My first thought had gone something like this:
Write about food?
I knew food by heart, or at least on sight. Food and I enjoyed a long and winding history together. Much of which was pleasant, although that hadn’t always been the case. There’d been a stretch of time or two, as in everyone’s life, that’s simply best left beneath the label of, “Complicated.”
My history began not with me, but with my great-grandparents: a hearty pair of sharecroppers who used to load their horse-drawn wagon down with home-canned goods and drive it out towards the next patch of dirt they’d plant and hoe and harvest until the job was done. My history, too, had been splayed like shards of broken glass across a distant forest floor when the family wagon tipped and all they owned was cast hard upon the ground.
My history endured a time with my grandfathers, both of whom had developed a special way of eating while living in the midst or on the tail-end of the Great Depression. One would always wait for my mother to slop the remains of our plates into a single dish before using his pincerlike fingers to claim his share of a meal that hadn’t been warm for hours. The other was as opposite as opposite could be—invariably the first to be served, with no two foods ever touching on his plate. What these two men shared was rarely what but how much that they ate—only till satisfied, and not a single morsel more.
My history with food continued with my mother, who would sell her blood plasma in college before treating herself to a steak dinner or supplementing the pitiful meals she cooked on the hotplate hidden in her dorm room. She dropped weight like it was her job in those tenuous years of undergrad, and not an ounce by choice. There was only so much a steak could do, after all, as not only was my mother broke, but she was in love. An ever-potent cure for hunger, love.
My history with food finally found me in the form of a two-liter of Coke and the box of Oatmeal Crème Pies my grandfather kept rolling in the floorboard of his faded navy Cadillac. It found me in the bowl of macaroni and tomato juice my great-aunt often used to tempt us down the limbs of a crabapple tree she grew below her house; in the single tub of popcorn my three siblings and I passed up and down the aisle of the movie theater as we waited for the lights to dim; in the small blue cooler filled with the Mountain Dew cans and bologna sandwiches that we ate in the shade of an old maple tree after having planted tobacco since the mists had hung low at five in the morning.
Oh yes, food has filled the books of my lineage since long before I was around to read them, and it only continues to do so. I’ve eaten perhaps more than my own fair share of chocolate chip cookies at the top of Furnace Mountain beneath the blue-tiled roof of a kitchen hut belonging to a Zen Buddhist Temple in nearby Irvine, Kentucky. An elderly nun who made her home with the Sisters of Loretto once shuffled her way across a semi-crowded cafeteria room and back in order to deliver me a spoon for the “tasty bits” of sundae settled at the bottom of my bowl. My roommate and I dug our talon-like fingers into our first Thanksgiving turkey at one o’clock in the morning when we couldn’t get it in the oven fast enough, the first round of holidays in our own apartment often supplemented by calls home to kindly mamas and patient nanas who knew how “good and done” differed in practice from theory.
Due in no small part to my job at the BC Farm Store, my first year out of college has turned out to be one of the best eating years of my life. I’ve eaten a cream of mushroom soup that’s completed a part of my soul I hadn’t known was missing and chased down the world’s flakiest croissant with a cup of the grocery store decaf Stephanie Clark always kept stashed for me in a bottom cupboard. I surprised myself by acquiring a taste for kombucha and surprised myself again by taking an avid interest in the geometric designs made possible by the use of sliced cucumbers in vegan salads.
So yes, my first thought had gone something like this:
Write about food?
But how, I ask now, do I write about the end?
All histories have chapters, and mine at the Farm Store is steadily coming to a close. I’ve learned a lot during my time here. I’ve learned how to say lines like, “How are you?” and “Have a nice day!” without feeling like an empty barrel the rain only beats against. I know your names and remembered your faces and can tell whether you’d like a cookie with that salad long before you’ve dared ask the question. I’ve met your mothers and your brothers, your fathers and your sisters, and helped them all to navigate the self-serve tamale bar or find the elusive black bin in which to deposit your dirty utensils.
I’ve taught first timers how to hold a loaf of challah like a newborn child (mind the “head”) and worried about my regulars when they failed to stop by or send notice. (What could be keeping them?) I’ve learned a variety of ways to say “artisan” and “arugula,” as well as never to attempt the pronunciation of pain au chocolat in public.
Now, the only thing I have yet to do is say goodbye.
And I suppose the only proper way of doing so is simply by saying, Thank you. Thank you, to Berea and beyond, for stepping through those doors and becoming my Farm Store community. Thank you for making this chapter in my long and winding history with food a fine one. May all who pass this way feel just as blessed as I.
Thank you, and goodbye. (For now!)