It’s amazing, the speed at which you notice how much food you purchase when you’re suddenly unemployed. I realized it within a day, and even though gainfully employed, I am still making myself aware of it.
Notice how I didn’t say how much food I eat. No; I ate roughly two thirds of the food I brought home. I am a man who loves to eat. I’ve been known to also try and keep my girlish figure despite this. But when I cook, I cook a lot. Frequently, this leaves leftovers for a week which would not be consumed, as the next night would be something new, with more leftovers.
And the next night. And the next night. And the next….
Once every other week I’d have to empty out the fridge, and that would take a bag of trash in itself. I would foist my leftovers and odd dishes on guests and family when they visited. I would deliver entire pies to coworkers.
I would not say that I was raised hungry. My mother did her best to fill the myriad mouths that motored through her domicile. I may not have necessarily wanted what was offered, but pig necks, black beans, and a side of rice is better than not a goddamned thing. Occasionally, she would go crazy and make stuffed cabbages and such, but it was normally rice, beans, and some small meat, for the better part of my life. This played hell on my social life until I learned how to turn a good flatulence joke to my favor.
This evening, I went shopping for dinner. I’ve stopped looking at waving cardboard cutouts and bright, flashing neon lights. A month ago, we got rid of cable, which means no more Food Porn – I mean, Food Network. I would sit for hours picking apart every recipe they showed. I could dissect spice blends just by seeing the original ‘secret’ blend paired with the final result. I was like Lisbeth Salander of the foodie world – you show me what you’re making, and I can tell you what is in, how it’s done, and what wine to pair it with. There may be some sodomy of a pork roast at some point.
As I was saying, I was at the grocery store. I normally write up lists of what I need if I want to duck in and out. Today was simple, so I fared pretty well without my manifest. I didn’t stop for this, that, or the other thing. The multi-colored Easter Newman O’s (love those, but, oh well); Good sale on squash, but while I normally would have ‘stocked up’ (see also: kept it for two weeks than tossed it in the refuse bin), I didn’t need it today. Did grab prophylactics and denture cleanser, though- I mean, you never really know.
In less than ten minutes I was out. I had all the groceries I would need, and when dinner was done, I didn’t have enough left over to feed eighty-nine heads. This shopping trip was easily twenty dollars less than my usual fiasco.
What’s the big effing deal?
Well, it’s amazing how much I’d been lead to believe I need all these other things. Forty seven pound packages of chicken, of which, half would get freezer burn. A gross of eggs, when I only eighteen at most. A bushel of grapefruit for three dollars – I don’t even like grapefruit. It’s the one food I will hands-down say is disgusting.
I was raised in a household where food was tight. While it never was a question of when’s the next meal, there was some creative planning. My mother would frequently overcome the ‘too many condiments’ dilemma with a quickly rendered homemade bread, mayo, and peanut butter. Cereal was a family dinner on more than fourteen occasions. We use to go to an Army surplus store to buy bent tins in bulk. Now, imagine your mayo and peanut butter both in tins half the size of a pickle bucket.
You can understand why the two were forced into one sandwich. I still prefer mine with eggs, too.
Now, I always feel this compulsion to surround myself with food. For some people, it’s sneakers, big TVs, ritzy cars. My household comfort? – It’s food in the refrigerator. If I had stayed unemployed longer, take heart in knowing that our fully decked out pantry would have carried us at least three more weeks.
For that matter, it has. I stopped backstocking my food stores, in part, due to necessity. I refused to do any major food trips while I was out of work, because I had built up that food supply for just a reason like that.
Well, that and if a nuclear bomb were dropped in the surrounding areas, but as I’ve recently discovered my odds of death-by-meteor is higher, my caring levels are a little bit lower.
There’s a comfort in building it up this inventory, but there’s waste in it. The tinned food that I won’t use in the next year I’ve been dropping off at donation centers. I’ve spent my adult life surrounded by these creature comforts, and there’s someone else out there that can barely feed their creatures, let alone find comfort with that fact. This is not an easy habit to kick, mind you – I feel no shopper’s remorse for a full grocery cart. However, I don’t need Japanese-this, or German-that. I need a meal, just like so many other kids out there. So, I’ve been taking my countless nights as a Food porn gourmand, and am putting them together with the combined powers of the Galloping and Frugal Gourmets.
Which brings me to my last point. I was a child in America without enough to celebrate a holiday properly. The best Christmas my mother had for us was in large thanks to a food drive at the local Episcopalian Church. Which begs the question why we are feeding children in other countries and ignoring the problems in our own backyards? Don’t get me wrong: if the resources exist, I believe we should spare emergency aid to foreign countries. By ‘exist’ I mean if one child in America is not going hungry, then happily send over the spare food.
If you want a homework assignment, then here goes: The next time you see some food that’s ‘Buy 2, get 1’ or something like that, ask yourself if you really need that extra freebie. Do you need two tins of olives? – Yes? - How about the third? No? - How about grabbing it, and giving that to someone that can use it. I still save up for a free turkey every Thanksgiving. It’s too big for Rae and I, so when the points are up, some lucky food bank is getting a twenty-six pound block of bird. Come thanksgiving, and I’ll throw in a few tins of cranberry jelly.
I don’t care what you say: cranberry jelly still has a place on a table with cranberry sauce. Frequently, with a straw. In both.
This isn’t all about being some liberal nutjob – at its heart; this could be construed as just taking my anti-consumerist advocacy to a humanitarian level, without putting on a stupid hat and toting around some antiquated marching mantra. Let their sales feed the people that can’t eat. And in doing so, fill yourself on the karmic joy of feeding two mouths for the price of one.