Food consumption–does who you eat with and why you eat with them have an effect beyond mere sustenance?

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Bentonville, Arkansas.

It’s the home of

  • The first Walmart -Sam Walton’s original variety store. (That’s me in front of the store.)
  • The stunning Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

And, the Flying Fish.

Before you break into a comedy routine about airborne fins and sky-high gills, consider this. I’m talking about a restaurant with one entire wall covered with Billy Bass plagues. Yes, the ones with the plastic fish that sings when it senses motion.

Now that’s impressive.

And a brilliant way to keep folks from stiffing their bill. Just threaten to activate an impromptu concert of “Take Me to the River” Talking Head style or a tinny rendition of “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. They’ll come up with the money just to get  away.

Besides being totally creative, it was certainly not as costly as incarceration.

Another wall was dedicated to something called the Liar’s club. If you bragged about a big fish that you caught you could have your picture up there. The wall was covered with photos.

Disturbing.

So many liars for such a small town.

But, the aroma from the kitchen kept me focused.

Smells of

  1. crispy frog legs with coleslaw
  2. grits and gumbo
  3. mud bugs (boiled crawfish)
  4. pickled green tomatoes
  5. fried okra
  6. grilled grouper
  7. fillet of catfish cooked any way you liked –batter fried or grilled, put in a poor boy or sliced across a salad

My family ordered the catfish basket.

That’s when I made a significant discovery.

Underneath the

  • fillets of catfish,
  • tucked in between golden fries

were three little hush puppies.

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Side note – Contrary to what you may believe if you live in the far north, hush puppies are not extremely quiet canine pets.

They are a deep fried bit of heaven fashioned from

· cornmeal,

· wheat flour,

· eggs, salt,

· baking soda,

· buttermilk or plain regular milk

· bits of onion, garlic and hot peppers.

As the tang of onion and cornmeal exploded on my tongue, I was transported to a scene from my past. People around me munched on hush puppies and drank sweet tea. I saw my Dad, now long gone, listening to the conversations of his parishioners while he watched us kids splash in the murky creek nearby.

Another bite and I was a teenager again. Elbow to elbow, I crowded with my siblings around the table at the local Catfish Cabin. Dishes of Chow Chow and black eyes peas sat next to the hush puppies and fish.

After a few seconds of  being back in time, I shook my head.

Food does that kind of thing, you know.

  1. Wraps itself around the senses.
  2. Binds what we feel with what we taste and smell.

Think about it –

  • In the Old Testament, when two parties decided to make peace they celebrated with a hearty meal.
  • In the New Testament, the early church shared their food with each other daily.
  • Funerals, birthdays and weddings still marked by the consumption of food and the gathering of the ones we love.

Perhaps, sharing sustenance with another human being is more than just

  • munching down
  • or grabbing some grub

What do you think?

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