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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Food — Feast or Famine #BAD11

I think I should be writing something deep and serious, about the evils of all the hunger in the world today. Like everyone else, I have looked at those television images of the Somalian famine victims, the wizened babies and huge-eyed mothers; I have listened to accounts of the shortage of medicines, the crowding in the refugee camps, the unsanitary conditions, the spread of disease (as if starvation wasn’t enough)….  I say prayers, I send Reiki energy. Sometimes I give money, not often and not much, in the hope that ‘every little helps’.

This Pension Day, I overspent on food. I thought I should try Coles online shopping instead of lugging numerous heavy bags up my front steps. I found it tricky to make the selections, forgot half the items we needed, and ended up doing an in-person shop as well.  There was of course a delivery fee — not exorbitant, but with our budget every dollar counts. And it’s only with in-person shopping on the day that I can take advantage of all the in-store specials. You have to be there on the day, and you have to get there early.

Our fragile internet connection doesn’t help! I can’t just log on whenever I like and expect it to work. — another reason I can’t grab those specials online. Then, I often have to go into town and use the bank’s computer to get my online bill-paying handled. And this time I must have got kicked offline in mid-transaction while attempting it at home. I ended up having a direct debit refused for lack of funds, and being charged a dishonour fee. I had actually put the money in the right account in good time — I thought. One way and another, we found ourselves with a houseful of food, some of it superfluous (I forgot I already had three cartons of olive oil spread) and almost no money — $21 to last the rest of the fortnight. OK, so we didn’t have to spend it on food, but there are other things. Petrol, for instance.

These idiotic problems, largely self-inflicted, are a far cry from true hardship. I was able to ask my son for a handout to tide us over, and he obliged. We do have plenty of food in the house, even a bit too much (though we will use it) and we experienced our temporary shortage of funds with a roof over our heads and a comfortable bed to sleep in. We even have computers.

The Somalian people starving to death don’t have any such luxuries. But will writing blogs on the subject really help them? Not this blog; I wouldn’t have a clue — beyond prayers, Reiki and the odd bit of money. Feeling guilty about it is not going to be much help either.

What the famine victims do for those of us in affluent societies is to make us feel better by comparison. Luckier than them. Blessed indeed by the accident of having been born where we were. It’s a selfish response, yes, but perhaps an appropriate one. If we can’t assuage all the hunger in the world, at least we can be grateful for the food we have. We can celebrate it!

So, instead of waffling on any further, let me share with you one of my favourite food poems. It’s by my online friend Leigh Spencer, whose poems I adore.  Despite the comical downturn at the end, this one is inherently celebratory. Many thanks to Leigh for graciously giving me permission to use it.

Secret Ingredient (for Kopitkis)

Bubbe's recipe
and I slaved all day

Ketoffle (potatoes)
boiled just so
"mit bloise a bissel zaltz"
(with just a little salt)

Perfect peak in the flour
with golden suns
of perfectly separated egg yolks
setting between

only by hand!
Form loaves,
then slice and boil
'til they float

Saute the sweet yellow onions
in a sach (a LOT) of pure olive oil

Sit back and smell home
and childhood

Add the floating potato dumplings
to the onions
until everything is golden brown
and comforting as Bubbe's hand
moving the hair from your face

In the pan,
paste with onions
shape unrecognizable
heroic measures prove
sadly unsalvageable

The dogs agree
as they run from this
failed Polish delicacy

Trash can alone
while the chef
homesick and hungry

"These kopitkis taste like dreck (shit)!"

— Leigh Spencer


  1. This is a great post - the perfect balance of awareness and gratitude.

    Sometimes I feel horrible guilt about how lucky I am with my warm home and well-stocked cupboards, and I try to remind myself of this when I don't have enough money left at the end of the month to do the things I'd like to.

    As you say, we can't help where we're born. We're just very lucky and it's good to remember to be grateful for that.

  2. Oh Jenny, thank you for the high praise! I'm glad it struck a chord with you.