So what do you write to a stranger? Aside from starting the letter – Hey Stranger? Then you wax poetic about restaurants and food and lines for food. Because everyone can relate to a story about food, right? After all, food isn’t just fuel, it’s art; it’s a hobby –it’s war. Food is war.
Take Elijah, for example. He tells me, with his dark face and lips hardly moving, mumbling slightly—I lean in—Elijah says: take the pie. The pie? I ask. What about the pie? Well, he mumbles a little—I note the grey at his temples. He still keeps his hair short, military style.
“Y’all serve pie two times a day. Lunch and Dinner.”
Well, you know we have diabetics here, and they shouldn’t have pie served twice a day.
I sit back and look at him.
“No one makes you take the pie, Elijah. Really, you can choose to have pie if you want it. Once, twice a day. Or not at all.”
“You shouldn’t be serving it,” he responds.
“Elijah, it’s about self-determination. We give you the choice. Take a piece of pie or don’t.”
“No really, I think y’all should only serve it once a day.”
I sigh. I lean back and I tell him about my grandfather who was in a nursing home at the end of his life. His greatest joy those final days was the scoop of ice cream they offered him on special occasions. I sum it up with—So Elijah, there might be some guys who want pie at lunch or who want pie at dinner. Why should I take that away from them?
Food is war.
Elijah is battling with himself—he forgets to talk about how he wants to vary the menus, how he’s asked for field trips to the Culinary Academy so they can all try the gourmet eggs béarnaise.
[Food is love.]
Elijah is on a mission to save everyone from the very pie that he can’t resist. He’ll tell you he’s a diabetic. He’ll tell you he’s on dialysis. He’s fighting a fight to stay alive. What he won’t tell you is how often the pie has won. He won’t tell you how many times he’s given in to the pie. He just wants you to vanquish the enemy on his behalf.
Remove the pie.
What’s next? We serve yogurt. We serve ice cream. You can even get a decent cup of coffee or two or three. No one will force feed you—at least, not until you move to a higher level of care—and they won’t force-feed you there, either. Rather, you’ll have a nurse sit across from you, with a cup of applesauce, attempting to feed you so you don’t choke. And if you don’t like applesauce, they’ll try something else.
And if you are on chewing restrictions, which means your jaw no longer works the way it was designed, you don’t get a nice slice of pie. Ever again. You get pureed pie. Pureed meat. Pureed something. You don’t get to chew a piece of tangy apple, in its own juice, spiced with a little cinnamon, topped with a bit of tender flaky pastry. You won’t have the opportunity to let the butter crust melt on your tongue.
Why the hell would we stop serving pie to people who can still savor it?
Life’s too short to take away the pie.
Seriously, Elijah, what were you thinking?
This is a piece written in an Amherst Writers & Artists session. All works are deemed to be fiction. For more information about Pat Schneider’s non-profit arts organization, visit Amherst Writers & Artists.
The first time I was shot at was after I got out of uniform. I was at a bus stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after my closing shift at the chocolate shop. I can’t recall if it was late at night or still daylight. I was seated on the wooden bench and the shot entered the glass shelter, just above my head.
The glass shattered. My head didn’t.