Almost every Wednesday morning, I have breakfast with a group of mostly-retired guys from our church. There are a couple who are still working but have flexible hours and enjoy getting together with the rest of us. Ages range from early forties (one of the still-working guys) to middle nineties. If there is one word that is used more than any other in the group, it would be “Huh?” You see, several of the regulars have hearing aids that are never turned up enough to allow them to hear what’s going on in the multiple conversations that seem to be swirling around simultaneously. It’s a congenial group, composed of several ex-ministers and a number of free-thinkers. Most everyone is to the left of Bernie Sanders politically, but the primary topic is, depending on the season, the success of our respective alma maters’ football or basketball teams. During the summer, we pretty much avoid the topic of baseball, since Kansas City doesn’t have a professional team anymore.
Our group tries to have breakfast at the same place every Wednesday so as not to confuse ourselves, but it has been hard to be consistent. Since I’ve been attending, two years now, we’ve managed to close down three restaurants. I don’t think it really has anything to do with us; food service is a tough business to be in. It’s hard these days to find a decent restaurant that will reserve a place for ten to twelve guys every Wednesday, that serves good breakfast food and gives a senior discount. The discount is important. As are servers who will put up with old guys acting like teenagers.
I got to thinking that I’ve developed most of my close friendships because of food. Suzanne and I get together with a group of people once a month for “happy hour.” We meet at one of the couples’ houses on Saturday afternoon, everybody brings a snack and wine and we sit around and talk about nothing and everything. She and I used to get together with a group called the “Lunch Bunch.” Those were people who we first got to know professionally and then became friends with exploring out-of-the-way restaurants around town. We don’t get together with the Lunch Bunch much anymore since a couple of the group moved out of town, but every now and then when the out-of-towners are in town, we’ll meet for pizza at Kelly’s. Distance and infrequency have not diminished the friendships, just the calories.
When we first moved to the Kansas City area, we were invited to join what was called the Dinner Club. Once a month, we’d get together with a group of four or five other couples and have a dinner at one of the homes. The dinners had food themes and each couple was responsible for bringing a specific part of the meal. One memorable dinner had a Greek theme and in addition to dessert, we were in charge of the wine. Now, Kansas City doesn’t have a big Greek population so most of the liquor stores don’t stock much Greek wine. No, that’s not exactly true: they don’t stock any Greek wine. Strangely enough, at a local Price Chopper, I found a bottle of what purported to be Greek wine, on the bottom shelf and quite dusty. Obviously not a big seller, even though the $2.99 price seemed quite reasonable. I suppose that should have given me a clue about the wine, but I was desperate so I bought it. While Greece is one of the oldest wine-making regions in the world, it’s industry supposedly dating back to 6500 B.C., I don’t think much of it makes it to the heartland of the U.S. I may, however, have stumbled on one of those 8500 year-old bottles.
As was the custom with the Dinner Club, we started off the evening uncorking the bottle of wine and filling everyone’s glass. A toast was followed by a taste, which was followed by unanimous looks of shock. It had to be the worst wine any of us had ever tasted. Dick, who is known to drink just about anything said, “This tastes like… dirt!” Indeed it did. After we poured out the residue of my unfortunate purchase, we all had a good laugh and a wonderful dinner. That was the last time I was in charge of buying the wine.
The Dinner Club broke up shortly after that, not because of the wine, but because couples moved or became involved with… life. We are still good friends with one couple who, as it turns out, lives several hundred miles away and when we get together maybe twice a year, guess what? It’s always over dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast. Business lunches are fine, I’ve had my share, but nothing beats having a meal with friends. And I promise not to bring the wine.