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What makes meal experiences memorable?

I decided I’d like to share some of my most memorable meal experiences, because I needed something to write about and that’s what came to mind.

When I decided to do this, I thought of several and began trying to narrow the list down to pick just one or two to expand on. These are a few that my mind focused in on.

The first was that time my two sons and I stopped in at Parran’s Po-Boys on Veterans Boulevard in Metarie, Louisiana, around 7 p.m. They close at 7:30 p.m., and apparently they like to have everybody out by then, so we were informed. We ordered our sandwiches and took a seat with our root beers.

A waitress came by with a large platter of french fries, trying to determine who’d ordered them. No one claimed them. So she plopped the platter down in front of my youngest son — who was 110 pounds soaking wet and with a 10-pound weight in each pocket — and said, “Here. You look like you need these.”

His brother and I got a good laugh out of it, and he got a pile of potatoes for free.

Then there was the first time my wife (girlfriend at the time) cooked for me and my children. Knowing that my daughter Britain’s favorite veggie is green beans, my girlfriend prepared a large serving bowl of the vibrant vegetable and placed it on the dining table in front of my daughter, who’d already claimed her place for dinner. Britain reached out and pulled the bowl up to her and said, “Thank you!” as she started to dig in with the serving spoon. She was a bit disappointed when I stopped her, and she found out that the bowl was for the entire family — not just her. 

And then there were the times when my other children and I shared a memorable moment over food — my oldest daughter discovering that jambalaya made with rabbit and squirrel is really tasty if she didn’t know what the meats were ahead of time; my youngest daughter eager to love coffee (“It smells so good”) and finding out the taste and smell didn’t match up (Yes, dear, you can spit it out); and my oldest son and I sharing a pancake and bacon breakfast at a restaurant near his home in Louisiana, laughing and debating over politics and religion and everyday life.

I’m sure the food was good during those meals. I remember my friend Tim’s jambalaya was really good. But it’s interesting to me that the most memorable meals that come rushing to my mind have very little at all to do with food. The memories are tied up in the people.

Sure, I could tell you about some of the best food items I’ve eaten, and where I got them. Chism’s Diner has amazing burgers. Pappas Pizza Pi has a fantastic lamb and jalapeno pizza. The pulled pork nachos at Magnolia Blues BBQ Company are wonderful. Eric and the guys at Los Parrilleros have the best chorizo and eggs I’ve ever had, and that spicy tomatillo sauce is a tasty addiction.

And I’ve never had better homemade cornbread than my wife’s.

But as much as I love food — my body is a testimony — it’s the company that makes the meal memorable. I could have just as much fun with friends and family over terrible food as if we were sharing the most delectable palatable portions of perfection the world had to offer.

It’s the experience of sharing — the food and ourselves.  That’s what makes memorable meal experiences.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.