That Thing Called “Food”

I just have to break this one out into it’s own little post. I mean, it has been a huge adjustment and a constant challenge. Next I may talk about bathroom-ing and being dirty. But, for today, as this is ringing in my head like a dinner bell, I want to discuss food.

The highlights of my food history include regular meals at a set time, being ordered to “eat everything on your plate” or at least try each item, very little snacking in between meals, and rarely eating outside of the home. I made my adult home and meals in much the same way, working hard to increase the nutrition and health factors. Mom tried, but to her Kool Aid was better than soda pop because she would reduce the sugar and it was cheaper. Nice try, Mom!

Eventually, I became somewhat of a foodie. I also got more choosey about my food. I do not like jelly or mayonnaise or tomatoes and I hate a salad with too much dressing. I love a good meal and will pay big bucks for an overall experience. I learned to ask for what I want when I order, even if I rarely get it. I continue to taste foods that I historically do not like, and these days I get the same results. Tomatoes are too acidic and shrimp has the wrong texture. The mere thought of an oyster causes my throat to close up and I gag just a little. I am all about the sight, smell, feel and taste of the food. It is an experience I relish. I do not mix my food and hate it when things touch on my plate. Nothing grosses me out more than the juice from that lovely steak running into my mashed potatoes or bread. I even order my syrup or gravy in a side bowl so that I can control what and how much is added. Yes, I dip. My pancake slice into the syrup and my meat piece into the gravy. Get over it. 

Taking my food obsession to the next level, I got into canning and preserving. Most of the time this included fruits, sauces, wild game, and making things like jerky. I would take advantage of the local farms and self-pick whatever was in season, canning like a fiend, freezing some and making infused liquor out of the rest. I used nearly all of what I picked in some form or another. I was privileged to know enough hunters to keep game in my freezer and use it like beef. I took a lot of pride in the quality of this food, and enjoyed eating it later in the year when fresh and good things were hard to find. Besides, I had a lot of time on my hands and this hobby was a great way to use that up. Eventually, nearly all I ate I made. This made me happy due to the higher quality and I got what I liked. If I had something at a restaurant that I liked, I would work to replicate it at home, saving money and getting good or better quality. 

Fast forward to my Pilgrimage. I set out thinking I could and would cook. Nope. I hoped to preserve the quality and nature of the food I ate. Nope. I mean, I knew it would not be the quality of all homemade, but it would be close. Nope yet again. After nearly four months on the road or living with friends, I am, and yet again, changing my food approach. This time it is due to the weather – please read ICE, ICE, BABY for that discussion. I eat from cans, I eat what I have, and I do not get enough vegetables. Sometimes I eat for sustenance and sometimes I eat what I like. I eat too much junk, because that is what I buy and it comes nicely packaged for travel. I often eat on the run and Cliff Bars are my go-to quickie snack. 

I cannot buy things that will melt. I cannot buy anything that needs to be frozen nor can I store cold items for more than two days. I cannot store leftovers and I must eat all that is opened. Sometimes I sit down to a meal, other times I pace around camp and shove things into my mouth. I have a bad habit of eating while I drive and have made a mess under my seat. Basically, I open a can, heat up my food, eat out of a box or a bag. I do not make anything from scratch, as this is just a waste of time and precious resources. Think about the water you use in the clean up of whatever you just ate. Think about that water if you had no sink or faucet. Think about that clean up if all you had was a few gallons of water on hand. Perhaps your water is a few yards away, perhaps it is miles away. Access to water has hugely impacted how and what I eat. 

I am trying to balance my food with my budget with my ability (or not) to store it. Sure, a fresh peach would be nice, but those dehydrated ones will last me for days and I only have to close the package to store it away. That soup that smells and looks like dog food is a much better dip for my pita crackers than it is warmed up as soup. Pears? Sure, but we will eat them out of the can and we will eat them all. No leftovers, after all. Bread? No way! Keeping bread at camp is ridiculous and unrealistic. Cannot fit in the cooler and gets too hot in the car and may get bugs or attract unwelcome wildlife if we leave it out. Nope, no bread here. Oh, beer, you ask? Well, that is also not at camp. Beer means I need ice at all times and I spend too much money on good beer to risk anything turning skunky. I would rather spend the money at a good brewery or bar and get a fresh glass of a good, cold, well preserved brew. Same with the bread. I can hit a local bakery and get a good piece that will be consumed on site. I had a nice artisan bread, lightly toasted, with olive oil and balsamic at the last brewery I visited. It was the cheapest snack they had and man was it good! 

In one sense, I eat to live and do not live to eat. I do allow myself the indulgence of a hot and fairly well-rounded meal once per week, with little indiscretions in between. Let me tell you how good a warm piece of bread with butter tastes when all you have had for weeks are dry crackers! In fact, I am all excited and looking forward to tomorrow. I found a Sunday brunch buffet at the local casino. A buffet!! There is also a senior discount that I will get. I mean, if I have to be 55, I may as well save a couple bucks. A buffet! All the food I want, how I want it, in whatever quantity I want. Sounds like heaven to me. OOhhh, I bet there will be bacon! Oh, and maybe cinnamon rolls. Oh, and eggs! I bet there will be eggs, too. A girl can dream…..

We live in a world of consumption. We live in a society where bigger is better and too much is still not enough. We live in a world where, every day, tons of uneaten or un-purchased food will spoil and be thrown into the garbage. Most of us live in a world of abundance. I hope we all work to be grateful for what we have, the ease by which we have it, and the means we have to have it.

Cheers to Sunday Brunch!

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