With four days left in the Hunger Challenge, I decided Wednesday was the day I would break out the fruit. My plan? A peanut butter sandwich, like every other day this week, but this time with sliced apples in the mix.
I made my sandwich, sliced up my apple, and started cooking the rest of breakfast: a retread of the egg-in-a-basket routine. But as I walked over to the refrigerator to put away the rest of the bread, I noticed an ominous brown spot on the bottom of one of the two pears. I picked it up, and sure enough, it had gone from too-hard at the store to beginning-to-go-bad in a matter of a couple of days.
This would not be a huge problem, but for the fact that it’s not like I can go run out and buy another pear. I mean, I could. I have $1.08. But I have plans for that money, and those plans don’t involve a replacement pear.
On any other morning, I would have taken one look at that pear and pitched it. At $.59 per pound, I would never have valued that pear enough to actually eat it. But that morning? Under those circumstances? I trimmed off the bad part and ate the rest. Which was, in fact, quite ripe and delicious.
I packed that peanut butter and apple sandwich, some black bean soup, and, for dinner, the leftovers of the rice-lentil mix I’d made the night before. I don’t ordinarily pack dinner for work, but, well, I had written down the totally wrong night for a show I have a ticket to at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, and I was prepped and ready to muscle through that evening.
Turns out I had the totally wrong day written down for the show, and I needed to rethink my dinner plan. I abandoned the leftovers in my office refrigerator, and came home to cook another round of food. This time? Black beans, but not in soup form. A huge batch of brown rice. Roasted eggplant.
“It’s all so healthy,” I said to a friend on the phone that night. “But it’s so boring!”
And that is the thing about it. Even after I doctored up the black beans with garlic and jalapeño and onion and cumin, even though I am about as big a fan of roasted eggplant as they come, and even though I had enough butter to reacquaint myself with buttered-and-salted rice (a treat I almost never allow myself now that I’m an adult), I’m surrounded by so many more interesting choices.
Today, for example, there was an entire bowl of heirloom tomatoes out in our office kitchen, ripe and juicy and glorious. Could I partake? Absolutely not.
I probably didn’t need to put myself through this week to know the lesson: it takes a lot more effort and energy to be near the table—but not invited to sit at it. And I hope never to have to do this again—I certainly won’t do it again by choice. Still, I can’t help but think that going forward, I’m going to think a lot differently about how I shop, what I choose to put on my table, and how I respect that food. I can’t help but think I’m going to value it more.
Three days left. I can almost smell the coffee already.