Thursday, November 10, 2005

Last supper

Catherine, she of the beautiful children, incredible writing, and completely reasonable neuroses (and I mean that in a pot who loves hanging out with the kettle sorta way, as you surely know), poses the question:

What would your last meal be?

Sounds easy to answer, doesn't it? Probably was easy to answer, when you sent it, hon. But then. Oy, then. My beloved tempe burger has been poisoned for me forever, as it were. This is sad beyond knowing. Believe me. This tempe burger, from a local hippie hangout, is the Holy Grail of Tempe Burgers. And now...ruined. Ruined forever by my friggin' gall bladder episode, which has had one of those Pavlovian effects on me. Sigh. That happened once with gingerbread cookies. Which also sucked. Because my mom taught me how to make gooood gingerbread cookies. They stay kind of nice and chewy instead of getting all hard like most gingerbread cookies do. And they were perfect--PERFECT I TELL YOU--with a nice cup of Earl Grey.

What? Oh. Right. Last meal.

You know, I can't think of any particular type of food that I would want to finish out life with. Don't get me wrong...I am definitely one of those people who really dig food. I love cooking. I love hanging out in the kitchen with the person cooking. I love having people stop by unexpectedly and stay for dinner. I love planning a big get-together with theme food. I love desserts. I love appetizers. I love nearly all cuisines. I love simple. I love complicated. I love eating out. I love ordering in. I love choosing the right beverages to go with the food. I love kitchen stores. I love kitchens.

But here's the thing: the reason I think I love all this stuff so much is that I'm Southern. And meals, in my family, when I was young, were all about love. Now, I'm not going to get into the pros and cons of that; believe me, there are a lot of cons and I have played ball with most of them. But they don't negate the pros: sitting down to eat with the people you love most in the world, gathered around a warm table, talking with each other, laughing, taking their time to enjoy something that involves all the senses in one way or another. Baking cookies with the Chica and our kids every holiday season, enjoying a glass of wine while the kids get their fingers full of dough. Nourishing other human beings. Being warmed by a hot soup, and feeling it make its way to the frostiest parts until you're cozy again. The taste of fresh, homemade lemonade on a blazing day, the way you can feel it go down your throat. Wrapping yourself up in a blanket on an overcast fall day, quiet, with a good book, a pot of tea, a fat cat, and a few perfect gingerbread cookies.

And that's what I would want for my last meal. My family and friends around the table, happy from a long, full day, really hungry, grateful to be nourished, grateful to be fed, grateful to be together. The sky darkening to a heavy blue, the first star coming out, and the sound of laughter coming from the kitchen windows. The children growing sleepy and leaning on their parents shoulders, the coffee brewing. And all the time in the world to finish that meal.