Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Never Met a Graham Cracker I Didn't Like

      Today, amidst the flurry of outpatient tonsillectomies, septoplasties, hysterectomies, and bunionectomies I was supervising, I took a few moments to consider the graham cracker. It was 0930, and the cup of Greek yogurt I'd hastily eaten four hours earlier was long gone. Ravenously hungry, and dangerously close to entering full-on bitch mode, I plucked an individually-wrapped package of graham crackers from one of the shelves in the break room, simultaneously rummaging through the drawers for a single-serve cup of peanut butter. I snapped each cracker in half, dragging the halves through the peanut butter, savoring the crispy-creamy contrast. Then, I tasted redemption. Once again, the lowly graham cracker had spared me from the certitude of hunger's downward spiral. 
     Graham crackers are a ubiquitous staple in hospital break areas, doctors lounges, and recovery rooms. Despite an obvious lack of glamour, their absence is always startlingly conspicuous, sometimes inciting a minor state of panic among those of us who depend on their ready availability. Brushing the last few crumbs from the corners of my mouth, I thought to myself, "Why graham crackers?" How did this ho-hum, lightly sweetened wafer, initially developed as a health food to assist in protecting society from the untoward effects of masturbation, gain such stature?
     I googled it. Graham crackers are bland, and they are well tolerated by invalids, small children, and people sitting around campfires. One serving contains 130 calories, 24 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of dietary fiber, and 190 mg of sodium. They're made with refined flour and sugar and chock full of preservatives. Apparently, their utility in serving as a panacea for the deadly sin of lust never materialized, and their relevance in modern society is largely confined to the making of pie crusts and s'mores. That's pretty much it. It turns out that graham crackers aren't really that big of a deal, yet for some reason, I'm transfixed by the mystery of their importance. To those of us who live our lives in hospitals, they are an indispensable metaphor for sustenance.
     I am tired, emotionally drained after staying up late last night to finish A Simple Change of Heart, and worn out from today's crazy OR schedule. Still, before I retreat to the blessed world of slumber, I feel compelled to pay homage to my trusty old compadre, the graham cracker. I think a haiku is appropriate.

In unwrapping you
I take great pleasure

Crisp golden cracker
Spread thick with peanut butter
Sate my empty gut

You are like manna
Nourishing my hungry soul
You leave me replete

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