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A Bad Meal Remembered
*I realize that I have posted fewer articles over the past week or two. Please bear with me. I have been working on some fiction for publication, making last minute edits to a book manuscript, and writing a couple of articles to try to keep the lights on and buy groceries this month. I should be back to pelting your inboxes with half-formed ruminations in a few days.
Have you ever been a dinner guest and wish that you had been able to sneak your own food onto the plate? Have you ever found yourself not knowing what to say when, at the close of such a meal, the host says, "Did you enjoy that?"
While in college, a similar situation presented itself to me. No names will be used in order to protect the identity of those who were present. If you think that this testimony is referring to you then I suggest enrolling in culinary school immediately if not sooner.
I was working with the promo department for a Bible College so it was expected that I make good impressions on certain people; especially that extremely spiritual class of Christians known, in theological terms, as "donors." On one particular trip to an unnamed state immediately north of North Carolina, we were staying with a family who had an inordinate affection for Bill Gaither and watery spaghetti.
After watching several hours of various "Homecomings," we were treated to a supper of jellied noodles, red water, and boiled bovine flesh. It should be noted that I hardly like good spaghetti under the best of circumstances, so this was certainly going to present a challenge.
I knew going in that I couldn't risk offending our hosts. So I sat looking at the glass of water, pondering the sip-to-bite ratio, hoping that I could wash down the wet mass that was rapidly expanding on my plate. I recall violently seizing the little green can of parmesan cheese. It was the kind that more likely came from a sawmill than a dairy farm. I shook it violently while praying that the sawdust would act as a thickening agent, binding the sinew of the meat formerly known as beef to the soup that arrogantly masqueraded as sauce.
I had already given up hope on the noodles since they fled from my fork like so many absconding fugitives. The ones I did manage to capture simply melted away into the red, watery grave beneath. I contemplated asking for a spoon but my sense of Christian duty won out.
After about nine oversized bites I finished the pasta stew and felt quite pleased with myself. I hadn't noticeably retched and I had enthused our hostess because I had finished her concoction more quickly than the other vict--ur, um, guests. Then, with the swiftness and subtlety of a fox, she appeared from behind with pot in hand and reached out to spoon another helping of that horrible brew on my plate. Being endowed with the natural vigor of youth and a healthy fear of death by gagging, I swiftly stayed her hand. "Ma'am," I said courteously and with my thick southern drawl, "I thank you for your hospitality and the effort to which you have gone to feed us, but I simply can't hold another plate full. I can chew all night but I can't swallow another bite.”
She was amused enough that this ended the discussion and the meal without the threat of a disastrous dessert. So we adjourned to the parlor so that we could resume watching "Down by the Tabernacle."