. I think I ate two entire bags of chips and salsa,” she replied in kind.
They continued this way for the duration of the time it took for them to wolf down other foods they shouldn’t eat because of words and numbers on the packaging. I know because I was eating with them. You see, they were my friends. I hadn’t seen them in such a long time, and I had finally made time to grab a bite to catch up with them. By the time the food–if we can even call it that anymore–was finished, I was able to ask, “So how’s life? What have you been up to?”
“It’s good. Really good. Oh, but look at the time. I really need to get going if I’m going to make it to the restaurant on time after work tonight. I really need to stop eating out so much,” she said.
Instruction for How To Ruin Food
Step 1 – Believe that there is any relationship between nutritional facts and self-discipline.
Step 2 – State the relationship.
Step 3 – Repeat Step 2 until time runs out.
When that Aprill with his shoures soote/The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,/And bathed every vyne in swich licour/Of which vertur engendred is the flour…*
“Okay, Chaucer, that’s enough Middle Earth or whatever for tonight,” he thought, exhaling.
Straining to lift the book, heavy reading seemingly adding to the already heavy weight, he placed it beside him on the couch. He closed his notebook, and placed it too beside him. In a move foreshadowing a time not yet, he pushed the couch with his hands to stand up and proceeded to the kitchen. Water cup in hand, he turned the faucet on, and confirmed a cool temperature with a rapid flick of his fingers. He nearly finished in one swig, but habit caused him to stop early and pour out the remainder. The slightest feeling of guilt pestered him as he wasted the water. “Whatever.”
As he walked back towards the couch, he eyed an open bag of tortilla chips. “Pretty sure I’m doing chips and salsa tonight,” he announced.
At first, head movement; pupils adjusting to reality next. Finally, his friend smiled.
“We finished off the salsa the other night. It’s all gone,” the friend disclosed.
“That’s fine, we still have the Pace in the fridge,” he said, knowing his friend would never stoop so low to eat, let alone serve others, bottom-shelf salsa.
Like Aesop’s cloak-removing sun, his friend’s smile only grew.
“You finished the Pace?” he asked in disbelief.
“Well, there was only so much good stuff left, so I just mixed it all together. I didn’t want to run out with people over,” informed the friend.
*Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales