Monday, February 7, 2011

Food, Glorious Food!

(my delicious crumb cake)

“Food, glorious food! Hot sausage with mustard!
While we’re in the mood—cold jelly and custard!”

My love of most things edible is not a newsflash to anyone. Eating is one of my most favorite pastimes. I only really have two criteria for food:

1. No tentacles
2. Not a garden pest

If these two criteria are met, I will eat almost anything.

As a child and young adult I admit, I was picky. Once I had kids, and endured hyper-emesis for 9 months straight 3 times, I could eat nearly ANYTHING. I have to be careful of certain rich foods and sadly cannot eat Mahi Mahi or Chilean Sea Bass (alas! I was a slow learner on both of those), but generally if it can be eaten, I will eat it.

Granted, my family picked up where my pickiness ended, almost as if I birthed my pickiness right out of me with the delivery of my kids! My eldest will try nearly anything, but Kids 2 and 3…eek. We have pictures from Easter several years ago of all of us around the table of feasting…and Kid 2 has a bowl of Cheerios in front of her.

It took the squashing of certain key portions of her brain for her to become a good eater. Now we have trouble making her stop. But still, vegetables are taboo.

Anyway, we have never wanted for food. There are about a half dozen grocery stores within 10 minutes of my house. We have a couple of big box stores only a bit further than that. I generally hit one grocery store and one mega store at least once a week.

When life looked a bit bleak at the end of last summer, I created a food hoard. I still have pasta from that time…my pantry was PACKED with canned foods, sauces, pastas, peanut butter. I was afraid, and I met my fear of the unknown with cases of Orville Redenbacher.

But this isn’t the situation for everyone.

This isn’t even the situation for most people, I’d say.

Our family volunteers at an urban soup kitchen about 25 minutes from our house. Just over a week ago we arrived at St. Ann’s to discover that it was not a meal day but a food pantry day. Lined up on the floor in neat rows were brown shopping bags full of groceries. Most had one bottle of juice, a bag of rice or pasta, some random canned goods, and a bag with some meat and cheese.

Each client had to present ID to get a bag, and multiple IDs (for kids, etc) to get 2 bags. The system is strictly adhered to and runs pretty smoothly for the most part.

As we worked to distribute the bags, alongside clients who help out before they take their bags (I love working with them), I was struck by how flipping lucky we are.

The idea that THIS could be our food for the week: a bag of random what not, all healthy and generously given, but beyond my control as mom, was staggering. Folks asking if there was any toothpaste to be had, folks wishing they could change what they had in their bags for something different (not allowed, chaos would ensue)…it was staggering.

The idea that I would have to get a number, wait on a line, present ID, and then get a bag of something that would become my family’s meals: I just felt flattened by the psychological enormity of that.

When my kids need food, I run to the store. When I was first married, and our budget was really tight, we ate more simply. We made do. My kids have NO CLUE about those days. Not that we are eating filet every night, or only drink Perrier (we don’t), but still: I buy food in packages (! The Tightwad Gazette lady would have my head!) , we always have cheese and meat in the house, we have plenty of milk and I no longer only get half and half on holidays.

We are so lucky.

I love being able to go work at St. Ann’s, and I wish we could go more often. I need that reminder to be grateful. It’s not like we did anything to be lucky. We are just super blessed that life, while smiting us in an awful lot of areas, hasn’t messed with lunch.

With new energy I am getting a bag for our county food pantry for collection next week at church. If we all gave one can of corn or one can of tuna, just imagine how many more people we could feed? Even if we don’t have a ton, just one can could really help someone who has less than we do.

Food brings people together. Sharing food with those who are hungry brings the world together, I think.

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