For some reason hunger has been on my mind lately. Before I go any further, I should make a disclaimer, I haven’t been hungry lately. In fact, I have rarely been more than moderately hungry at times throughout my life. I should be hungry, seeing as how I am still on my New Year’s Resolution diet, but I find hunger to be unpleasant, and somehow I always find myself in the position of trying to fix it when I feel a twinge of emptiness. One of our goals of this current eating plan has been to fix boring food. We had the idea that if the meal was boring, we would only eat enough to kill the hunger and not be motivated by taste or other eating pleasures. There have turned out to be two things wrong with that. For one, I love to cook and take pride in the finished product. I thrive on compliments. So far, I just have not been able to make myself cook up a big pot of beans and rice to eat from all week long. Secondly, even the lowliest food can surprise you with its savory delectableness. A few days ago, I thought I’d try something new and cook up a pot of red lentils. All I did was to fry up a little minced bacon, cook chopped onions in the bacon grease, add a mashed garlic clove, and then boil the lentils in it, seasoning with a little vegetable bouillon and pepper. I’ve eaten it for lunch three days in a row now; one bowl for my stomach, one bowl for my mouth. Boring is not working well; hunger is being held well at bay. How many mothers have tried to guilt their children into finishing the food on their plate by telling them to “think of all the starving children in China!” Trying to make sense of that, I’d guess it’s more an admonishment to not be wasteful, since the issue of starving Chinese children doesn’t come back up. My mother always felt that unwanted, unneeded food on the plate was better off in the garbage than in the stomach—it was wasted either way. Famine in China isn’t in the news today, but many innocent and naïve schoolchildren bumped up against the idea for the first time when they had to read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. There were a few shocking and unpleasant themes in the story, such as the lowly status of the peasant wife whose feet had remained unbound and uncrippled, dooming her to a lower place in society. But one scene has left a gritty taste in my mouth, when the family eats dirt to fill their starving bellies. Some months ago, I read stories of “starvation cookies” consumed by many poor people in Haiti. These cookies have always been around, mostly for medicinal purposes such as the dangerous, unproven method of adding calcium to a pregnant woman’s diet. They are cheap, about 5 cents each. A little bit of butter and salt is mixed in with “edible” clay, shaped into a small disc, and left to dry in the hot sun. With the steeply rising food prices and general poverty in the Caribbean nation of Haiti, many people have turned to eating these mud cookies for their 3 squares a day. And now, of course, after the earthquake, millions more may be starving. I’m grateful to live in America, where hunger is at least a step further away than it is in many countries, and we have more of a choice in determining our own destinies. But while I’m taking care of my own little hungry munchies, I hope that I can remember the “starving children in China,” not just to feel guilty, but to give or do something to help my neighbor, or my neighboring country, in need.
Life is an adventure, and face it, food is a big part of life. Very good food, very bad food, and even mundane, boring food has something interesting embedded in it that can be pried out with a good opener.