Something smelled horrible in my refrigerator. This was a new odor, as I had previously cleaned out the entire cooling side when I returned from Iowa a few weeks ago in early March . The necessity of the clean out and scrub down was a container of apple/cherry cider that exploded inside, spraying fermented sticky juice all over the inside, down the door and then what had nowhere to run, out the bottom of the door. As I entered the kitchen from the 11 hour road trip home, it was dark. I flipped the lights on (fluorescent take their good time warming up to brightness) and little by little I saw something on the floor and at first I panicked and thought it was dried blood! I immediately went looking to make sure I still had a cat, who proceeded to cuss me out, berate me and I think I learned a few feral words from her! It took her another week to forgive me for going away and she having to sleep alone, but granddaughter is growing too fast and I wanted to see some of those changes.
The fridge clean-out from exploding cider forced me to sort thru the sauces, jellies, mustard and other condiments I so readily collect and spring on the hub, so anything that was a total bomb, went thru the composter and the bottles were recycled last night. Anything remotely fresh when I left was covered in sticky residue and either had to be immediately cooked or washed to preserve it. I managed to cut up celery, carrots and placed those in containers of water that hubby could munch on instead of his usual granola bars. He is the kind of retiree who grabs what is in front of his face, not what might need a bit of prep. That makes for a junk type diet at times, so I do try to have something he only has to reheat as prepared and frozen or ready to eat in the fridge.
Stupidly, I forgot I had purchased large bulk bags of broccoli, red potatoes and spinach, which if I had thought about it, I could have taken to Iowa and shared. I did remember the cashews and jelly beans, however. I guess somewhere someone is making a fabulous trail mix! But the potato bag was staring me in the face all this week, so tonight I said I would make some smashed taters and freeze them up for a hunger pang that was sure to come some night at 2AM.
I suppose when I purchased my yummy reds in late February from Costco (bulk crack for me), my taters looked healthy and ready to be sliced, diced and sauteed with garlic, skins included (like above). But in reality, several weeks later they now look like those below. Most of you would do what? Throw them away, right? A few might look thru and poke and squeeze to salvage a panful for a quick veggie stir fry? What if they looked worse than this? To the composter, maybe down the garbage disposal and for some, slopped out to pigs, horses, other farm critters? I didn't do that. And some of mine looked far worse than these below.
Tossing them would have been so easy as a bag of 10 pounds of these redskins runs about 6 or 7 dollars. Not the end of the world for most of us here in the States or other so-called Westernized countries where veggies are easy to obtain year round, often organic and just trucked in straight from the farms. We don't know what it is to be hungry and I mean the painful gnawing hunger that comes from going without palpable food for days or even weeks at a time. The pain of hunger where your brain no longer can make decisions, your body no longer instinctively knows what to do. The kind of hunger where you might want to kill for something to eat. I personally went without any substantial solid food for 5 months due to an illness but once in a while I got something solid down and when I couldn't, I lived on Gatorade. At least I had some calories but my entire body was sent on a strange journey , and I suffer the repercussions of that illness even today, 13 years later.
Americans waste so much, myself included. What we throw away in food alone in one week would sustain a refugee and family for a month. Have you ever looked back at the table before leaving a restaurant and felt guilty because you didn't take a "doggie bag"? You could take it home for the dog and he would greatly love you for about 3 minute but you might be able to construct a light lunch the next day from the leftovers. Do you order more than you can possibly eat and feel uncomfortable upon leaving or do you suffer pain and hate yourself for gorging or over-indulging? We all do that, either when dining out, at holiday reunions with family or to impress others with us.
Tonight as I peeled those ugly and almost non-salvageable redskins, I thought of my grandparents during the Depression of the 1930's, going without so much so they could feed and clothe their tiny sole surviving daughter. I heard many a story of rationing during the War that shook the world and today is a popular topic for movies, books and discussions as we see many who served, both men and women turning old, losing their ability to remember and dying while we, the baby boomers and X generations and whatever moniker the press puts on us, act as if we are entitled to whatever we had yesterday and today, that is should always be as we want it, even to the point of waste.
I have read two books recently that had passages of desperation for food that you and I and everyone I have personally met would not survive. Unbroken , a story of survival and redemption during World War II and the years and life that bookend a young Olympic caliber athlete's capture and torture in a Japanese war camp, often reflects on food as entitlement and as lifesaving. The chapters of giving up your soul to have a rotten scrap of maggot covered potato often made me close the book and cry myself to sleep, only to churn back into that abyss the next day as I hoped for prisoners' survival and berated myself for complaining about soggy pizza. The other book, Nureyev recounts a desperate mother walking 5 hours ONE WAY in the Siberian cold of January Russia during WW2, and digging in fields, often stealing rotten potatoes and turnips so her children could eat. Often her only son would turn his nose up at the meager spread accompanied by stale flour and water flatten bread while he, showing signs of incredible talent would push himself into families where food was a more normal and tasteful part of the family day.
The peelings I left behind as I salvaged some of the potatoes were far better than anything either person portrayed in the books above ate during the durations of desperation they faced as young children and young adults. I will compost those peels and in a few months, the fermented remains will have decomposed enough to nourish what I will plant in my garden or pots to supply my family with healthy organically grown veggies and grace my deck with bursts of colorful blooms. Yet for some, those scraps would be a meal even today, as we watch the world and the travesties that nature and humans do to each other and so many go hungry and search for what little sustenance can be found. They would gladly take the doggie bags. They would gladly take the scraps. They would gladly take the garbage. But would you?