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The "Food Arrangement"

Where's the Beef?

Food Service Nostalgia

I know.  The new food arrangement is supposed to be an improvement over what we once had.  Less people are needed to care for providing food, and so energies can be spent enjoying and benefiting from the program prepared by the Slave Class, so the theory goes.  I know I'm supposed to glowingly praise any change as an improvement, since there is no such thing as a change in the wrong direction in God's organization.  But, I can't help myself.  I miss the "good old days."

Sure, the food wasn't that great.  Who can forget the dry roast beef sandwiches that needed to be dowsed with the barbecue sauce that came in the little packet that ended up embedded in the side of the bun (Hoagies are for wimps.  Beef: real food for real people).  I often felt that I was getting a lesson in archeology.  It took a skilled person to escavate the packet and not have a piece of the bun come off with it.  Then there were those containers of orange juice that never had quite enough to keep my mouth moist (the sandwiches would absorb water like sponges), so I had to always get two, and the fact that most of the time they were still half frozen aggravated the situation, since after draining the liquid out of the container, I had to somehow get the remaining frozen mass into my dry mouth.  Usually the slow method consisted of trying to melt it by holding the cup tightly between my hands which in turn were between my legs (maximum body heat), the fast method is to break the frozen juice as best I could, tilt the cup over my mouth, and hope for the best as the icy shards plunged between my waiting lips.  If I did this just right, I could avoid the embarrassing dribbling, though the price paid for this expedience is frostbite on my tongue.  But with dry beef and bread in your mouth feeling like cotton gauze and leather, I found it an acceptable price.

Of course, to avoid the juice problem, there were always sodas.  Usually some brand I have never heard of, and after tasting it, I had an inkling as to why.  I always imagine some brother working at a bottling plant where they make soda for some third world country, or maybe it's some covert operation to undermine a foreign power by shipping them ghastly tasting soda, who tells the convention overseer, "Hey brother, I can get you sodas for real cheap." When ever the words "brother" and "cheap" are used in the same sentence, beware.  I'm sure Joseph was advertised to the Ishmaelites as being "real cheap." "Yeah, Achmed, we'll give you a good deal on our brother Joseph.  Real cheap."

I personally always enjoyed most the pasta salads which I guess they decided to include since the options for vegetarians were quite slim.  If you didn't like no-name chips and soda for lunch, you were out of luck (I use that term metaphorically of course).  Though being a little heavy on the oil and vinegar, they were a light alternative, and didn't require anything to wash it down with, it sort of slid down.  I loved the stuff.  Then there were the fruit bags.  Can't do much to ruin fruit.  God made it after all.

But, the yearning for the former arrangement comes not so much from the food itself, but also the work that went into it.  Anyone who's done it can attest to the fond memories of waking up extra early, piling the family into the chevy station wagon while the sun rose and breath still came out as mist in the cold morning air, going to the convention to an empty parking lot and entering the wonderful world of mass food preparation.  Like worker bees, brothers and sisters swarmed the tables, moved crates, arranged tables, opened boxes, while the aroma of cafeteria food and sound of chattering and work filled the air.  Here you see people you haven't seen since last convention, hear the latest scoop from other places, learn about what happened to a friend of yours that moved.  Lots of experiences.  Some jokes.  A little gossip, well, actually, a lot of gossip, but who's counting? We had fun.  Sure it was tiring, and perhaps miserable at times, but misery is what makes things memorable, and is what gives satisfaction when all is said and done.  Ask a marathon runner after 20 miles how he feels.  He's miserable! Ask him how he feels afterwards.  Pretty gosh darn good.

Even when I didn't get the priveledge of food service, who can deny the pleasure of seeing the fresh young face of an attractive sister, ready to serve.  Bright eyes.  Cute smile.  "Mmm.  Dry beef sandwich.  Sure.  My favorite.  Give me two.  Take your time, sister.  Let's see.  Should I get the apple danish or the cheese...Decisions, decisions.  What do you recommend? My that's a pretty dress you have on."

But of course, such precious moments aren't without their drawbacks.  Many a single brother have walked away smiling, only to suddenly exclaim, "Doh! I forgot to ask what congregation she's in!"

Alas, it is all gone now.  In convention halls the kitchens are devoid of life, counters stand empty, menu signs are gone from their mantles, the soft-serve machine that our CO would use to dish out sundaes sits idle in a corner, seemingly longing for the good old days.  Morning food prep rituals are gone, the latest scoop has to wait until midday, everyone eats a different lunch (actually, I always felt that the physical food was a kind of metaphor for the spiritual food.  Everyone eating the same thing, being served by the same people, a sort of motif along a common theme).  And I honestly can say, I miss those roast beef sandwiches.

Maybe I'm hoping for too much, but I dream of a day where we don't make sandwiches in our separate homes, but gather once again to the place called the District Convention and turn truckloads of food stuffs into neatly packaged sandwiches.  For I can't imagine Jesus, speaking to the thousands before him uttering: "Happy is he who has brought their own food, since we are simplifying the arrangement.  There will be no fish and loaves of bread from now on.  May you all benefit from this new arrangement and concentrate more on the program I've prepared."

Copyright 1995 by Robin Shec