Plumstone: Food brings good friends together

It was therapeutic for me to be on cookie duty.

Two Sundays ago was my day to provide refreshments for the church after worship. Normally, one can reasonably expect there to be any of the following: Cheez-Its, pretzels, little butter cookies, Gardettos, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and perhaps–if you’re lucky–those Keebler fudge-filled sandwich cookies. Also–and invariably–there is sour lemonade and weak decaf coffee.

When I signed up for the responsibility, I had a plan. I was thinking fresh fruit and those almond cookies that look like windmills and maybe some good cheese and crusty bread. I decided I was tired of wiping cheese cracker crumbs on my slacks after church each Sunday, and I suspected that I wasn’t alone.

After a wildly full Saturday devoid of any cookie prep, my turn came around. I spent the morning rushing to the grocery store instead of going to the service. The whole thing snuck up on me. I found myself pacing the produce aisle of the grocery store and shifting my weight from foot to foot in front of the cheese case. I kept checking my phone for the time. With an exhale of anxiety I knew that I could not follow through with my plan as I had designed it. And the vision I had dreamt of myself would not materialize: standing with my arms crossed and a wry smile behind the table to receive the inevitable compliments on the refreshing and exotic snacks.

I dropped the smoked Gouda and headed for the cracker aisle, or wherever they keep the Cheez-Its.

I heard the stairs rumble with children’s feet rushing down to the gym to get some snacks. Each of them, when they arrived, looked pretty underwhelmed. In fact, as it turned out, I ran out of food. Not only did I end up buying the normal stuff I didn’t even get enough!

I was reflecting on this out loud when I heard the gracious voice of Gloria Gale, who stood in front of me, picking up an apple slice.

“It doesn’t matter what the snacks are. This is just so people come down here and socialize.”

When I looked up from the table and stopped worrying about the strength of the lemonade and whether or not the napkins were properly lining the basket of cheese crackers, I saw our church–everyone together, munching on crappy snacks and wiping the crumbs from their fingers on their pants or skirts, and talking.

This past Tuesday my housemates, Clark and Joey, and I had breakfast at Shipley Donuts–showing up with the early birds to shoot the bull and lounge around tables of cheap coffee and soft fried dough.

I ordered a strange looking cinnamon roll, a plain glazed doughnut, a blueberry cake–my mother’s perennial favorite, and now mine–and a coffee. I turned to my friends when I received from the kind lady the bulging bag of pastries I’d ordered.

“I always get too many. I don’t know why. I just always do.” They smiled.

We sat down at the table after each of us held our plunder and tore open the bags. This hunger seed had sprouted into carnal desire for cheap sweet dough since its planting last Sunday morning. Clark told me as he left the house that day, that he was going to pick up doughnuts before church. From that moment and until the point when I licked the crackled icing from my fingers I had felt uneasy. A jittery child dreaming of sweets.

The oily soft doughnuts slowed our pace when I was about half way through. So we talked. We talked about the future evolution of man on earth. We talked about Joey and his heading towards marriage. We talked about how maybe we don’t talk enough. I talked about how I don’t feel like I know about them as much anymore, comparing this time to another time years ago when we got together for breakfast every week. And talked.

At one point I started rambling on some tangent about culture and how it does–but maybe doesn’t–affect people’s behavior. And about the time I realized I didn’t know what I was talking about I apologized.

“Sorry guys. I guess I really don’t know what I’m talking about.”

“Sam,” Clark paused, “We’re at the doughnut shop. It doesn’t matter.”

I smiled and we paused.

“Let’s do this every week,” said Clark. Joey and I were quick to agree.