In a seeming paradox to my political thinking, I believe that good food, decent food, and lovingly prepared food (my mama WARMS THE CAT FOOD UP, “to take the chill off”) is a basic human right. (And animal right, but let’s NOT EVEN GO THERE because, really, soapboxes…)
I just don’t think our government ought to supply it. I believe that we all, as citizens of this world, were given to each other (or emerged from the primordial ooze together, or whatever you happen to think) to help each other out, and that entails SHARING. Being kind friends. Sharing our last Dorito with our Labrador, even when every hormone in our sodium-craving soul cries out for it.
Taking in food to sick friends, relatives, and neighbors, not to mention the families of the recently departed, is in my soul. Many a Southern gal keeps a casserole in her freezer, just in case. I used to. I now have enough faith in my ability to whip something together pretty quickly (I think a frittata will do nicely until I can get some fresh pimento cheese made) that I don’t have one. (I like to take something immediately-not because the grieving are hungry, because they aren’t, but because it gives my hands something to do while my soul tries to make sense of the incomprehensible…And then I take pimento cheese a few days later because one of my Gamma’s dearest friends came over the next day after she went to her great reward and brought that and a bag of potato chips and we had THE BEST VISIT about her and my Papa Jack, and we just sat there and snacked and crunched and cried and visited, and I knew both of them were there with us.) (Random detour-but it describes nicely how central to my life the culture of food is.)
I love to have people over for dinner and prepare food for them. I try to be a gracious guest (if I am not, please know that I try, and I know I fall very short, often). Food is a central theme in any culture. (Wow, I sound like a first year grad student.) (And this didn’t start out to be a food blog. There’s lots of them. This is an “Amalgamation Blog”, in that my brain spends most of its day thinking about 3,200 different things each minute and those thoughts ALL HAD TO GO SOMEWHERE!) So the idea that food is an isolator for some people (if you have no money, preparing food for others or being in social groups that prepare food for each other is EXTREMELY difficult and unlikely) or, indeed, isn’t present for some, hurts me deeply. And I don’t know what else to do about it.
So from September 11 to September 17, I’m going to be taking part in The Hunger Challenge. To help raise awareness of what it is like to live on a food stamps budget. So that means living on $4.72 per day. For seven days. That’s it. There will be legumes (dried), there will be slow cookers, there will be (small amounts of) store brand bacon, and, I’m fairly sure, no Diet Coke. I’d watch the news if I were you during that week, because of that last bit. I’ll try to make sure that whatever kind of newsworthy action I take due to the lack of caffeine will at least be entertaining, and with minimal (undeserving) collateral damage. In fact, that’s the thing I’m most concerned about. The no Diet Coke thing. I don’t do coffee (except the $4.75 Starbuck’s kind), I do have a favorite tea. It comes from Ireland, and I really think it must be their “just above the store brand” variety, because I can almost never find it here, and it was bloody cheap over there. (I brought back boxes and have been known to place orders with those going over there.) (I also really like Fairy Dish Soap, which I CAN find here, and buy that. First world.) (And it’s not so much a Carbon Footprint as a Carbon Strafing Swath of Destruction.) (But I LOVE the Fairy Dish Soap.) (If you are going over to Ireland, ever, please email me. I’ll have you bring me some tea-but never dish soap. That’s just asking for luggage disaster.) So I do have at least a source of caffeine, and a hot beverage (key because I talk, a LOT…) (Surprised?). And here’s the first place I cheat on the Challenge. I have NO IDEA how much it costs, how much is customs fees, etc. So we’re going to call my 2 tea bags a day “free”. Because math makes my head hurt. I’ll price out milk and sugar. Maybe. And I already drink copious quantities of store brand “crystal light type beverage”…It increases my fluid intake, and I am unwilling to give that up. But it’s cheap, too.
The crazy thing is that food stamps is supposed to be a SUPPLEMENT to one’s income and other food purchasing power. For too many, including children who have no say-so in the matter, it is their only source of food money. School districts are trying to come up with new and inventive ways to help kiddos-weekend “food backpacks”, family cooking lessons, and easier ways to sign up for free or reduced- school lunches. This is all fine and good, but we’ve all heard the reports about the food served in the schools, and I believe very strongly that the family table is where hunger both starts (and this is key) AND ENDS.
In my home, growing up, I was an only child. (Still am.) Mama worked evenings, and my daddy would pick me up at daycare, so I didn’t’ spend a whole lot of time there. Many daddies would have gone the “eat in front of the television and what shall we order tonight?” route. My daddy prepared dinner more often than not (usually something mama had left for him to fix, but that’s JUST FINE) and we did eat dinner (AT THE TABLE) while watching the news, but (and this is key) we TALKED about the news while it was going on. We shared a meal and discussion together. I’m convinced, and I’m fairly certain there is a grad student out there working on proving this, that the solution to our obesity epidemic (I point the finger at myself, too), our hunger epidemic, and many of our social problems lies in family dinner.
Okay-long post, but YAY! I get to talk about food for a WHOLE WEEK, learn new things to cook, and hopefully educate my readers about hunger in America. I’ll do a beginning of the week “shopping” post, and then a daily post with recipes/food/thoughts/facts. And maybe a nice little “wrap up” post. And to answer the first question, no, The Sir will not be taking the challenge with me, because, as anybody who has ever belonged to a Labrador will tell you, “Um, no.” He is currently asking for his bedtime snack (he’s already had it, he wants seconds…) and so I’m going to try and distract him so we can go to bed. So, The Sir will not become a vegetarian for the week, nor will his cookie/yogurt/graham cracker/tortilla chip supply be in any danger. BUT, I do want you to think about the pets of the hungry. Do they have them? How often do they choose their pets over their own nutrition? (I know the answer for me would be, all the time, it’s just more peaceful that way.) How do they tell their children that they can’t afford a pet? Do they?
Enough words for tonight, Andy.