“There’s nothing to eat.”
One could interpret this as meaning, “I don’t see any of my favorite/usual foods in the refrigerator/cabinet/pantry.” So, grumbling, you get up and go to the refrigerator and look for yourself. Result: (1) One quart of 2% milk, one-eighth full, with a smudged sell-by date that looks alarmingly past-due, (2) six yogurt containers in flavors that nobody in their right mind would consider eating, (3) a bag of lettuce that looks ready – past ready! – for the compost heap, (4) a very sad eggplant (so that’s where it got to) and (5) various condiments, sauces, an old pesto jar that’s seen better days, a gnarly piece of jarlsberg and a jar of Indonesian sambal.
Well, dang. Better grab the keys and go to the store and get something to fix for dinner.
Then, by one of those annoying coincidences, you hear on the radio or the television about a flood or a fire or a revolution – some upheaval in human life – that leaves people isolated, afraid, in danger and… without food.
If you are lucky (and that word is used carefully) you may have met someone who has spent a day or two – or a week or two – in a place where the nearest meal, even a mouthful of rice, is a day’s hard walk away. It is a difficult lesson, to hear those stories told by a nice, kind, smiling elderly Chinese matron living comfortably today in your neighborhood, with adoring children and grandchildren, calmly describing the 1938 famine of Chunking. Or to look at the calm expression of a young man describing a trek across the hardpan desert of southern Sudan.
But that is not you. Shake your head vigorously and think again.
What if… just what if you had to get by with what you had in your ‘fridge, your cabinets, your pantry, your garden. Just what if?
Could you be inspired to find something out of nothing? What is, after all, “nothing”? Could you make a meal, a week’s worth of meals, out of what is tucked away in the far recesses of your home? Let’s make it easy: Nobody is trying to kill you, there is no firestorm of forest at your front door, the earth is not shaking, you have electricity, water is not flooding through your house and everyone is safe. All you have to do is find a meal from what is at hand. Let's face it, adopting this idea weekly could save you a ton of money!
Well, yes, the potatoes might be just a little blue.. ish. And that can of smoked herring is technically fish. Sort of. What, exactly, inspired you to buy aniseed-infused olive oil, anyway? What the heck is “panko”? Oh. The corndogs. From when Jimmy’s cousins came to visit. And why do we have two jars of stuffed Hungarian red cabbage?
This is not punishment. This is not trying to “make up” – somehow – for others’ tragedies. This is, really, an exercise in your imagination, your inspiration and, in the end, your strength.
Past the disaster, past the fires and floods, past the fracture of all that we depend upon, nobody we love will go hungry tonight.