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Worth

I brought some sweet corn home from town. We had lettuce and tomatoes in the garden, bacon in the fridge and a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. What to have for lunch? Surely you jest.

I'm sure many people on this planet have never enjoyed a lunch of fresh sweet corn and a BLT. To those people I say, “Sucks to be you.”

I did a little math in my head. The entire delicious lunch, for two, cost us about three bucks. I’ve paid ten times as much, meals where my credit card was warm and half-melted before it went back into my wallet, and not gotten half as much enjoyment.

I wrote a book titled “Letters from a Peasant.” There was a very brief time in my life when I tried to hide my ‘peasanthood’, but that ship has sailed. No one is ever going to mistake me for a member of the upper crust, and there's no clearer indicator than the type of food I like. I'm willing to bet that for 1,000 years, there's been no peacock tongues or edible gold consumed by anyone in my family tree. When I think of great meals I've eaten over the years, something I probably do far too often, I think of a ribeye steak in a dumpy little restaurant about a mile away from where the steer was raised. A cold beer and a big baked potato were included, along with a token chunk of lettuce - served as a nod to complete nutrition, but you could tell the cook didn't mean it.

When we were repairing hurricane damage on a church in the hills of Jamaica, the church ladies made a grill out an old brake drum and cooked us the best fried chicken I'll ever eat. The chicken had lived a long and active life, but it was seasoned with care, love, and fellowship.

A couple weeks ago, for a buck each, we got two watery glasses of lemonade from a pair of grimy entrepreneurs by the side of the road. I don’t believe my wife drank hers, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t value in the purchase.

When our son was in the Marine Corps, we visited him at Camp Pendleton, and he took us to a small Mexican restaurant. The menu was scrawled on a blackboard, and we could see through the kitchen to the garden in the back yard where most of the food being cooked was raised. Everything tasted great, but perhaps the flavor was enhanced by the fact that our son was no longer eating MREs in Kuwait.

One of the strangest things about humanity is this seeming yearning for complexity, that unless something is fancy it’s inferior. Meals with 17 ingredients, for instance. What just occurred to me is that perhaps the best meal I ever had in my life was half a cup of cold coffee and a handful of Cheetos, sitting in the dark in a parked combine, celebrating the end of a difficult harvest season. I put my feet up on the steering wheel and leaned back, finishing off the dregs of my lunch bucket and listening to the cracks and pops of cooling steel before I gathered my tired and aching body and climbed down the ladder for the last time that year. That was a good meal. Not as good as a BLT and corn on the cob, but close.

It’s not about, it’s never about, how much something costs. It’s about how much it’s worth.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson

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