Hunting and Gathering
One of my superpowers is being able to make a reasonable (perhaps even enticing) meal from bits and scraps of random remainders, and I have been exercising the full range of these abilities for the past couple of weeks, putting off restocking the refrigerator because—even though I sincerely love grocery shopping at Central Market and always feel happy for purchasing organics at Costco—that whole process takes hours. But I reached my limit today and made the trip. Among a small basketful of other bounty for the two of us at home now, I purchased heirloom apples plucked from autumnal trees in New York State, oak-smoked salmon that was swimming in Alaska not long ago, and mushrooms grown right there at Central Market on North Lamar in Austin, Texas. Walking in the aisles, checking out, I felt a bit weak kneed for the generosity available to me, even as I am conscious of others—here and now and in other places and at other times—and their often much more constricted access to even the basics for sustenance and health. I have experienced food insecurity in my life that involved not eating for multiple consecutive days; or eating just one item a day for stretches of time; or gratefully/shamefully accepting life-saving access to a food pantry. I have never been, as millions of others have and are, the victim of a regional famine or a failed state or war.
When I’m trying to figure out the ridiculous problem of how I can schedule the time (not at rush hour!) to drive both ways and first load and then unload the cart onto the belt and from there into the bags and back into the cart and then into the car and a cooler and from the car into the house and from the bags now on the counter and floor into the pantry and fridge and freezer, I of course realize that the supposed busyness is all quite luxurious, compared to, you know, what I’ve also done in my life but to which there are a number of barriers in a suburban yard in Texas: growing all the plants themselves, and keeping enough chickens for eggs, and feeding and milking the mammals, and raising and slaughtering larger or sea animals, and successfully responding to the seasons and weather and pests and predators. I always think of Lewis and Clark’s journals of their and their team’s epic trek into a wilderness unknown to them (along with related and problematic issues of colonialism), days spent traversing land unfamiliar to them, hauling all their gear and supplies for an indeterminate time ahead, and then taking a break at day’s end to set up camp for a meal. A meal which they first needed to find and hunt, dress and cook before they could eat, every single time. A meal which—in the case of a few aggressive bears—sometimes tried to hunt them. And here I am, nibbling on roasted and salted nuts that someone else cracked the shells for: grateful, grateful, grateful.