Roger Ebert, who you may know has lost the power of speech from his battle with thyroid cancer has also lost the ability to eat and drink as well. He opines possibly the most wonderful and touching piece I have read on dining with others in some time.
Here’s just a snip from this long blog post:
I came across this sentence in its web review, and it perfectly describes the kind of place I like: ” A Greek-style chow joint replete with ’70s wood paneling, periwinkle padded booths, a chatty wait staff and the warble of regulars at the bar. Basically, if you’ve ever had it at any place that starts with Grandma’s, Uncle’s or any sort of Greek place name, you can find it here.” Yes. If a restaurant doesn’t serve tuna melts, right away you have to make allowances.
So that’s what’s sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for, unless I’m alone, it doesn’t involve dinner if it doesn’t involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, “Remember that time?” I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it’s sad. Maybe that’s why I enjoy this blog. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now.
Indeed. One of my last jobs in radio was producing the very fine radio program of Arthur Schwartz called Food Talk. Which I always thought should just have been called “Radio Dining.” We would eat out often, for work. And while the food was significant, Peter Lugar’s steak (actually, the bacon, tomato and onion appetizer was more memorable and as tasty), Oceana’s salmon, Foley’s Fish House’s Crab cakes, or even a Nathan’s Hot Dog (with a great snap in every bite) it was the conversations with people that I remember most. Arthur was and still is, a real character and often around a meal he would be lively and entertaining.
The same is true here in Buffalo. The hospitality that Fr Jack Ledwon, our pastor and especially, Sr Jeremy Midura and Patty Spear, two other members of our parish have shown us has made Buffalo a home for Marion and I. Often that hospitality centers around a meal. Even our daily staff lunches help us get to know one another and revel in each other’s lives and stories.
That is often what we remember about meals–the who rather than the what. Interestingly, Roger Ebert speaks of remembering root beers and cheap candies, “especially the blacks, reds and greens,” which I despise, but hey, everyone’s got their own palate. But the interesting thing is that it seems that the memory of those things takes him to a place that is just as satisfying. Once you get a taste of something apparently, it is yours forever.
Perhaps that is true about most things. I know I have memories of times spent with my wife that nobody can ever take away from me and all I have to do is to recall those memories and I am there once again, enraptured by the googly-eyed passion that I was feeling at the time and to make things better, moments after I remember, I look at Marion and the moment is here again. Memory, even without action, often influences emotion and satisfaction.
Most things that we value are lodged in the heart and in the mind and they don’t take much to recall and transport us back to what is truly important. I know, I need that reminder and Mr. Ebert provided that for me today.
Yet, in our own religious tradition of Catholicism, it seems to me that Jesus had the same idea when he said “Do this in memory of me.” We recall and ritualize this by doing something simple, eating a meal of bread and wine in appearance, but in doing so we literally harken Jesus–do we not? Remembering, in fact, makes it so, makes it real, makes it Christ. Someone says the words and perhaps we quietly say them too, and we recall the story of Jesus giving us His entire self, God gives us all that He can be in human appearance so we might become all that God is in glory. While the apostles had the only actual experience of that living breathing Jesus and we only have their remembrance, it indeed is enough for all of us…for nearly 2000 years enough.
Today think of a fond memory and let yourself be transported there…remember and it will simply be so.
As for myself, I’m off to Ireland and I’m not even taking a plane.
A h/t to Deacon Greg for pointing me here and prayers for Roger Ebert