East of NORMAL

A Godzilla of eateries, worthy of outsized love

I don’t eat very much, or very well, for days at a time. What saves me is that my wife is an excellent cook and a broken record. (Ludvig! You must eat!) Eventually my bloodsugar ship rights itself. It’s not bad like the old days. I’ve gained 40 pounds since the old days. I have a new book out about the old days. It’s called dust bunnies: a memoir. And how’s that for a plug in the first paragraph.
      So, what I’m saying is that I can’t wax poetic about the baked brie available at such and such. And I forget a lot of the great places where somebody picked up the check, like where I got the savory crepe in that yellow building in 5 Points, or the great pizza up the hill from the 5 Spot. My favorite eatery on the East Side? The Family by God Wash. The bucatini ruled and the breakfast was really good too. God rest its musico-gastronomical soul.
      But this issue is about food, so food I shall write about, in florid prose that sexualizes yellow cling peaches and elevates fish sticks to talismans of glory. I choose to point every gourmand’s finger to an eatery that eats other eateries for breakfast. They’re such an eatery, they aren’t even an eatery! But in 40-odd Middle Tennessee counties they feed just this side of 400,000 people who aren’t so much “hankerin’ for some ribs” hungry, but more like, “I’m too weak to think” hungry.
      It’s not always just poverty that afflicts access to the right kind of meal; it’s special needs in communities that maybe don’t cater to the working poor, or the elderly who need special diets they can’t afford. And yes, if this Godzilla of eateries hears from a support agency that a senior citizen can’t get a special food, this eatery will find it and get it there. That’s a foodie with hair on it! It’s one of my fave places and is always the beneficiary of the great Christmastime Tom Waits Get Behind the Mule tribute concert every December, where I’ve played often. (Even though I only really enjoy early Tom Waits. He lost me when he started banging on pots and pans.) Who else could we be talking about but one of the coolest places on the planet: The Second Harvest Food Bank.
      I’d mailed them checks before, and played benefits, and been there once for a hot second delivering stuff, but I’d never really seen the place. So, I just went out there. I found them in that nowheresville office park and warehouse hell they call MetroCenter I guess, although I think they could come up with a better name, but I guess no one thinks it’s needed. Anyway, I walked in the lobby and this nice lady named Nancy showed me a warehouse that could body-slam Costco. We’re talking shelves to the ceiling and the ceiling ain’t for a while! On all the shelves are boxes full of food, and Nancy told me that this behemoth repository would run out in 21 days if not replenished. There were trucks backed up, some bringing in, many taking out.
      You know what I like about a place that served 28 million meals last year, and is celebrating its 40th year in existence? It’s blessedly bipartisan. Jesus said to feed the hungry, so we’ve got that ideological demographic covered, and who among us can ever countenance a hungry child? It’s never the kids’ fault if the parent or parents are struggling to make it by while some talk-radio-loving douche says well if they would just work hard enough you wouldn’t be hungry would ya?! It’s a tough road being hungry. I know what it feels like — the light-headedness, the fatigue. I did it to myself. But I had issues I was fortunate to have access to help for. Right now, in some county I can’t spell, is a kid starting right down that road, and he needs to eat, so he can learn, so he can get the energy to move ahead in pockets of our beautiful world where people don’t really have Christmas dinner.
      Christmas doesn’t always come. But thanks to Second Harvest, Fish Stick Day always can!