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My hero makes pasta - Denese Rodgers

Last Friday, I was running like my feet were on fire and my rear was a-catching.

I was trying to get home and get changed for the NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet at the Merle Manders Conference Center.

I love to play dress up, and this was a golden opportunity.

The problem was that I did not have a really good lunch, and my tummy was growling. No matter how fast I worked, one more thing popped up, one more telephone rang, and it all kept me from getting gone when I should've been gone.

I finally managed to get home and put the dog on. I went all the way with a slinky, black, velour number with a low cut back -- and really naughty shoes.

Oh yeah, and I was STARVING! I was gnawing at my fingernails. Small children and loose animals were a very real temptation. I passed a Mexican restaurant on the way to Merle Manders and I had to fight an overwhelming urge to slip in and grab some nachos and a quesadilla.

When we got to the banquet, I was thrilled to hear the emcee announce that Carrabas restaurant was going to be the caterer for the evening. Then, when the restaurateur read the menu, he broke my heart. I am allergic to pork and garlic.

As he read the menu, it turned out that I was allergic to all of it. The ravioli, the pork, even the chicken -- as Piglet said in, "Winnie the Pooh," Oh d-d-dear, dear! It all smelled soooo good!

I thought I'd go through the buffet line anyway, just in case there was a glimmer of hope to stave off that ravenous hunger. No chance, nada, zippo.

The lady serving the plates noticed that I did not get anything, and asked me why. I explained my vast and miscellaneous collection of food allergies. I told her it was okay, that I'd just have water. It would not do, but she sent for the restaurant owner - Joel Baker.

Mr. Baker came out and verified that the entire buffet was a no-no for me. Then he asked to see where we were sitting. I thanked him for his personal attention, and went back to my seat with my little glass of water. My mom had a plate full of yummies, so I drank my water and salivated over her feast.

I could have sworn that her plate full of lobster ravioli was mocking me.

About that time, Mr. Baker returned to our table with an enormous plate of penne pasta, tomatoes, cilantro, and grilled shrimp -- and not one iota of garlic or pork. Do you believe it? In the middle of his dinner service for a couple of hundred people, Joel Baker stopped to make dinner for me.

You cannot tell me that he had time to do that. There were hungry people all over the room running through those buffet lines like it was the Last Supper. Normally, I would have happily been one of them.

I know that Mr. Baker doesn't know me from Adam's housecat, but now that I'm one of his fans, we'll change all of that. Telephone, telegraph, tel-Denese.

Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-service, networking organization in Henry County.