This piece was originally published in the August - November 2017 issue of our journal, Vol. 3, Issue 2: Day & Night.
Eating is an incredibly sacramental act. In fact a feast, regularly celebrated, is one of the universally recognized rites of the Christian Church. It can be a reminder of our lack of complete self-sufficiency. We need things outside ourselves in order to survive even on the most basic of levels. The sacred is also something that is meant to be experienced with other people. Meals are often communal, and I would argue that the best meals are always shared experiences. No matter how good the food is it is always better shared with other people. Sharing a table with people is, in many cultures, an extremely powerful bonding action in which relationships are formed or deepened.
Not all food and meals need to reach us on this sort of mystical level, but if we never do have these experiences or never take the time to think about them, we are only receiving the most prosaic of the things that eating can offer to us. I used to suffer from this condition . I viewed eating in much the same way that I view filling up my station wagon with fuel. I was a Philistine, uninitiated in the deeper and more sublime mysteries of eating. It took years of patient and occasionally not so patient instruction from my loving wife to shift my previous thinking. My ideas were (and are, I think) a result of time and place. The vast majority of our current existence is surrounded by disposable products. Speed, mass production, and homogenization are the watchwords of our eating practices, creating food that can rarely reach our souls and stir in them with some deeper feeling. Also our current self-induced technological isolation from other people, restrains us even from sharing bad food with others. How many times have you been in a restaurant and seen people sitting down to eat and instead of engaging in conversation are instead focused on a phone screen.
Once upon a time, communities used to have centers of community conversation; communally recognized gathering places served as venues for ideas, news, gossip, and even business transactions. These places served all the things that people needed to aid them in this community process of sharing. Food and mildly alcoholic beverages helped people to meet, connect and share. Food and coffee now are our preferred means of gladdening hearts and the local restaurant still remains the place to meet, eat, and share our ideas ideas thoughts and lives with other people.
I love that Jackson still has some of these local places left, that they haven’t been swallowed up in the wave of cookie-cutter eateries. One of my favorite is The Bakers Rack in downtown Jackson. Here the power of sharing a meal becomes a reality. I think this is the case for three reasons. First, for the last nineteen years The Bakers Rack has been producing authentic Southern breakfast selections and quality lunches with a surprising amount of variety. The food is excellent and very reasonably priced. The desserts are among the best in the city. I can never leave without a piece of chess pie. I just finished up another piece, and, as expected, it was wonderful.
Second is location. The Bakers Rack has always been downtown and has been faithfully serving the oldest part of Jackson. This means that the same groups are constantly coming in and out. It has become a central meeting location for the downtown community during the breakfast to lunch hours.
Finally, the atmosphere is relaxed and reasonably quiet. It is a great place to spend an extended period of time sharing a meal and a conversation, without any feeling of rushing or the need to shout to a table companion in order to be heard over the general clamor of a hoard of other dinners that are packed like sardines into every available square inch of floor space.
So next time you are downtown between the hours 7:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M., every Monday through Friday you can eat at a real Jackson gem. Be sure to take a friend or make one while you are there, but take your time and relax by sharing your thoughts and ideas with someone else while you enjoy a delicious breakfast, piece of pie, salad, cup of coffee, or whatever else. You will enjoy it, and perhaps the wonderful power of sharing a meal will reach you and bring you back again and again.
The Bakers Rack is located at 205 East Lafayette Street in downtown Jackson and is open Monday through Friday, 7:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Contact them at 731.424.6163 or visit their Facebook page.
Kevin Vailes teaches whatever they ask him at the Augustine School in Jackson, though if he had his choice he would spend his time ruminating on the intricate complexities of the classical world and trying to get his Latin students to study their vocabulary. Kevin grew up in and around Jackson and went to Union University where he met his best friend and wife Elizabeth. They live in the Jackson’s historic LANA neighborhood in a 100+ year-old bungalow with their five children. He believes that stories are what bind us together and cause us to love and care for something, and he hopes that in sharing Jackson’s stories with you, you will fall in love with Jackson and care about it too.
Originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, photographer Katie Howerton moved to Jackson in 2011 to study Graphic Design and Drawing at Union University. She discovered Our Jackson Home in January 2015 and used it as a guinea pig for her senior design project, creating the first issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine. After graduating she was given leadership over Our Jackson Home at theCO, where she now runs the blog, designs the magazine, and coordinates events. She and her husband Jordan live in Midtown and are active members of City Fellowship Baptist Church.