John Carlson: Bye-Bye Food Writing

I’d write about this if I wrote about food, but I don’t. Photo by: Nancy Carlson I’d write about this if I wrote about food, but I don’t. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

As the chunky person formerly known as the Chowhound, I am often asked, “Hey, Mister Flabiola, have you ever written about something you didn’t eat?”

Well, yeah, I have. In fact, it just so happens that a couple weeks ago I was honored to attend the wedding of my friends Chris Flook, local historian, expert wordsmith and dashing man about town, and his super-cool, charming and beautiful executive-type fiancée, Kourtney McCauliff.

Furthermore, today I am writing about their wedding. So, you wonder, what was it like?


Now, moving on to the food …

I could tell this was going to be a marvelous wedding because walking to the wine bar, I passed a long table bearing pieces of chocolate candy that, it turned out, had been made by Kourtney’s mother, Kathy Parks. There were little round pieces and dark square pieces and flat rectangular pieces and rounded oblong pieces and other pieces, the shapes of which I can’t adequately describe.

Immediately, though, it confirmed Chris was a man of iron willpower. That’s because he’s a normal-sized guy. Had my wife Nancy’s mother, Helen Louise, made chocolate candy like that when we were dating, by the time of our wedding, they’d have dumped me at the altar from the shovel of a front-end loader.

And that was just the start! Cornerstone Center for the Arts waiters scrambled about with hors d’oeuvres, including little sliced cucumber thingees adorned with salmon chunkettes, which were delicious! There were also some righteous, spicy meatballs run through with tooth-picky things decorated with little red hearts. These little red hearts were appropriate, this being Chris and Kourtney’s wedding day and all. But they were also appropriate for me, given the fact within five minutes of spotting her, I had fallen hard for the meatball lady, to the point where I spent a half-hour chasing her around our table for more meatballs.

Meanwhile, there were appetizer tables set up with cheeses, crackers, stuffed olives, spinach dip,  baked stuffed mushrooms and more. And just about the time I was starting to groan from satiety, my buddy Dom Caristi reminded me, “Don’t forget to save room for dinner!”


No, I hadn’t even made it to the table with the mac-and-cheese, petite chicken breasts and little hamburgers yet. Nor, at this point, did I even particularly want to go. But then I thought of the hurt looks, the sense of betrayal, that would consume Chris and Kourtney if on this, their special day, I spurned their wedding sliders. Something inside told me I just couldn’t do that to them. In a show of strength and determination that brought tears to the eyes of wedding guests snarfing down their dinners all around me, I forced myself shakily to my feet, fought my way to that food table and back, then started eating some more.

Finally absolutely stuffed, I sat back in my chair, let my belt out three holes and muttered, “I am finished.”

It was right about then, I swear, angel voices erupted from across the Colonnade Room singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah,” all this as a heavenly light enveloped yet another food-serving table that I hadn’t noticed.

“Surely, you’re not gonna skip the mashed-potato bar?” Dom asked from my right. From my left, my other buddy, Joe Misiewicz, nodded toward the radiantly glowing scene and advised me, “Go, and eat in peace, my son.”

Stumbling there, all I could think was, “Mashed-potato bar? Whoever heard of a mashedpotato bar?!?! Not this guy!” And yet the culinary genius behind that concept captivated me. I loved me some mashed potatoes! Suddenly, people all around were spooning mashed potatoes into their mouths from clear plastic cups that I had assumed were filled with ice cream! Now, with a knowing , beatific smile, the mashed-potato bar lady spooned some taters into my cup, ladled on kind of a white sauce and handed it to me.

In no time I had it filled to the brim with shredded cheese, jalapeño slices, sour cream, fried-onion chunks, fried-bacon chunks and more! And know what? Carrying it back to my table, I knew I’d eat every last bit of it, even if I had to let my belt out another two holes!

Which I did. Finish it, I mean. And let my belt out another two holes. And vowed to immediately add potato parfaits to the Carlson family’s weekly spud rotation. Since that magical evening of love, meatballs and mashed potatoes, things have kind of changed for me. I’ve been reflecting on my life, my most deeply held personal beliefs, even my half-assed writing career.

And know what?

From now on, I think I’m gonna write about non-food topics a lot more often.



A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.  John’s columns appear on Muncie Journal every Friday.