Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I heard this on the radio just now while I was peeling wilted, leathery chard leaves from limp stems. Old chard leaves might feel like what bat wings must feel like, if you let yourself think things like that. I don't. Or I try not to.
I have never had to go hungry but I do know what it means. I have known people who have had to be hungry. I know people who are free-gans because they have the luxury to choose, but I've also known people who had had to dumpster dive because they couldn't scrape together enough food at home. And of course I have listened to stories about the Great Depression (see Act One, though I recommend the whole show.). To say nothing of the seas of gaping mouths and concave stomachs in all the hungry places in the world.
I am not remotely close to hunger, although I am closer than I ever have been. We get so used to how we eat that initially it's overwhelming to have to finally turn to the food budget and make cuts. But you learn. There are a lot of things you can do before you go hungry. You learn to eat lower on the food chain, to stop worrying about specifics in recipes. You learn to lessen your portion sizes. You learn to pay attention to the serving sizes. You learn to make things instead of buying them, you learn new ways to use the things that the younger, more wealthy, more wasteful self would have thrown away. You learn when all of the grocery stores give out free samples.
And sometimes that isn't enough. And I know. And I was reminded tonight as I listened to these people talking about what it feels like to go into a store and steal food. What it feels like to tell your children that you have nothing to give them to eat. And I watched as my limp chard turned into vitamin-rich powerhouses of nutrients. I picked the eyes off the tiny last potato, dumped the last of the leftover onion into the mix, added the pliable garlic cloves and tossed them around in some oil and sage. And I watched all of this turn into food in the roasting pan, and suddenly I wasn't butchering a pasta sauce recipe, I was Eating Food.
For the first time in years I said grace. And meant it.