The Meal

Uptown Minneapolis. Early May in 1993, approx. 2 a.m.: two female roommates in a third-floor walk up apartment are squatted in front of the the fridge, scavenging for post-bar munchies. The women, both in their mid-twenties and cosmetic counter ladies at the flagship store of the iconic Minnesota Dayton's chain, were starving. They were also retail workers so the contents of the refrigerator were sparse and eclectic. Beer, bagels, cheese, condiments. One of the women, a reed-thin brunette named Amy (she worked for Origins) took out the bagels, the sliced Muenster cheese and a bottle of French's mustard. The other woman, a not-reed thin brunette named Jenny (her counter was Prescriptives) watched in tipsy anticipation as Amy placed the foodstuffs on a plate and then placed them in the microwave.

The Meal was born.

The list of things I won't eat isn't very long:

Raw tomatoes
Polish sausage
Walnuts (okay, technically they'll kill me but still)

Also circus peanut candy and raisins either solo or embedded like sneaky moist landmines in otherwise delicious food.

But the things I will eat? That list is long and varied and thanks to how my strange brain is wired, inexorably braided with emotions. Certain foods evoke old, familiar feelings: mom's wild rice casserole. Stale Red Vines. Curry chicken. And, oddly enough, The Meal.

The Meal never changes. It's always white bagels, sliced Muenster cheese, and yellow mustard. No substitutions can be made. The cheese is cut or torn to fit on the bagels, the mustard is squirted on top in a swirly pattern and then it's microwaved until the cheese is slightly melted.

My kids have seen The Meal being prepped and are always repulsed. "Really, Mom? The Meal?" They know it by name but have never partaken of it. They will, however, eat the cheese without hesitation.

It's comfort food, no matter how gross the combination. I don't know exactly why it comforts me, though. I do know it's a rare thing, for a few reasons. Number one reason is there's no way in hell I'd eat this in front of anyone besides my captive audience (aka, children). Number two is the gluten thing. Thank God and the amber waves of grain, I do not have Celiac Disease but I do have gluten issues. Namely stomach aches, brain fog and inflammation stuff, but nothing incapacitating. So I go through phases where I'll happily put up with agonizing reflux and headaches in order to enjoy stuffing all things wheaty into my piehole. Until I stop and remember how nice it is to not be sick all the time. (I'm not real bright)

I made the meal today, the first day of 2018. Not sure why, but the ingredients were all there in the fridge, the house was silent and one minute I was standing in the kitchen, the next I was back in that Uptown apartment with Amy, dissecting the evening spent at Urban Wildlife and devouring The Meal.

1993...we were young and oh so free and had no idea what the future would hold for us. We did know a few things: the song "Connected" by Stero MCs was hella sexy, Andy and Ethan, the guys in the apartment across the way, were definitely hitting on us and The Meal was just what we needed to soak up the last of the tequila in our systems.

I'm no longer young, my freedom is very subjective and the only thing in my system this morning is coffee. But The Meal, man. Sometimes it's still just what I need.

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