January 4, 2014
Image courtesy of Simon Howden/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Yesterday afternoon, my friends, Kathi and Mary, took me on what turned out to be a most excellent adventure. After taking me to pick up my medications, they treated me to lunch at a local Korean restaurant, followed by a trip to Sam’s Club for grocery shopping.
The lunch platter (served, literally, folks, on a small platter,) consisted of a huge variety of fresh, steamed and pickled vegetables and sprouts served with a mound of seasoned, mixed rice, a helping of shredded beef and a side bowl of sesame sauce. Delicious. And more than filling.
The trip to the Sam’s Club – my first – was, for lack of a better word, astounding. I felt like the young African man, in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, “The Poisonwood Bible”, who came to the U.S. with his American wife and felt completely overwhelmed by the abundance on his first trip to a supermarket. If your local Walmart is a super store, your local Sam’s Club can only be described as an uber-super-duper store.
I grew up in an era when “going to the store” meant walking a few blocks to a local grocery store, owned by a neighbor, to pick up a couple of bags of what you hadn’t grown and canned for the winter – usually meat, bread and, perhaps, potatoes or some infrequent “exotic” that you used once or twice a year for a special meal. I was in my teens before the local stores began to close – one or two at a time – as the chain store supermarkets moved in. And over the years, many of these supermarket (and hardware and furniture) chains have, likewise, been driven out of business by super stores and super-duper stores.
Ordinary Americans look around at this abundance and say, “That’s a good thing,” not realizing that, with the end of the cheap fossil fuels such over-abundance was built on, the super and super-duper stores with their thousand(s) mile supply lines and their just-in-time, three-day supply delivery systems will also go by the wayside. We will either return to gardening, farming and raising small fowls and animals, ourselves, buying locally grown or raised foods sold in locally owned neighborhood grocery stores and farmer’s markets, or we will go hungry.
Which brings me back around to that delicious Korean meal. Although I’m sure it was supersized for our rather gluttonous American appetites (it lasted me through to a light breakfast this morning), it and the other meals I saw pictured on the menu wall seemed to follow a pattern I’ve noticed in other foreign cuisines – especially those from what we Americans consider “less prosperous” cultures.
Our local PBS station has a sister station called Create TV, which runs – among other shows – lots of cooking shows from, or based on cuisine from other countries. So many of these foods follow that same pattern I once commented on in a blog post I wrote about comfort foods – small amounts of meat, fish or a meat substitute like eggs, beans or nuts, that have been thinly sliced, diced, or shredded to make it go further, combined or served with several vegetables – fresh, steamed or pickled – and small servings of carbohydrates in a soup, casserole or on a plate. Cooked with a local palate of spices, served with a sauce, broth or gravy, they are inexpensive and filling.
I must confess that I took advantage of my trip to food wonderland to stock up on some things – some fresh tomatoes and peppers (mine in the indoor garden aren’t producing), five pounds of crunchy peanut butter, four loaves of whole grain breads (which I have neither the inclination or talent to bake) and an astonishingly large bag – five pounds – of semolina noodles ( to add to the ten pounds of rice already stashed in my cabinet) among other food items.
But I came away from both the Korean meal and the food shopping with a new outlook on how, around the world, most people have eaten for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. It is only with the false abundance fossil fuels have temporarily provided, this pattern has been broken. We need to return to that pattern, now. It’s healthier, more filling and less expensive – in terms of food waste, monetary costs and the cost to the environment. You can pare it down to feed yourself without waste, add to it to feed a family or, as the Empire and the global economy continue on to the next step down in their slow collapse, feed a neighborhood.
I probably won’t go shopping again at the uber-super-duper store, (my goodness, as of now, I can’t imagine that I’d need to,) but I thank my friends for the fun afternoon and my most excellent and enlightening adventure.