Food plays a very important part in our everyday lives. It is our fuel and gives us sustenance so we can live. I would venture to say that from the beginning of time (however you feel that started) all living creatures knew instinctively that eating was integral to their survival. Over time, the reasons we eat have grown exponentially: boredom, stress, socially, cravings, gluttony … really any excuse can be given for eating. In my lifetime I have met very few people who follow the school of thought, “Eat to live, not live to eat”and He-Who is certainly not one of them.
Very early in our relationship I discovered the importance of food to He-Who. Perhaps I should have clued in with the endless stories of all the food that he missed from his native Winnipeg. Yes, I became well versed in how “Winnipeg is the Center Of The Universe” when it comes to food (among other things). When friends or family mentioned they would be coming to Ontario for a visit they were quickly provided with a list including rye bread, cabbage rolls, perogies, corned beef, etc. and where to get them. It didn’t matter if the travellers were his friends or family. If he overheard someone talking in a restaurant he would introduce himself and produce the list, asking if you thought they might bring some of this back with them. Believe me, over the years, all manner of unsuspecting folks have become He-Who’s food-mules.
Once, when his Mother came for a visit the giant suitcase containing the food went missing. We had made it all the way back to Niagara Falls from the Toronto airport. He was on the phone in minutes tracking down the bag and making arrangements for its rescue. It was not a happy visit until he was reunited with the misplaced food.
When I first met Patrick, one of his best friends from Winnipeg, we picked him up at the airport, confirmed his food baggage was accounted for and headed to one of He-Who’s favourite pizzerias. All the way there Patrick was educated on the fact that this pizza was “almost” as good as the pizza he used to eat in Winnipeg. We ordered our food and chatted. He-Who excused himself for a minute and before he returned our food arrived. As I chatted with Patrick I took a nibble from He-Who’s plate. I like to share so that I can try different things. Patrick’s eyes almost popped out of his head as he tried to stop me. “What are you doing? Don’t do that! If you want this relationship to go anywhere for the love of God do not touch that man’s food!” I was amused by what I thought was Patrick’s over-reaction. When He-Who returned to the table I told him what had happened. He was not amused and pretty much told me to eat my own. Of course, Patrick had to tell the story of the time he tried to take a piece of pizza from him and it almost ended in a war. It seems He-Who ordered the pizza he wanted and then offered to buy Patrick one for himself. Patrick said he would just have a piece of his. He-Who adamantly said, “No you won’t. I will buy you your own”. Patrick in his naivety declined his own pizza and did attempt to procure a piece from He-Who. A few stitches, a tetanus shot and several years later, Patrick timidly shows me the scar from He-Who defending his pizza with a fork.
Over the years most members of my family have gotten use to He-Whos peculiarities about food. In fact, they cater to him. If we are invited for a meal I can guarantee you it will be something He-Who likes and they have probably accosted some old Ukrainian Babushka for it. When they visit they come bearing rye bread and bagels for him. One sister even brought corned beef! They spoil him. When it comes to food he always gets his way. Until recently.
My sister Pat recently retired and because of this we have had the good fortune to spend more time with her. She brought with her a partial loaf of bread she thought I would like. That’s right. I said it was for me. Somehow over the past 17 or so years she had missed the extreme nature of He-Who’s love of food. The bread was delicious. I enjoyed it. He-Who loved it. When we enquired as to where she got it she didn’t know. My sister Lu had given it to her. Lu came to visit and brought another loaf “for He-Who”. We found out it was Miche Rye from Panera Bread.
The most convenient Panera Bread to us is in Oakville, about 100k away. We pass it on our way to Niagara Falls on a regular basis. Our next trip to Niagara included a stop at Panera Bread. Pat was with us and we were dropping her in Niagara for a visit. She planned to pick up a loaf of bread to take with her. I planned to pick up two loaves and freeze one. We were all happy campers as we approached Oakville. Most of you have been in a Panera Bread. As you enter, the wonderful aromas make your mouth water. We stood in line staring at all the yummy stuff on the shelves. Pat and I noticed at the same moment that there was only one loaf of Miche Rye left. We raced each other to the cashiers. I reached mine first and asked, “Is that your last loaf or is there more in the back?” My cashier said, “I will check” and disappeared. Pat reached the cashier second and stated, “I will take that loaf, please.” By the time my cashier came back to give me the bad news that there were no more, my sister had already paid for the last loaf. I was stunned. I was speechless. I had to make myself look at He-Who. There was an expression I have never seen on his face. He very quietly left the building and went outside. I watched him. Words were exchanged between Pat and myself. In her defence she was clueless when it came to He-Who and his food. I went into the restroom to avoid having to go outside. Pat, thinking she was doing the right thing asked the cashier to split the loaf. Poor Pat. She just didn’t get it. There were more words exchanged as we got into the car. He-Who was silent. Pat was now outraged that there was such a fuss over a loaf of bread and asked, “If you had gotten it would you have split the loaf?” Without missing a beat I responded, “No”. He-Who reached over and patted my hand. The car was silent the rest of the way to Niagara Falls. I would like to say that was the end of it but sadly there was still some bread throwing to come.
After dropping Pat off we decided to continue to Niagara Falls, New York and visit the Panera Bread there. They had one loaf left. I bought it. You may be scratching your head right now when you realize that we actually entered into another country to get this darn bread, but as soon as it was in the car the atmosphere changed. All was right with the world. Well, He-Who’s world, anyway.