Observations from Cracker Barrel - Part 1

After working 10 straight hours at Pizza Hut, I was dead on my feet. It was over 100 degrees outside and the inside temperature in the kitchen was 89 degrees. Most of the fatigue came from simply standing. You stand up washing dishes, folding boxes, cutting pizzas and making sauce. I learned when I spent a summer in Spain that my body can’t handle standing for more than a hour. My back begins to stiffen and it just makes me miserable. It is not excruciating pain but just enough to be annoying and constant.

Since I was feeling in such a state, I decided I did not want to cook once I got home. Then the best idea in the world came to mind. Sadly, it was not a cure for cancer. It was two wonderful words, common in their singleness, but once married would make any normal man weep. Cracker Barrel. Country cooking as they call it. Some would say home-cooking. According to Wikipedia, it would also be classified as soul food. My mother is a good cook but she never made many of the foods you find at the Barrel. So I sat myself down to a glass of sweet tea, chicken fried chicken with sawmill gravy, mashed potatoes, fried okra, and some buttermilk biscuits.

I have heard people talk of comfort food. I cannot say that eating chicken fried chicken makes me think of home or lowers my stress. If I am stressed I am more likely to just eat a pint or two of Blue Bell or Häagen-Dazs. I would classify my meal as comfort food in that it makes me think of a simpler time and place. A slower pace of life. It also does remind me of family trips traveling back and forth between Alabama. We would usually stop at the Cracker Barrel in Meridian, Mississippi.

As I was thinking about these things, it occurred to me that there is more than comfort food. There are common everyday occurrences that make us think of that “perfect” day or just some time in our past when “things were right with the world.” I remember distinctly such a time. I was spending my summer in Culican, Mexico. I was staying with a family and the house was always full. However, one Saturday morning I awoke to find the house empty. That was not the only oddity of the day. It was also raining. It wasn’t a hard rain but it was not a drizzle. It was just a good rain. I sat in the silent house, listening to the rain and catching that faint scent of rain in the air. That instantly transported me back to my childhood. I would sit and watch the rain and then decide to go play in it.

The human mind is amazing. A simple sight, smell, taste, or sound can transport you instantly to another time and place. It is good to stop from the busyness of life and enjoy a simple meal and let it nourish your soul and not just your body.