Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We Could Mess Up a Free Lunch

The Roanoke Valley has four rather bohemian coffee shops named after a local mountain. The waiters are very young and extremely hip, the coffee is so strong it can walk out of the cup and leap into your mouth when ordered to do so. They are playing an old Bob Dylan album tonight and a piece of cake is $5. That's two gallons of gas, folks. Sure, the floors are cool, the furniture is collegiate and comfortable...but you can't smoke inside and the cake is outrageous.

It's not that it isn't worth it, but the owners are catching us at a weak moment, aren't they? Everything about the place screams rathskeller...a gathering place for wild and crazy youth. And we walk in with our middle-aged bodies and hips and look at the cake and think, "Boy, that would be good with coffee, wouldn't it?" The atmosphere tells us we can eat all we want and will burn it off pulling an all-nighter tomorrow.

The reality? Well, the reality is that America is getting much older. We are still hippies, we just put calories on like our parents used to. Being hip burns calories. Being a hippie doesn't. Lunch is no longer free. Every bite costs now.

And if this sounds like a rant because I bought the brownie instead of the chocolate chip fudge cheesecake...well, it is. I'm not paying $5. Sorry.

All of Roanoke has now moved into fall, which is wonderfully mellow here. We're still in shirt sleeves and sandals, and the leaves are rust, gold, green yellow and chrysanthemums are everywhere in the same colors. We are moving into the national eating season: Thanksgiving and Christmas and, to some extent, New Year's. Thanksgiving is really just so American that it is very difficult to explain. When I tutored an Arab family, I just told them that on Thanksgiving we: travel, eat, stare at TV and become comatose over the table. There really is no other ritual for Thanksgiving, unlike our other holidays.

There is no input from other cultures for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, America has incorporated the German tree, the Dutch St. Nick, the Swedish legend of the animals speaking, the carols of England, and the food and candy of almost every country on Earth. But Thanksgiving just sits there, as we do, bland as the Pillsbury dinner rolls and just as exciting.

A Roman feast is the only precedent in history. The Romans supposedly had 'vomitoriums' where one could free one's stomach up for the next 10 courses and more wine after one had filled up the first time. A never ending meal. I see that as next on the Thanksgiving plate, as it were. Forgive the pun.

Now, why did haggis suddenly come to mind?

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