ROBERT ST JOHN: Meals are memory makers that nourish our souls

By Robert St. John

Meals are more than just an opportunity to consume food and nourish one’s body.
Last week my daughter spent five days serving as a page for Speaker Phillip Gunn in the Mississippi House of Representatives in Jackson. I went along as her chaperone. Initially, I was excited about the prospect of her learning the political system and how our state government works. The trip, however, turned out to be something much different than I planned.
In scheduling her week as a page, I figured we would grab a quick breakfast each day. I would then drop her off at the capitol, she would do her page gig, and I would spend the day working on projects I have in development in Jackson. At the end of the day I would pick her up, we would have dinner, she would do homework, and then we would rest so she could get up and do it all again the next day.
That would have been a good week in my book. Luckily for me, that wasn’t how the schedule worked out.
The first morning was hectic, as it was a new schedule for both of us. But everything changed on the morning of the second day. I booked a room at The Fairview Inn because they have large rooms, large bathrooms (important when one’s roommate is a teenage girl), and it is close to the capitol. What I had forgotten is that the Fairview Inn serves an excellent breakfast – without question one of the best breakfasts in town, if not the state.
In addition to great food and service, I had the perfect dining companion. I don’t know when I have had a more enjoyable morning meal. We had “grown-up” conversations. The entire setting was ideal – no friends, no television in the background, no cell phone, just my daughter, eggs, bacon, toast and me. Perfect.
The breakfast was good, the conversation was great, and the company was even better. She asked questions about how legislative districts were formed and the election process. We discussed policy, we talked about her future, and we talked about my past. My wife, son, daughter and I share meals and conversation all of the time, but this was different.
Throughout the week we had dinner with various friends each night, those were fun, but the highlights of my week – without question – were the breakfasts spent with my daughter.
I thought of the Frank Sinatra quote about drinking: “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”
I haven’t had a drink in almost 30 years, but that is the exact way I felt about those five breakfasts with my daughter. My day peaked at 8:15 a.m. I knew that whatever happened the rest of my day, nothing was going to top the hour I spent sharing a meal with her.
A family meal at my house might turn into a group therapy session, a comedy show, or an informative parental lesson. They can be informational, instructive and sometimes hilarious. When dining one on one, in a before-your-daughter-goes-to-work setting at breakfast, it opens up new avenues of conversation and topics.
No one was griping about homework undone, grades or curfews. She and I were having adult conversations about real-life situations. She worked hard all week and I was proud.
Sharing a meal with family or friends is one of life’s greatest joys. Meals are memory makers. They bring us together. They nourish our souls.
I believe that when most people look back over the most memorable times in their lives, meals were probably involved in some shape or form. Whether you were with friends at an out-of-town dinner, on vacation, at a family reunion, at the deer camp, dining at friends’ homes, joining co-workers at a restaurant, or eating Sunday lunch with family. Anytime we come together over food, memories are made.
One day I will reach a stage in my life where I can sit, rock and reflect. I believe when that day comes, those five breakfasts with my daughter – as small and insignificant as they may have seemed at the time – will be some of the fondest memories of all.
Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.

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