Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pops Pizza: Comfort food and comfortable familiarity

Today I went to my a buddy from high schools wedding in Cape Girardeau, about 2 hours south of where I live. It was a wonderful ceremony, but thats really not what I'm going to talk about. So, Matt and Tasha, I love you and congratulations!

After the wedding I met my old Young Life director (who's now a Pastor at a church in Cape, he also officiated the wedding) at perhaps my all-time hands-down favorite restaurant on the planet: Pops Pizza. The place is like a time warp. Pretty much EXACTLY how I remember it from high school. We enjoyed off-campus lunch privileges and with a $5 pizza buffet + drink Pops was (and still is) unbeatable.

The thing about Pops is that its actually a bit dingy. I'm so spoiled in my suburban West-County ivory tower if I went there for the first time today, I might have thought it was a little gross. But what makes Pops so great is that it remains unchanged.

C.S. Lewis talks about what I'm trying to get at in "The Four Loves" with familiarity comes affection. Even something that initially strikes us as unpleasant can with time and consistency become charming. Comfort brings affection. We grow to love the familiar. So the pizza place of questionable quality (certainly questionable caloric content, and if I say that you KNOW its bad) with its smeared sneeze guard and sticky tablecloths becomes a thing of beauty. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Last year my church built a new facility. During the moving process when people would get nostalgic about the old building I would try to keep from rolling my eyes. Maybe its a little sad that I'm comparing how I feel about a pizza place to how others feel about their place of worship for so many years, but I have to say I can sympathize a little bit.

In his book "Intuitive Leadership" Tim Keel talks about what happens when God's people get sentimental and rely to much on the past. Talking about the Israeli/Philistine battles in 1 Samuel:
"...what Israel does in their moment of crisis is revert to their past...Israel could have said 'this was the pattern of God's activity in the past. Based on that, how do we discern what to do now?' But in the confusion and pain of their environment, Israel looks to her glorious past. Implicit in this move is an assumption that because God operated in such a manner in the past, he will do so again...The reality is that God's activity in the past can become a stumbling block in the present. When we refuse to engage the environment as it is before us now, we become prone to sentimentality, going through the motions, employing totems, and spouting meaningless God talk..."
So in conclusion, Pops Pizza is a great place to visit but after a fierce inner debate not a place to oft' return. Likewise, Christians need to always be monitoring our mission, our motivations, and our methods so that we don't become so sentimental that we're detrimental to God's work in the world while we sit undistrubed in our monuments of nostalgia.


Professor RJ Gumby said...

Adam, IMHO, I think one aspect of what makes Pop's special for you is the memories of people. While the food, and the familiarity are important, what has always made a place special is the people and memories I shared. I was in my hometown this weekend, and we went to the park. It is not an especially great park, but it is a park where I used to play ball, hang out, run, and other fun memories. To many, it is just a nice lagoon, and trees, but to me it is a place where my life was lived - and it will always be near the top of my list of parks because of it.

But if I do get to the Cape, I am totally down with the $5.00 buffet, smeared sneeze guards or not.

Anonymous said...

I grew up attending a dinky church in Aurora MO. I’ve developed an “acquired love” for this place over the years as its hosted family weddings, funerals etc. It’s not cool or designed for hospitality but it feels so much like home to me…I get nostalgic every time I think of it and I secretly hope it never changes. In my office I keep a picture from the 1950s of the groundbreaking ceremony for that church. In the picture are my grandparents (now deceased) my mother (young girl) several aunts or uncles and other people I’ve loved over the years. The picture reminds me that though I’m ready to remodel the building I currently work out of not everyone is so willing to knock down walls and take out windows.

My favorite places to eat around St. Joe are the Mom and Pops diners, (the smaller, more neighborhood based, and obscure the better.) There’s just something comforting about the greasy spoon and its stand against the chain mentality that’s deeply comforting.

Adam said...

Scott, I agree but I think you are underestimating how much I love pizza.

Professor RJ Gumby said...


Not at all. I have partaken in a P-Johns starter pizza with you at least a couple of times. But I am somewhat numb to pizza while living in STL since I am a Chicago deep dish pizza snob at heart.

Please don't tell me Pops does provel...that would tarnish a $5.00 buffet almost beyond redemption.

And no fish. If God had wanted fish on pizza, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 would have also included tomato sauce along with tongues of fire to heat them up.