Yesterday I went to a clinic to do my annual health screening, a requirement of our insurance carrier. Somehow it makes me feel old to have to be told that my blood pressure is too high and to have myself measured, weighed and poked.
After we were through at the clinic, Michelle and I went out to eat lunch to break the more than twelve hour fast required for the testing. We stopped at a very nice cafeteria on the South side of Indianapolis and had a great lunch. The fact that we stopped at a cafeteria is another sign that we are growing older. I remember as a child my parents preferring cafeterias to fast food. As children, we could never imagine that we would be so old that eating real home cooked kinds of foods would be preferable to hamburgers and french fries but here we are, well into middle age, going to health screenings and eating cafeteria food. Somehow it makes me want to dig out my old vinyl records and give them a spin – if I still had something to play them on.
As we were going through the line I was tempted by some really delicious looking bread pudding. I know, bread pudding is not a very elegant dessert. Sitting next to the pies piled high with meringue and some really elaborately iced cakes, bread pudding seems like the ugly step sister of desserts. There is nothing beautiful about it except the taste.
Recently, I was reminiscing with some of my elementary school classmates and the subject of bread pudding came up. It was a staple dessert in the elementary school I attended and one thing that you could pretty much have as much of as you wanted. I am sure now that it was the lunch room cooks’ way of getting rid of leftover breads and buns but I just remember it as a sweet ending to some otherwise not so great lunches. Even now, I can see the big bowl of raisins, bread and sugar at the end of the lunch line and I get a warm feeling.
I have traveled to England several times where bread puddings are an art form. Again, art in the taste sense. Even the British have a hard time making bread pudding look pretty. The English like their bread puddings so much that they even give them names. Try ordering “Spotted Dick” in America and see where it gets you. The traditional bread and butter pudding in England is great but it still doesn’t quite live up to my childhood memories of my elementary school bread pudding.
Yesterday’s bread pudding did live up to expectations. With each mouthful I was transported back to playgrounds, childhood infatuations, and that warm feeling that promises the world is waiting for you to join it for an adventure. I suspect very few people reading this have the same emotions that I have when I think about bread pudding but I aslo suspect most people have a food that takes them to a happy place, even for just a moment. Somehow, with our bellies full and our imaginations stirred, we feel like the world is a little safer and we can cope with it a little bit more. I guess that is why they call it comfort food.
In the church we break bread to remember events that happened two thousand years ago and to bring those memories into our present reality. If we enter into that remembering properly it should be just as palpable as my childhood remembrances and significantly more comforting. So take, eat, and remember. It is, after all, what comfort food is meant to do.