Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Savory to the Taste (07/26/12)
TITLE: Confusing love with food
By Joanna Stricker
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I’d been trying to please my dying mother...or at least she claimed she was dying. I don’t know how she managed to convince the town doctor of that fact, but he believed it. She hung on, and by the end of the second year I’d passed the “it’s a miracle” stage and advanced to “she’ll probably live longer than anyone in the town and county combined.”
She wasn’t dying, but she certainly was conniving. Two years after she’d wrestled a deathbed promise out of me (her deathbed, my promise), I stopped looking and chasing. No one noticed. I barely noticed—too busy with the ‘family’ restaurant. With the advent of my mother’s illness, I’d taken over the everyday business of the restaurant, and, although I loved to cook, I spent my time in the dining room (a residual habit from when I’d sought the male populace’s attention). I did it all, filled orders, cleaned tables, poured coffee, addressing complaints about the cooking (no one dared criticize the server), and, the one consolation for my misery, took people’s money.
After two and a half years, my patience with the temperamental public was gone—as was the cook who’d quit two days before the town’s Independence Day celebration. Unable to get my ‘ill’ mother to drop her quilting group and church meetings, I had no choice but to cook the meals I was serving.
I’d had less than four hours sleep in almost three days, when he came in. While I reluctantly took his order (it was afternoon and the place had finally cleared out—for the pig-chasing event), I noted two things. One, he was the farmer who’d bought McNiell’s place, and two, I hadn’t been introduced so I didn’t have to remember his name.
My praying began not long after I delivered his food. I prayed for patience as I took his roast beef back and added some gravy. Then the coffee needed warming. I bit my cheek and cast petitions heavenward as I replaced ‘lumpy’ potatoes. His bread roll, sent back for butter, made it to the kitchen before I smashed it to death and pelted the dog with its remains. The dog gleefully snatched it up before I remembered to say my prayers. It took ten minutes for my griping to ease into genuine prayer. With the resulting peace, came a realization that I’d skipped breakfast and lunch. With a freshly contrite heart, I buttered twelve rolls, slathered them with my best jam, wrapped them into a towel, fixed myself a plate, snagged the rolls, and grabbed a pie.
If I hadn’t got myself right with the Lord before returning to the dining room, I’d have missed his hangdog look. He’d given up, didn’t think I’d be back. (By the way, he loved/loves my cooking, but was looking for ways to keep me around). When he saw me, he smiled. I plopped the rolls and pie down, placed my plate in front of the opposite chair, sat, and bowed my head.
He launched into blessing my food before a ‘Dear Lord’ thought could pass through my tired brain. He kept it short and sweet. That, more than anything, captured my interest in him.
In return, I kept the wedding short and sweet, despite my mother’s attempts to intervene. Now, twenty years later, I sit at the breakfast table. Across the table, he glances up from buttering his roll. His eyes twinkle as we share the memory, before his children interrupt me with their nagging chatter. I thank God for blessing us with twelve children before wondering…how did Mama convince us she was dying?
I’ll ask her next visit.
After a couple minutes, my husband claps his hands. The children obey his signal, emptying the room. He moves to the chair next to me, blesses my untouched plate of food, tilts my head back for a kiss, then leaves to resume his chores. As I eat in blissful silence, I reflect in wonderment…
That man still makes me tingle—with a simple prayer and a short, sweet kiss.
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