A meal from the St. Norbert College Cafeteria altered the course of my life

th10I had been horribly sick. Stayed in bed for a week. Couldn't eat. Missed all of my classes.

The old country doctor tossed me some throat lozenges and sent me on my merry way. This is Packer Country, people are tough.

Not able to swallow my own saliva due to a swollen sore throat, I had to spit into wads of toilet paper I swiped from the communal hall bathroom. No soft "Puffs" for this broke college student's raw red nose.

In my lumpy twin bed, there I was wearing plaid flannel pajamas, cheeks flushed with fever while the overheated dorm room smelled of sweat and Vicks. The last time I showered was Sunday. It wasn't an attractive scene.

My smoking hot new boyfriend appeared at the door wearing a layer of bitter cold, northern Wisconsin air with a hint of oregano. Snow drifted high against the fences along the Fox River behind Bergstrom Hall. It was the middle of February.

I had no appetite but he decided it was important to get something in my stomach. In his arms he carried biology textbooks and my first meal all week.

Our college Meal Plan allowed for "sick trays" to be carried out for those too ill to dine in. You certainly didn't want to contaminate the healthy patrons of the cafeteria with your barking cough and high fever.

The Styrofoam container held three compartments. A scoop of baked, dried out mostaccioli. Iceberg lettuce with diced cardboard tomatoes smothered with a ladle of Thousand Island dressing. The sight of this made me gag. A slice of white bread was wedged into the crease.  But that third compartment caught my droopy, bloodshot eyes.

There it was, all slippery, shiny and jiggly. Cherry Jell-O.

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"Awe, thank you for this!" I croaked, sitting up and pretending to be perky. I took a plastic spoonful of this cold mound of gelatin and it slid down my flaming throat with gentle ease.

It tasted so good. Savoring every bite, soon it was gone.

I put the lid on the remaining items in the "sick tray" and it was tossed in the trash bin down the hall. I'm sorry, I just couldn't get that to go down.

By the next morning, I took a turn and started to feel better.

Food nurtures the body

Food nurtures the soul.

Food is love.

I fell hard for this kind, college sophomore bringing cafeteria food to his sick new girlfriend. I fell in love.

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It's one of my favorite memories from our early days of dating.

We will celebrate forty years of marriage this August.

Thank you again for bringing me dinner on that cold winter night in February.

It worked its magic.

Because there's always room for Jell-O.

 

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