Our house has something right now we've never had before: a completely empty freezer. (Well, except for a bag of frozen corn niblets and half a pint of Haagen Dazs Rocky Road ice cream, it's an icy wasteland.)
Last night I defrosted the one remaining piece of meat we had in there, a brisket of beef. I don't want to say for sure that I moved to SF with this frozen piece of meat, but I must have come pretty darn close. When I read the date on the cellophane (once it had defrosted), I was a little shocked at myself for "saving" this meatsicle (saving it for what, so I could learn to extract the DNA and clone my own cow?), and the date I had purchased it.
But I had already come so far, and then the meat kind of seemed like a science experiment as well as a potential dinner. I figured I should at least give it a shot.
Luckily for us, the mammoth tasted fine. (And we feel okay this morning.)
I've been cleaning out the bomb shelter. What I call the stockpiles of food we used to have regularly in the olden days, when I had a car and went to Costco on a regular basis. (Also, having a job really helps with those shopping exploits.)
I didn't realize how much old food we had and what got thrown out regularly until I moved to SF. Until then, my old routine of filling up the car with food and then eating a portion of it, storing some of it attractively on my shelves and throwing the rest away was an unconscious activity made effortless by a stable income and a sporty, fun car.
It really never dawned on me how wasteful I have been for many, many years (both with food and money) until I recently opened (and ate) a can of tuna that had expired two years ago. (That tasted fine, too.)
Living in the city has made me retool a lot of my thinking in a way that I'm happy to have brought to my attention.
What I realize now is that I can only consume what I can carry. Even with that, there are still plenty of good intentions (ie., fruits and veggies) that get tossed but not on the level of my former Costco/Safeway life. Our neighborhood has several small corner markets, where I can pop in and get just a few ingredients that I really need and more importantly, that I can carry in bags back to my house.
I have to be discerning. I have to question my motives and not tell myself, Oh get whatever you want! like I would have if I could load up my trunk with stuff just because it sounded yummy. I also have to be discerning because I can't afford to buy everything I want anymore either. Unemployment will do that to ya.
But mostly, I think I enjoy shopping more these days. I like the experience of being in my little corner grocery stores. I like knowing the people that run them and seeing the same faces. How the people help you pack your tote bags comfortably because they understand you have to walk home with these groceries. And if one store doesn't have what I need, I walk a block to the next one. Imagine that... I walk! Not something a little gal from the 'burbs was used to doing. (I remember being in Paris and going to the boulangerie on the corner, and the cheese shop in the next block and of course the patisserie as well. I loved the nearby street market on Blvd. Raspail and watching people shop for their daily needs from vendors they knew well. It's a very different experience than loading up at a Safeway and befriending the check-out girl.)
If I don't want to walk, I can take the N-Judah down several more blocks to the small Chinese markets on Irving, where instantly I am on a gourmet and cultural trip to Asia, as well privy to some of the cheapest produce in town.
I thought about this a lot on one of my recent visits to see my family, as I revisited my old stomping grounds and supermarkets I used to shop in. In the middle of the day, the suburban grocery stores were so vast and empty of shoppers, the air conditioning blasting through the sliding front doors as we entered, the shopping carts tremendous, and the aisles mostly filled with lots of processed foods I never knew existed. Our little markets don't have room for the plethora of prepackaged crap out there, so they need to be discerning too.
I'm not saying that my neighborhood corner markets have the answers to everything, but I do wonder how much the national problem with obesity and unconscious overconsumption and overspending has to do with these mega-markets, filled to capacity with so much food it makes your head spin, people blindly filling up those upsized shopping carts to the brim and then loading up the car, slamming the trunk down on all of it. Out of sight, out of mind. It's so easy to do... I should know.
ps.: I normally find it easy to use images from my own private stock photography studio, but I didn't have a personal photo of a woolly mammoth for this post. I snagged the image from this article in The Telegraph.
Funny thing, I couldn't find a good image from the mind-blowing (and not in a good way) Creation Museum's website, a very scary place in Kentucky, but at least some paleontologists found their trip there amusing.
(See, I had to circle back to the mammoth somehow.)