Never yell “Food fight!” on soup day in school.

I thought of that lesson I’d learned in junior high as I tossed a couple of cans of soup into my basket. I was living dangerously. I was grocery shopping while hungry, which left me astounded at how many foods were missing in my life.

I headed to a checkout line with but a single cart ahead of me. I have a superpower that makes it possible for me to always pick the slowest line. The other shopper turned out to be a friend who has five children. There are seven eaters in that house and she was buying for all of them. And they don’t all eat the same things. I complimented her on her daughter’s basketball skills before telling her that I needed to get behind a cart used by someone with fewer mouths to feed.

I was at a writers’ conference years ago and talked to a guy there who had interviewed a prisoner on death row. He’d planned on writing about it. One of the things he told me was he’d visited with the condemned man about his last meal. Sort of a last will and indigestion. If he’d been a married man, I suspect his answer when asked what he wanted for a last meal was, “I don’t know. What do you want?” I figured his ciao chow wouldn’t have been a Happy Meal. Eating healthy can be difficult, but the man likely didn’t concern himself with gluten, fat, sugar, salt, calories or celebrity endorsements. You are what you eat, but not for long in his case. I recall his last eats as being a steak smothered in mushrooms and a ginormous jelly doughnut with sprinkles. He’d liked sprinkles. He didn’t need to concern himself with a definite aftertaste or finding the correct Tupperware lid for leftovers. I’d have suffered from loss of appetite had I been him.

I hadn’t thought of a last meal menu. I gave it consideration when asked what my choice would be. Poutine was one of the things I thought of. Poutine is a dish of french fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. It originated in Quebec. I first ate it in Canada. “Poutine” is Quebec slang for “a mess.” Now I can find poutine in New Ulm. It might be a rebellious last meal for a healthy eater.

Another writer’s last meal would be a “Must Let Tom Pick Onion” on a giant cheeseburger accompanied by a badly shaken ketchup bottle. A third writer said his would be a seven-course meal including hors d’oeuvres, soup, appetizer, salad, main course, dessert, and petit fours washed down with gallons of coffee.

I checked out at the second lane I’d visited with my grocery basket of somewhat healthy choices. Fruit, vegetables, water, soup and two cereal boxes — one Raisin Bran and one Cap’n Crunch. The woman behind me in line chuckled at the anomaly. She commented on the deviation from healthy choices brought about by the Cap’n Crunch.

Tastes change. As a boy, I relished sour crabapples and gooseberries. I ate chokecherries that gave me a permanent pucker. I’m not sure if taste buds become wise with age or eating those things kills off the buds that enjoyed them, but they’re not for me anymore. I try sour fruit occasionally, but it makes me shiver to my socks. But I still crave an infrequent bowl of Cap’n Crunch.

I received medical treatments that caused much of what I ate to taste like mercury fillings. That curbed my appetite. There were few foods and drinks I had a hankering for. Mashed potatoes, dill pickles, Rice Krispie bars, cashews and iced tea. I’d have enjoyed peanut butter and Raisin Bran, but bread and milk held little interest for me. Tater tots, french fries and coleslaw soon joined my list of favorites. I was thankful for every palatable crumb and morsel.

A final meal decision might be difficult for people whose New Year’s resolutions were to give up food they loved for something healthy they detested.

My last meal? If I ate what I wanted for a last meal, it’d kill me. A pork chop that was anything but lean or a big slab of ham or a lovely pot roast. Cherry, pecan or key lime pie. No, make that cherry, pecan and key lime pie with lard crusts. And black licorice, asparagus, yogurt-covered almonds, potatoes, pickles, coleslaw, and Mom’s hard-to-find sugar cookies.

And I’d want it to be an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at

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