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Hunger Challenge: Day Four

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.

5 Comments on “Hunger Challenge: Day Four”

  1. #1 Jimmy Cracked-Corn
    on Sep 25th, 2008 at 7:38 am

    I see what you’re doing here, but I must say… If I were on welfare, and I really only had $21 to spend on food for a week, and I passed by a bowl of free tomatoes (perhaps offered by a neighbor, if an office situation is unrealistic) you had better bet I would walk off with at least one.

    I would also have nabbed a few jelly packets from McD and maybe some duck sauce and soy from a Chinese food place. I imagine they would just let you have some, but if not, their dumpsters must be overflowing with unopened packets.

  2. #2
    on Sep 25th, 2008 at 8:40 am

    I thought you were going to say your only loaf of bread was moldy. That would be heartbreaking. Great post. It really moved me. Even before the challenge I’ve been obsessed with how much food we waste and how little we respect it. I’m always inventing meals out of the last bit of this or that in the refrigerator. It feels empowering and virtuous when you don’t have to. But quite a bit different when you do.

  3. #3 inadvertentgardener
    on Sep 25th, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Jimmy, you’re totally right — there were a number of times when I had access to free food/beverages/etc. (or offers from people who would have bought me food), and I turned them down, even though I would have actually taken those offers if I wasn’t in a contrived situation. Yeah — in real life? Would NEVER pass up free tomatoes.

    Vanessa, I actually did the challenge last week, and am posting about it this week, and I have two slices of that loaf of bread left…STILL not moldy. It’s so weirdly processed! But regardless, yes…I’m definitely thinking way harder about not wasting food. Way harder.

  4. #4
    on Sep 26th, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Well, you must be having a great week this week then! What was the first thing you ate??

  5. #5 inadvertentgardener
    on Sep 26th, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Vanessa, I’m going to have to keep that a secret until I post about it — don’t want to reveal too much too soon!

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