will dream for food


    I’m not one of those people who remember dreams, for the most part. Something about the way I wake up in the morning makes my mind work like an Etch-a-Sketch, erasing whatever was created during the night as I shake myself into consciousness. But I think I had a dream last night that refused to go away, one that has taken all day to break the surface, one with a haunting quality that I don’t think plans to fade away anytime soon. It’s pretty straightforward. There aren’t any symbols to unpack or metaphors to mine. I’m sharing it in search of resonance. Somewhere in the world, someone is already doing what I dreamt; I don’t have to reinvent the wheel (or the stove) to see my dream incarnated. Someone out there knows whom I need to know. Therefore, trusting in the connections of grace that bind us together, I share my dream.

    I dreamt I had a restaurant – a diner, actually – that was open for lunch Monday to Friday. The inside of the place was filled with round tables that sat six or eight people. There were no tables for twos and fours. In the kitchen was a team of good cooks, people who were serious about making good food to draw people together. Each day we prepared a plate lunch: salad, entrée, sides, and dessert. The menu changed depending on what we could get our hands on to cook. Regardless of the ingredients, we made comfort food, community building food, food made to be eaten together.

    The doors opened at ten-thirty or eleven, and people found a seat wherever they could as they came in. The point was to break bread with people you knew and some you didn’t: to break barriers and open hearts. When folks sat down, we brought their drinks and then started bringing their food. When the meal was over, those who could paid for lunch and those who couldn’t, well, didn’t. Some learned to give out of their abundance and paid for more than one meal without making a big deal about it. Some paid by joining the staff of the restaurant and doing what they could to help feed folks. When the food ran out, we closed the doors for the day and started working on what we were going to make the next day.

    What we learned, over time, was there was a way to feed people’s hunger for food and community and make a living doing it. (Here’s where I need to know who has figured out how to actually do this.) There has to be a way to create excellent food and make it available to anyone who is hungry, not just those privileged enough to afford it. I dreamt of a place Isaiah described:

    Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water!
    Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat!

    Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.

    Buy without money—everything’s free!

    Why do you spend your money on junk food,

    your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?

    Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best,

    fill yourself with only the finest.

    Pay attention, come close now,

    listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.

    (Isaiah 55:1-5,
    The Message)

    What I dreamt is real. Someone out there is living my dream. Please tell me who they are. I need to learn from them; I need them to feed me.


    P. S. — There’s a new recipe.


    1. Milton,
      That passage of scripture was key in our Just Eating? Bible study recently. I think it might have been one of our lectio devina passages. I have not been dreaming about such a place, but thinking of such a place.

    2. First: I linked over here a few months ago from RLP and have enjoyed your writing. I’m registered there as Wondering Pastor.
      Second: I live in a rural community in SW Kansas and growing up, there was a diner similar to the one you dream of. The fundamental difference was the diner of my youth, Dink’s, didn’t have a pay as you’re able policy, but I’m convinced some of that was going on.
      Dink had a casual approach to his vocation. He opened the diner only for lunch and if he felt like going fishing, he wasn’t open that day. You knew he was open by looking at the sign on the door or the crowd of cars around the diner. When Dink’s was open, there was always a crowd and no one complained when he wasn’t open because everyone knew the deal.
      Seating was at round oak tables and the counter and no one had call on any table. If there was an empty chair, you sat in it. It didn’t matter if you sat with who you came in with or not, you were able to visit with someone about something interesting.
      Dink’s specialty was fried shrimp – great big jumbo shrimp and you didn’t go away hungry.
      The biggest mistake I ever made in Dink’s was ordering two orders of shrimp when I was a teenager and particularly hungry that day. When Billie, Dink’s wife and the only other staff member, told Dink about my order he glared at me through the kitchen pass-through for a moment and then Billie brought out the biggest plate of food I’d ever seen. I knew I’d inadvertently insulted Dink and if I ever wanted to eat there again, I’d better eat every bit of food on the plate. I left uncomfortably full with Dink laughing in the kitchen. That’s the kind of place it was; not exactly the place of your dream but it was getting there.

      Wondering Pastor

    3. I too would love to hear about and eat at such a place. I just wrote about hospitality and this is some of what I had in mind – of how hospitality preceeds and offers healing. Perhaps this dream is the start of a call for you…

    4. Milton,

      Save me a seat! The closest I’ve come to a place like you describe was a Basque restaurant somewhere in Nevada that we found on a road trip. We sat at long tables, not round, but the food was served family style, definitely comfort food.

      I can’t remember exactly where I saw it, but I remember reading on some blog somewhere about a coffee shop that operated on a pay as you can/want to basis. I think it was fairly new, so I don’t know what their track record is.

      It’s a wonderful dream. I’ll come chop veggies for you any time.

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